Let’s be honest and admit that the DC universe of films hasn’t had as many hits as the Marvel ones. Wonder Woman was their first true one, and while I did enjoy Batman V Superman and Justice League, they were still forgettable for the most part. Now it looks as though Warner Bros. and DC are changing the tide (yup, time for some water puns) with their release of Aquaman. While it tends to run longer than it should and has minor hiccups with the plot and pacing, it’s still one of the best entries in the DC universe that’s sure to make waves at the box office.
I think a lot of people were surprised when director James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7) decided to helm this project, but he does a good job for the most part. Jason Momoa stars as Arthur Curry, the son of Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) of Atlantis, and Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), a human lighthouse keeper who finds her washed ashore after fleeing from an arranged marriage twenty-some years ago. As most of us have seen by now in Justice League, Arthur is known around the world as Aquaman, endowed with superhuman strength, swimming speed, durability, and the power to communicate with most marine life under the sea. Like Batman says, he can talk to fish.
Taking place after the events in Justice League, things kick off with a group of pirates attacking a submarine, one of them being the infamous David Kane, who later becomes Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) after a turn of events involving Arthur’s stopping the pirates and a run-in with David and his father. Not long afterwards, Princess Mera (Amber Heard) seeks out Arthur’s help as Atlantis is coming under the rule of his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) who is looking to start a war between their people and mankind on Earth’s surface. Highly reluctant in doing so, Arthur decides to help as he and Mera go on a quest to find a magic trident that will grant him the power to fight Orm and save both our worlds, if Black Manta and his experimental Atlantean power suit along with Orm’s soldiers don’t kill them first.
While the movie runs a bit long in the tooth and sometimes loses its way, I still had a good time watching it as the action bits were on point, and the dramatic moments were a nice touch as well. One of the reasons I think the film loses track at times is that it tries to fit too much into one movie. For the most part James Wan makes it work, as the special effects are great and the story does come together by the end. But trying to stuff in multiple villains and even some romance-comedy moments tended to throw its momentum off. I have to admit though that the lighter tone of the movie is a welcomed change of pace from all of the previously “dark” themes of the other DC titles.
The cast is great and play their roles perfectly too, especially surprise ones like Willem Dafoe as Vulko, a mentor to Arthur and counselor to Orm, and Dolph Lundgren (brilliant in Creed 2) who plays Mera’s father King Nereus, though observant comic book fans will know this character was changed to be her dad instead of soon-to-be hubby. And while she didn’t appear in the Mary Poppins sequel, the great Julie Andrews instead voices a gigantic Kraken-like creature at the bottom of the ocean that’s a mind-blowing bonus for the movie.
As I mentioned earlier, the special effects are well done and make you feel like you’re watching an underwater continuation of James Cameron’s Avatar mixed with the neon glow of Blade Runner. Speaking of which, I’m probably one of the few that loved Rupert Gregson-Williams’ 80’s synth soundtrack, which helped make floating through Atlantis feel even more like the cyberpunk classic (there’s a part where Arthur and Mera are cruising around the city in her ship with synth playing that’s highly reminiscent of the spinner flying scene in Blade Runner). Soundtrack, please!
Even while running nearly two and a half hours and hitting some rough patches with some pacing issues, I still enjoyed Aquaman as it brought some welcome comedic moments the DCEU films have been sorely lacking for a while now. A solid cast with some surprising and welcomed choices in the roster, with plenty of action and dramatic moments accompanied by a cool synth-filled soundtrack ensure this film will make a tidal wave of cash at theaters.