Aquaman Finally Makes the DCEU Fun
Chris Kavan - wrote on 01/08/19
Whereas many of the previous DCEU films tried too hard to be dark and edgy - to their detriment as far as I'm concerned, James Wan turns Aquaman into a frantic, fun free-for-all, and the film is better for it. The film is visually stunning, even if it goes for over-the-top craziness a lot of the time.
The film wastes no time in setting up the story, showing how a young Arthur Curry came to be when a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) finds a Queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), washed up during a fierce storm. Despite their much different worlds, the two find love - though this is short-lived as she is forced to return to Atlantis - and her arranged marriage - after a few short years in the world of man.
Jump forward and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa - giving it his all) is a certified hero (dubbed Aquaman), including stopping pirates like Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his father (Michael Beach) from stealing Russian submarines. But one decision will come back to haunt him later. Meanwhile, in Atlantis, Curry's half-brother - and now King Orm (Patrick Wilson), plans to attack the surface world, but needs to convince the other Atlantian kingdoms to follow his lead. Lucky a "sudden" attack convinces King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) to lend his considerable army to the cause while his daughter Mera (Amber Heard) heads off to warn Curry of this impending doom.
Curry, however, isn't interested in her offer - that is until his little island hideaway is nearly destroyed by a rogue wave sent by Orm. Thus begins Aquaman's journey, with Mera on his case the entire time, for him to accept his legacy as the true king of Atlantis - even if it means tracking down a legendary trident, facing incredible odds and, of course, preventing an all-our war between the Atlanteans and the surface world.
Along the way we get to see an army on sharks and seahourses, a giant octopus playing the drums, a high-tech city underwater, an ancient Atlantean city in the middle of the Sahara Desert and Willem Dafoe NOT playing a villain for once. All the crazy stuff does lead to some amazing visuals, from some interesting Atlantis kingdoms (including giant crab-like people, more classic mermaid-esque people and savage piranha-like creatures). The design really stands out here - and the color pops - this is not a drab, dark world - but a technicolor wonderland.
And Aquaman's story is pretty good too - and Momoa has great chemistry with Heard and even Wilson (though he's a bit under-sized) makes for an interesting adversary. I with Manta has been more developed, as he's mostly an annoyance rather than a true challenge - but otherwise, most of the characters get a decent share of development and it's nice to see Kidman just having a blast. This is the opposite of all the previous DCEU films in that everyone actually looks like they're having a good time here. Wan even manages to throw in a Fast and Furious reference for good measure.
While I was afraid that Wan's version would push thing too far into fun and fancy free - Aquaman works precisely because it doesn't take itself too seriously, yet still manages to bring us a compelling story and characters. If this is the direction the DCEU is headed, I'm all for sticking with it awhile longer.