Starring Jason Momoa as Arthur/Aquaman, Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Patrick Wilson as King Orm/Ocean Master, Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Manta. It was directed by the wonderfully talented James Wan, the creator of the Saw Franchise.
Aquaman takes place shortly after the events of Justice League. This bit of information seemed to be slipped in right away to make sure we all know this is part of the DCEU. But just as Wonder Woman carved her own path away from the sadness that was Man Of Steel, Batman V Superman, and Justice League with a story that focused on plot supported by CGI, Aquaman at its core, is a character driven film that made me care about the characters and their journey.
Aquaman lives somewhere between the dark vision of Zack Snyder and the playfulness of Patty Jenkins, taking elements from both while carving a visually stunning film. I would venture a guess that the script was heavily rewritten multiple times attempting to course correct after the tepid reception of the Znyderverse and the sheer fun factor of Wonder Woman. The downside to what I am assuming is heavy rewrites, leaves us with a film that doesn’t seem to know what its suppose to be sometimes from moment to moment.
Is it a light-hearted underwater tale with horrible dad jokes or a morality tale of sons paying for the sins of their fathers? As I type this, I still can’t tell you what this movie is about.
In one of the darker moments of the film, Arthur takes out a bunch of pirates as they try to steal a submarine. While this sequence is visually stunning and really showcases the raw power Arthur can command, Arthur allows the father of one of the pirates to drown, thus creating one of the major villains in Aquaman’s cannon.
This act really shocked me, as it was hard for me to believe that considering Arthur’s own mother was killed when he was young, that he could dismiss the pleas of a son to save his drowning father so flippantly.
This sequence reminded me how I felt while watching Black Panther last year. Like Killmonger, Manta has a great back-story and a reason for revenge that makes his story arc believable and compelling.
And in almost the next scene, Arthur and his father are in a bar drinking beer for breakfast when several scary biker looking guys approach them. This scene is played for suspense at first, when one of the guys barks out, ‘are you him’. Arthur turns around and for a moment, you think it’s about to go down. Then the scary biker looking guy exclaims out like an excited child that he wants a picture of Aquaman. This is like five minutes after Arthur kills numerous pirates on the submarine. And to make it a bit worse, there is a collage of Arthur drinking beer and taking photos with the scary bikers.
The transitions between the dark and light moments happens so fast it was rather jarring at times. Yet Amber Heard was delightful as Mera, and has one of the coolest powers in the movie. Mera is far from being a damsel in distress. Not only does she stand toe to toe with Aquaman, but manages to save him numerous times and is a complete badass in her own right. Amber’s performance is well-rounded as I’ve seen in a long time. Plus, she’s a great strong female character for young teens.
Orm makes a great villain and is almost underplayed by the talented Patrick Wilson. Though his motivation flips between his hatred towards Arthur whom he blames for the death of his mother and his hatred for the surface dwellers that has polluted the worlds oceans. I did find it a bit odd that his hatred for Arthur seemed misplaced as it would make more sense to hate his father who ordered the death of his mother.
Take away the over the head message of the dangers of pollution, the jumps between light-hearted dad jokes, and brooding craziness, the core of the film is entertaining and I would recommend you watch it as the CGI is breathtaking.