Aquaman (2018)

"A hero. A king fights only for his own nation. You fight for everyone.”"A hero. A king fights only for his own nation. You fight for everyone.”

“A hero. A king fights only for his own nation. You fight for everyone.”

Long gone are the days where Aquaman is the joke of the Justice League and superheroes alike. Pop culture has mocked his abilites and questioned his authority to save those who cannot save themselves. Family Guy is notorious for this mockery but a change in the tides came when the DCEU decided to revamp the look and feeling of one of its staple members of the best superhero team ever created. It’s pretty clear DC and Warner’s plan for a shared universe has been a seismic failure to this point due to many varying reasons the main one being a lack of an actual plan. 

The second main factor is the darker tone in both storytelling and color palette. As the DCEU has evolved and more films have released (still a small sample size) things are shifting considerably to the lighter side of the force. More Jokes, more colors to pop against the contrast of the dark blacks and less rain (somewhat). If you’re keeping track at home Warner/DC is 1-5 with this shared universe. Wonder Woman is their crown jewel to date despite a weaker third act and poor CGI and villain. 

What better way to revitalize a character than cast one of the fan favorites from Game of Thrones in Jason Momoa. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) narrates an opening that takes place in the past. His Father Tom Curry (Temeura Morrison) is a lighthouse keeper who comes across a woman barely clinging to life. After taking her in to assist with her injuries Tom learns she is Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) of Atlantis. The two fall in love and have Arthur named after the king (not the hurricane). What Atlanna fails to tell Tom is that she’s on the run from her home and an arranged marriage. 

“In this trident resides the power of Atlantis. If you seek my power, journey beyond the edge of the world to the hidden sea. In the wrong hands, it would bring destruction. But in the hands of a true heir, it would unite all our kingdoms above and below!”

As Arthur grows into a man, Atlanna tasked Vulko (Willem Dafoe) to watch over him and train him in Atlantis’s ways. Arthur learns of his half-brother King Orm’s (Patrick Wilson) plot to go to war with the surface. King Orm needs four of the seven underwater kingdoms to have the full support to go to war. One of the kingdoms is ruled by King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) whose daughter Princess Mera (Amber Heard) helps Arthur look for the sacred relic of the first king of Atlantis and the magical trident that only a king can hold to challenge Orm for the throne. On the run from Atlantis, Mera and Arthur are relentlessly pursued by a pirate whose father died at the hands of Arthur. This pirate is going by the self-titled name of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). 

If you think this film has too many plot points to cover with too much to resolve from start to finish than you’re right. There is a lot to unpack, introduce and set up that feels too grand in scale where that much has failed in the past for this universe. With that much ground to cover Aquaman is still very much an enjoyable film to go along on a wild journey with Arthur and Mera. It’s hard to resist to compare their chemistry to Jason and Emila Clark’s chemistry from Game of Thrones, but Jason and Amber don’t mesh well together at all. They have no real timing with their dialogue and most of it is forced one liners that are written as comical. 

It’s clear that director James Wan’s specialty is in the horror genre helming the Saw, Insidious and Conjuring franchises which doesn’t fault him for the cheesy macho dialogue written for Arthur. As bad ass as Momoa is, maybe he isn’t suitable for a deeper more involved character. It’s no slight to Jason whatsoever but it’s hard to distinguish if we’re watching Jason portray Arthur Curry/Aquaman or if we’re watching Jason just be Jason. Too much of his personality is infused in this character to spot a difference. Was he actually doing the Haka at the end?

“I’m no leader. I came because I have no choice. I came to save my home, and the people that I love.”

Where Wonder Woman has issues of poor CGI in the third act, Aquaman has a similar problem. There is too much CGI used in Aquaman that whenever we are in Atlantis it almost looks animated. Atlantis looks beautiful as something that we’ve never seen before in the comic book genre but the muddled colors of green, turquoise and blue blend together making it hard to distinguish what is what deep in the ocean depths. What does work is the use of sound while underwater – the way characters interact with each other and swim and float is uniquely handled that works well for the believability. 

Why, just why did anyone allow Pitbull to cover Africa by Toto. We didn’t need our ears to bleed, thank you. 

Aquaman sets up its villains similar to how Marvel has set up its big bad in Thanos. Introducing us to Black Manta in the beginning but not having him be the main villain gives DC/Warner more options to utilize him in the future (Legion of Doom maybe). Black Manta has a legitimate purpose, he’s developed well and have the necessary motivation to want to hurt Arthur – he’s not thrown into the story just to throw another character in for the sake of it. To have an actor of Yahya’s caliber added to the cast is a huge win and his performance shines because of it. He’s a villain that can counter Aquaman and do some real damage.

James Wan’s horror specialty comes in handy with the Trench scene and it shows. It’s a visual spectacle with the creature design to the look and feeling of total darkness. Something the comic book genre isn’t known for us jump scares and James Wan had to scratch that itch and put a few of those in during the Trench scene. Its one of the better sequenced shots in Aquaman.

Aquaman despite having so much ground to cover is a hell of a fun ride to be on. Jason brings a bad ass attitude to Arthur Curry while paying homage to the comics with that classic suit. Even with the overuse of CGI the villains are developed well which sets them up for future use. With Aquaman’s release Warner/DC is 2-6. Come on, Its Jason Momoa, he’s awesome and it’s never a bad idea to let him be himself. If you don’t have a blast with this film, watch it again. If I were to rate Aquaman, I’d rate it a 3.8 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen Aquaman and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Aquaman is directed by James Wan is Rated PG-13 and has a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Aquaman was released on December 21, 2018 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 22 minutes. Aquaman can be streamed on HBO Max or purchased on Retailers such as iTunes, Google, & Vudu. 

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