Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: James Wan
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Don Burgess
WRITERS: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
I never thought I’d be saying this, but “Aquaman” is the film that DC desperately needed. Thanks to its star’s massive appeal and knack for “too cool for school” humor, the movie shines for the most part. Yes, there are problems and I’ll get to those in a bit, but I personally thought that director James Wan nailed a massive win for DC’s often struggling line of superhero films.
The film opens with Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) recounting the story of how his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the Queen of Atlantis, and his father Thomas Curry (Temura Morrison), a lighthouse keeper, met and fell in love. This means that Arthur is a product of two worlds and shunned by both. On the surface, he is bullied for being different while in Atlantis, on a much more serious note, Orm (Patrick Wilson) wishes to kill Arthur because his half-brother is a threat to Orm’s claim to the throne.
In order to go after Orm, though, and prevent a massive war from breaking out in the surface world, Arthur’s mentor Nuidis (Willem Dafoe) instructs him to find a trident from an ancient king of Atlantis. Joining him on his journey is Mera (Amber Heard), a warrior with the ability to manipulate water use it as a deadly weapon.
Before I talk about what makes the film a fun ride, I must go ahead and get a few criticisms out of the way. Firstly, the movie is a little too long and could have been trimmed for time. Apparently, the writers couldn’t decide with what to put in the film, so they crammed it with plenty of elements from Aquaman’s biggest comic book stories making it a little too crowded.
Secondly, there were moments with some pretty cringe-worthy dialogue that could have been punched up a bit. There were more than a few times where I was enjoying the film when someone would deliver a wooden or out of place line and I just wanted to punch the screenwriters.
Thankfully, the film is saved by some great action and some brilliant performances from the film’s stars, particularly Momoa. The lead makes up for most of the stilted dialogue with a clever one-liner that shows he has the attitude of the character down to a science. Momoa was one of the stronger characters in much maligned “Justice League” and thankfully, he gets the solo film he deserves.
The movie is filled from head to toe with action. From a fight early on featuring Atlanna to a hard-hitting fight onboard a submarine all the way to an exciting sequence in Sicily, Wan proves once again that he definitely knows how to stage some solid action.
The film is also way more lighthearted and has a fun and adventurous tone to it. This is definitely a welcome note considering that the DC films in the past have been plagued by unnecessarily dark storylines including “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad”. Hopefully, this and last year’s “Wonder Woman” is a sign that things are turning around for the controversial franchise.
The best thing I can say about the film, though, is that it feels like it was ripped straight out of the comic books. The movie stays true not only to the Aquaman character but also to his villains Black Manta and Ocean Master. One of the problems some superhero films suffer from is that the filmmakers will unnecessarily change things simply because it’s a film instead of a comic book.
Thankfully, Wan leans heavily into the source material and shows that if you have the right talent behind the films, anything can be translated from the page to the screen. The movie may have a few blemishes, but ultimately the fun action and the charismatic leads make this an exciting superhero film and a much needed win for DC’s Extended Universe.