Aquaman is a hard movie to review.
Aquaman, the newest DC Comics movie is high on fun and director James Wan shows a great deal of love for the character and story. However, there is also a level of cheese that is missing in most of today’s superhero output.
Honestly, you have to be willing to cut through the cheese to really enjoy what this movie has to offer. If you can, there is a lot here to like.
Jason Momoa returns to the role of Aquaman for his second go-around with the Atlantian superhero (third if you include the cameo in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice).
This movie follows Justice League but still plays like an origin story for the King of Atlantis.
The movie starts out with Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) finding Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) lying on the rocks outside his lighthouse. He nurses her back to health, they fall in love and have a baby, who they name Arthur (after either a hurricane or a king).
The warriors of Atlantis show up and blow a hole in the wall of their house, demanding Queen Atlanna return to Atlantis. She kills them but goes back anyway, promising Tom she will return one day.
The film then jumps to a young Arthur as he learns he can talk to fish, sharks and other sea life. It moves to the present day where he is Aquaman. It also flashes back to his childhood here and there to show how he gained his powers.
Honestly, DC Comics might have been smarter to have more of these solo movies before they made Justice League. Between Aquaman and Wonder Woman, they have a strong grasp on the heroes that were just kind of thrown into team-up movies before getting a chance to really strike it big with viewers.
Anyway, an adult Aquaman is now world-known for his heroics (talking heads on the news mention him) and he is out there saving people in the waters, including a submarine crew under attack by pirates in the first action of the movie for Aquaman.
— Aquaman Movie (@aquamanmovie) November 19, 2018
Things then move really freaking fast to the point where King Orm (Patrick Wilson) of Atlantis is trying to convince other underwater kings of the Seven Realms to join him in an attack on the surface dwellers. When a submarine attacks during a meeting between Orm and King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), they agree to join forces and then launch a preemptive attack on the surface world — including Aquaman’s hometown.
This leads to Mera (Amber Heard) helping save Aquaman’s dad and him agreeing to join her to stop Orm.
So, the rest of the movie has Aquaman realizing he is powerful but more powerful than others in Atlantis, including his brother. Aquaman sets out on a quest for a mythical trident to grant him powers over the sea so he can possibly defeat his brother.
Straight up, Aquaman is a live-action video game. Aquaman goes to Atlantis, loses a big fight, and heads out to find a trident. He beats a bunch of bad guys (including Black Manta) and finds hidden clues. He gets the trident and returns for the final battle.
Everything is paint-by-numbers and that was enough to cripple a movie in lesser hands. However, James Wan knows what he is doing and adds enough charm and love to this movie that it’s hard to hate it despite always knowing what happens next.
Jason Momoa is still perfect as Aquaman. While he is nothing like he is in the comics, the movie plays it sly and makes King Orm into an almost doppelganger of the comic book version of the character. Also, much like Black Panther, Aquaman shows that Orm is right about everything — except his plans to fix things.
Much like Avatar, the actions of humans are destroying the environment. Orm says all the right things when he points out how people are polluting the oceans and destroying the underwater wildlife. However, just like Killmonger, he wants to stop this by destroying everything.
With a perfect hero and a villain who believes in himself, everything rolls along to a satisfying conclusion.
The action is nuts and the underwater scenes are breathtaking (as long as you can ignore the talking underwater dilemma). The cast is uniformly great, as Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Yahua Abdul-Mateen II, and even Dolph Lundgren all turn in great performances.
A lot of people are down on DC Comics movies, but between this and Wonder Woman, there is a lot to love and it shows that giving these films to great filmmakers — instead of having one man do it all — is the best way to move the franchise forward.
Is Aquaman perfect? No. Is it one of the better superhero movies out there? Not really. Is it a ton of fun? Hell, yeah.