Despite what The Big Bang Theory will have you believe, Aquaman, is every bit as great as Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman – if not better than all of them. Unlike being driven by duty, ethics, or a sense of responsibility, Aquaman is driven by his passion, is strong enough to be a problem for Superman and the king of Atlantis. Yet he always ends up with the fish jokes, always the underdog.
Fortunately, Conjuring director, James Wan, and ultimate badass, Jason Momoa’s new film, Aquaman, gives us the hero the fans knew that he was.
Aquaman is nothing short of a masterclass of Wan’s incredible eye for character and tempo that he’s masterfully displayed over the years. What works so well with Wan’s handling of the themes in this story is nothing felt out of place. Nothing ever felt forced with any aspect of the story or character.
Focusing on the origins of the character, Aquaman, tells the story of Arthur Curry, a man who’s forced to face the noble destiny he didn’t want. It’s a strong story that draws off the fantastical of King Arthur and very real stories and themes of family and the human races assault on the environment. Wan handles every aspect beautifully with a tone and pacing homaging early Speilberg film. Wan smartly keeps the characters front and very real, despite the fact 90% of this story is set underwater, and benefits from some terrific character moments and fantastic action sequences that rival anything from Marvel.
The action was epic and fluid (intentional word use) thanks to Wan favoring long takes and sweeping camera movements that truly show the ferocity of what fighting with a trident can be like as well as the third dimension that fighting in water can give you. Wan’s aforementioned eye for character and tempo always keeps the character strong even in the massive final battle.
Wan’s cast more than deliveries on the demands the epic feel of his action scenes asks for. Jason Momoa, despite being big enough to make his bodyguards on the street look useless, shows an incredible speed and agility worthy of a warrior king and every bit the match for the smaller and faster Patrick Wilson. Perennial James Wan player, Patrick Wilson, takes to a trident like Conan the Barbarian to his sword, and even Nicole Kidman puts her male costars on notice with a truly outstanding fight sequence of her own. And this is a cast that keeps delivering.
Jason Momoa is born for this role, not for his size or look but for the weight he delivers in his voice. Momoa has a tremendous reflection in his voice that, when combined with the presence that seems to emanate off of him, creates a performance that you absolutely believe. That old saying, “every hero is only as good as their villain” rings true with Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Wilson plays Orm, Arthur’s brother and current ruler of Atlantis.
The fun Wilson had with the role comes through with his performance as he masterfully tracks from a ruler that feeds off the crowds and can talk you into believing what he wants into the legendary Aquaman villain, Oceanmaster. Relative newcomer, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II creates a Bond heavy-style performance in Black Manta. A pirate bent on killing Aquaman in revenge for his father’s death. It speaks to the talents Abdul-Mateen II has as he created one of the best performances in this film while being completely enclosed in the high-tech suit he builds to match Aquaman’s abilities.
Even Amber Heard creates a memorable performance as Mera, Atlantan royalty working with Arthur to stop Orm from going to war with the surface world. Heard exudes confidence and power that is every bit the character of Mera is. As well as having damn good chemistry with Momoa.
Rounding out this cast is a cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Michael Beach, Temuera Morrison, and Dolph Lundgren. And each of them creates performances every bit as good as the principal cast.
There’s a lot in Aquaman that works and very little that doesn’t. Wan’s decision to put some truly bad pop songs to some seemingly random sequences will pull you out of the story. Some visual jokes seem really forced and just fall flat. But it’s nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. Aquaman is a solid and entertaining film well worth 4.5 stars
A lot of people questioned if DC Comics Entertainment could survive after the well-documented mess with WB’s mishandling of Justice League. But, with Aquaman, DC Comics Entertainment has shown they can swim with the best of them. That other old adage rings true and it’s damn good to be the king.