It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Aquaman is a step up from Justice League because there are many films that could qualify as such.
As far as the credits go, there’s a mid-credits scene but there’s no scene at the very end of the credits.
We don’t immediately meet Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa). We go back to the beginning when Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) washes ashore, where she’s rescued by Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison). This leads to some fun gags with the Atlantean Queen not being familiar with rituals on the surface. But alas, thing soon go sour when Atlantean forces arrive. It’s shortly after this when we really get to dive into the details of Arthur’s origin story as Aquaman. This happens shortly after the arrival of Princess Mera (Amber Heard) in hopes of luring Arthur to his destiny.
There’s only so much of an origin story that one can do. In this case, we flip quite a bit between the present and the past. The past being where Vulko (Willem Dafoe), council to the Atlantean throne, trains Arthur as a child. It’s for the best that the film goes flashbacks rather than chronological because the surprises make for extra fun. As Arthur journeys to Atlantis, he’s urged to find the Lost Trident of King Atlan and take his rightful place on the throne. Whether intentional or not, there’s a reference to the legend of King Arthur that feels so forced.
With the exceptions of the team-up films, every comic book film these days get at least two villains. We get this in the form of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and the current Atlantis, Orm (Patrick Wilson). Orm may aspire to be Ocean Master but he’s no Killmonger. But for Orm to be Ocean Master, he has to unite all the kingdoms under his belt. This is easier said than done even with King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) of Xebel. There’s not so much going on in terms of losing where we are in the story. Though we get what may feel like comic relief in the form of marine biologist, Stephen Shin (Randall Park).
If there’s one thing to like about Aquaman, it’s that the film allows women such as Mera and Atlanna to kick some ass. This is especially the case when Arthur and Mera find themselves being chased in Italy. After all, Mera’s actions help drive the plot almost as much as Arthur. She isn’t one of those women we find getting tossed aside in films. Not by a long shot!
After Wonder Woman became a hit last summer, DC was unable to replicate the same success with Justice League. While Aquaman is leagues better than its immediate predecessor, it’s got some ways to go before reaching the top bar. The film somewhere between okay and it’s good but not great. While Justice League gave us our first look at Atlantis, we get an extended stay and the visuals are just beautiful. Atlantis as a whole feels grand when we get our first tour, let alone a flashback to the days of King Atlan.
For a film that takes place under water for the large majority of scenes, the visual effects are well worth the effort. It’s this sort of film in which the visual effects are make or break. Thankfully, they don’t break the film. Some of the battle scenes are fun to watch because of them. The film is fun to watch but again, it’s not perfect by any means.
This is a film that’s not without political messaging. They somehow found a way to use Orm’s plan to declare war against the surface to discuss how we’re harming the ocean. It’s quite strong and poignant early on in the film with regards to the ocean and animals being hurt by what’s happened.
Aquaman works as well as it does because director James Wan gives us a story in which we find ourselves wanting to tag along for the fun. This is one of the last big films of 2018 and honestly, I’m not disappointed. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s nowhere near the mess that Justice League was last fall.
DIRECTOR: James Wan
SCREENWRITERS: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall
CAST: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ludi Lin, Temuera Morrison, and Nicole Kidman