Warner Bros’ DCEU has been met with controversy from critics and fans alike. From the generally well-received Wonder Woman, to the disaster that was Suicide Squad, the universe has yet to find solid footing as a franchise the way they’d hoped to. In November 2017, Justice League released (let’s just not talk about it), featuring our first look at Jason Momoa’s Aquaman in action. It’s been 13 months since then (the longest break we’ve had from DC movies since the 3 years in between Man of Steel and Batman v Superman), and the DCEU is back in action with Aquaman.
In this review, I’ll discuss the swashbuckling return to the universe with no spoilers! So, feel free to read ahead whether you’ve seen the movie or not. Let me start off by saying one thing: the rumors are true. Aquaman is outstanding.
Aquaman is an absolutely stellar film that will grip you from start to finish. From the directing, to the VFX, to the performances, this is truly the best the DCEU has to offer. Wonder Woman is often heralded as the only good movie the DCEU has produced. While WW is certainly good, Aquaman is great. It’s simply on an entirely different level than every other DCEU film yet.
The strongest part of Aquaman is its characters. Each of them are given very specific and intentional motivations and traits. As expected, Momoa’s Arthur Curry and Amber Heard’s Mera are both strong headliners, but the real surprises come from the villains of the film: Patrick Wilson’s Orm and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Manta. The strong villains are what truly tie the knot to make this film what it is. Ocean Master is as strong a villain as we’ve seen in 2018, and with the MCU’s Killmonger and Thanos, we’ve seen some great ones. His desire to wage war on the surface world doesn’t just exist to propel the plot (i.e. Justice League‘s Steppenwolf), but his anger is presented in a way that is completely understandable and thought-provoking. The same could be said for Black Manta, who is unfortunately more of a secondary character in this movie (expect to see more of him in the upcoming sequel). Other side characters such as Willem Dafoe’s Vulko, Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna, and Temuera Morrison’s Tom Curry are all brilliantly portrayed and written.
Aquaman boasts some truly remarkable production quality from the VFX, to the cinematography, to the directing. First and foremost, the visual effects team for this film deserves a massive round of applause. There was not a single weak link, not a single scene that looked at all fake or bland. From the very first scene to the final shot (which is beautiful), this movie is groundbreaking. The design of Atlantis, and the hundreds of different sea creatures we see are all stunning, and the underwater scenes are executed to perfection. Director James Wan truly left his mark on this film in every aspect, from the breathtaking cinematography to the eye-popping VFX. He even included some of his classic horror elements, as well!
Plot and Pacing
As I said before, this movie grips you from start to finish. Once you’re engulfed in the plot, it doesn’t let you go. Aquaman is fun, action-packed, exciting, and fast-paced. Trust me when I say fast-paced. You may say “That’s great! I like movies that don’t slow down!” and I’d likely agree with you. Movies that lull too much and have slow and/or inconsistent pacing can be some of the worst movies. However, sometimes a break in the pacing can be beneficial to a movie if its pacing gets too fast out of hand. For instance: one of the only flaws I saw in Avengers: Infinity War was how the third act became somewhat of a punch-fest and was almost too much to keep up with. This is admittedly a very small issue in the grand scheme of things, but Aquaman lightly suffers from the same issue. It’s like the third act of Infinity War, but it’s the entire movie. That being said, with the rest of the movie being near perfection, that’s an extremely light complaint. The plot itself is very strong and the quest Arthur and Mera go on to retrieve the trident of Atlan is truly thrilling.
All in all, Aquaman is one of the best comic book movies of the year, and in contention to be the very best of the year. That’s something to be said, too, with incredible films such as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being in that conversation. I don’t want to add fuel to the “MCU vs DCEU” fire, but I can only think of four MCU films better than Aquaman. I say that as an unbiased and massive fan of both.
In conclusion, Aquaman is a one-of-a-kind adventure that is pushed to greatness by its well rounded and strong characters. Visionary Walt Disney once said the following:
“We have created characters, revealing through them to our perturbed world that the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us.”
If that doesn’t sum up the story of Arthur Curry, half-human and half-Atlantean, and the story of Aquaman in today’s divided climate, I don’t know what does. Do yourself a favor and go see Aquaman this weekend!