I’ve finally gotten around to the last big movie from last year that I hadn’t watched yet. The only ones I have left are some foreign, some indies, and still a few of the lesser marketed DC Animated movies. I wanted to see this one in theaters but it just didn’t quite work out for me. Despite that, I had high hopes for this as it has become the highest grossing DC movie ever, and from the word of mouth, I heard it was a lot of fun. It brought the color and humor back to the forefront of the DC movies. It’s also interesting as it’s more or less an origin story, but we’ve already seen this character in two different movies beforehand, one where he played a significant role. I had a lot of fun with it and I’m glad that I finally got around to watching it.
Aquaman is an origin movie that’s not really an origin movie. We get the scene of his birth with his Atlantean mother played by Nicole Kidman and his father played by the same guy who played Jango Fett. We occasionally get flashbacks to his childhood, but for the most part he’s a fully fledged hero at the beginning of this movie. Instead, this is basically the tail end of his origin story where he moves past being a superhero on land and accepts his destiny within the underwater kingdom which he previously knew very little about. There are definitely some various king myths floating around that inspire Aquaman’s story, not the least of which is the whole King Arthur myth which ties into Aquaman’s name Arthur Curry. He is a bastard son who was cast out of the kingdom only to return and pull the trident of the true king in order to unite the seven kingdoms of the sea. It’s grandiose in the best way possible.
One of the best things about this movie is the amount of color throughout. A common complaint about the recent DC films is the grimdark nature of it, especially the desaturated tones especially found in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. More recent films have dialed it up a notch, but this really blows it out of the water. Atlantis itself is gorgeous with its bioluminescent neon colors, and Mera’s bright red hair. They even managed to make Aquaman’s classic color scheme work without desaturating it. The bright orange and green pops off the screen and it works based on what the entire movie has shown us up to that point.
Honestly, the entire film is reminiscent of Marvel’s Thor in many ways. We have the different world that’s more colorful, more technologically savvy, and yet more culturally barbaric with many melee weapons and ornate armor. Aquaman himself is also an arrogant warrior who lets pride become his downfall when he goes from being a big fish in a small pond where he was one of the strongest beings on land to being a slightly above average Atlantean. And similar to Thor, during the course of the movie he learns a lesson on how to be a better hero and ends up being leader of the entire sea kingdoms.
The biggest issue with the movie is that it does meander quite a bit. It starts out with a quick moment between Aquaman’s parents and how they met, then we get a little bit of Aquaman being a hero to the people on land. There’s a bit of underwater action and the slightly overblown origin of Black Manta as Aquaman’s nemesis. But in between action beats, there’s also a stretch where Aquaman and Mera take a break to go on a jaunty little world trip on an Indiana Jones style quest for the magical Macguffin trident. Then it becomes a bit of a horror sequence when they’re attacked by the monsterous merpeople, there’s a big war sequence, and as usual there’s a romantic subplot throughout. While the tone and pacing shifts throughout, it works through the strength of the characters.
As far as the characters go, Jason Momoa as Aquaman really gives the character a new life. Many people who aren’t comic book readers really only know the character from either the Superfriends or memes about the Superfriends. Momoa has a great amount of charm and humor as well as the physical presence to turn a character who talks to fish into an interesting and entertaining character. There’s also several moments where he’s allowed to show that he has intelligence to go along with his strength. Even his ability to communicate with fish is presented in a way that makes it less of a joke and an actual asset. Amber Heard’s Mera is a decent enough character. She’s a strong and capable woman, but she doesn’t really have much of a character arc other than to be Aquaman’s support. The villains are an interesting sort, Black Manta has an overly melodramatic moment where Aquaman becomes his nemesis, but he still has a good presence to even things out. And Patrick Wilson’s Orm is a standard warmonger villain but there’s just enough depth to him so that he’s not entirely boring. The other kings had a few moments to keep things interesting, but the most interesting thing about them was really just the casting with Dolph Lundgren and Willem Dafoe.
Aquaman is simply a fun superhero movie from start to finish. There are great moments throughout the film like when Mera turns a room full of wine bottles into red liquid spears like a badass. The underwater scenery is gorgeous and full of color, though the way the characters move and talk underwater felt just a little bit off. Not enough to ruin the movie, but it just never quite felt like they got it right. The characters are interesting, the designs for all the creatures are great, there’s just a hint of meandering plot towards the middle, but it makes up for it with sheer force of will. I’m glad to know that it’s getting a spin-off and a sequel and I hope with this and Shazam that DC continues the trend of good movies. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.