2018, the year Aquaman helped save the DC Cinematic Universe

Review: Aquaman 

(M) Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman

To say the DC Extended Universe has struggled over the past few years is an understatement, but Wonder Woman provided some hope for the other significant house of superheroes. Once audiences were able to get past Henry Cavill’s CGI’d upper lip in Justice League, it was not hard to see that the standouts were in Jason Momoa’s interpretation of Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s take on The Flash. Despite the underwhelming performances of the super entourage outing and the debacle of Suicide Squad, Momoa gave some promise to the future of the DCEU. With Furious 7 and The Conjuring’s James Wan in the director’s chair, there was an expectation for a tidal wave of underwater adventures on the horizon for this franchise.

Combining elements of the comic book adventures of Arthur Curry, with The Knights of the Round Table, The Little Mermaid and vintage superhero elements, the world is reintroduced to the man who can talk to fish. It begins with the romance of his human father and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the princess of the underwater nation of Atlantis which led to Arthur being born. Forever torn between the two worlds of the ocean and the surface, the young Curry is mentored by a faithful Atlantean, Vulko (Willem Defoe) to fight and capitalise on his innate aquatic talents.

As he swims into adult life, he becomes a legend of mythical proportions amongst those who make their livelihood in the oceans of the world. As he aids humanity as they come into difficulties on the water, Arthur comes across a disabled Russian submarine that is under attack by a group of underwater pirates. Even though he is able to help the sailors and defeat the marauders, this event leads to the introduction to a nemesis named Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and the forces behind the pirates’ work that will lead Aquaman to his Atlantean heritage.

Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) has risen to the throne of the underwater civilisation and has intentions to unleash the powers of the deep on the land dwellers. Arthur and an unexpected ally, Princess Mera (Amber Heard), must work to undermine the plans of his brother by finding the Trident of Atlan that once belonged to Atlantis’ first ruler.

With the combination of an origin story, a quest and the inevitable superhero elements, it is difficult to miss that this film has tons happening. Every aspect makes sense within the context of the film and the story is supported by amazing visual effects, but it does prove to be a tsunami of content. Despite being a bit overwhelming, in comparison to the rest of the current DC films on offer, Aquaman does not rise to the level of Wonder Woman, but it does provide a life vest to this cinematic universe.

Even with the dark heritage of director Zach Snyder (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) to live up to or live down, James Wan has managed to take one of the most appealing aspects of the Justice League and develop his own identity. Momoa brings in his laidback surfer mentality and enough charisma to make up for his lack of acting chops.

Even in the direst of situations, the monstrous actor conveys that he is having the time of his life. Then to surround him with a solid cast like Kidman, Dafoe, Heard and Wilson, the acting pedigree comes through despite the familiar and well-worn superhero trope. A fun romp through the waters of the world and the christening of a new franchise. Who would have predicted that Wonder Woman and Aquaman would be the heroes to potentially save the DC Universe?

Aquaman is in cinemas Boxing Day 26th December 2018. 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger.




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