Under the watchful eye of James Wan, Jason Momoa has been allowed to thrive as Arthur Curry and delivers the best performance of his career elevating Aquaman back to prominence.
Aquaman has been the butt of many a joke amongst the DC fan fraternity. Jason Momoa’s debut performance as Arthur Curry in the subpar Justice League movie was nothing short of a character assassination thanks, in part to a lacklustre screenplay which saw many of the traditional characteristics associated with the character omitted entirely.
Zack Snyder’s legacy has been overly detrimental to many of the DC Universe‘s most famous characters with Aquaman being the most deprived of them all. With the director finally standing aside and assuming the role of executive producer, the torch has been passed onto James Wan who brings his vision of the King of Atlantis to the screen, but can it truly eradicate the failings of Justice League?
Aquaman | DC / Warner Bros
All I can say is, WOW. Aquaman IS INCREDIBLE!
Jason Momoa and James Wan have delivered the quintessential Aquaman movie and have restored the jewel in the DC Universe crown. As a child, my earliest memories are of the original Aquaman television series where the King of Atlantis defended the underwater realm from a host of threats. Whether it was Black Manta, a plethora of enormous creatures, or invaders from the surface world Arthur Curry was on hand with his army of sea creatures to defend the seven seas.
With the Justice League movie removing both his superhero abilities and his Atlantean obligations, Aquaman, as a character found himself lost amongst his superhero cohorts. Thankfully, James Wan is on hand to peel back the layers of this awesome character and restore him to prominence.
Aquaman finds Arthur Curry on a lone crusade to defend the oceans from a persistent pirate threat in the aftermath of Steppenwolf’s attack in Justice League. For some time, marauders have been attacking submarines and stripping them of technology, arms and in some cases have even pilfered the vessels themselves. A confrontation with the pirates introduces Curry to David Kane/Black Manta, Aquaman‘s arch nemesis from both the comics and television series. This chance encounter triggers their bitter rivalry which comes to fruition in the most unexpected of ways and highlights Curry’s brackish attitude towards the world.
After saving the Submarine’s crew from Black Manta’s tyranny, Arthur returns home to be reunited with his father Thomas, brilliantly portrayed by Star Wars legend Temuera Morrison. Through their often-hilarious exchanges, we learn of the events that precluded Arthur’s brackish outlook on proceedings. Both father and son are tormented by the mysterious disappearance of Arthur’s mother, Queen Atlanna of Atlantis who Thomas nursed back to health after finding her washed ashore on the banks of his lighthouse some years previous.
No sooner have we unearthed the tragedy of his past, Princess Mera (Amber Heard), daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) emerges from the ocean to plead with Arthur to return with her to Atlantis. His power-hungry half-brother, King Orm aspires to unify the estranged undersea kingdoms and amass an army, the size of which has never been seen on earth before with which he aims to conquer the surface world. Arthur reluctantly accompanies Mera to a rendezvous with his childhood teacher Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who urges Arthur to find the Trident of Atlan, a mythological relic that once belonged to Atlantis’ first ruler, in order to reclaim his rightful place as king.
What follows is a quest to locate the trident and restore peace to the undersea kingdoms before King Orm and Black Manta can exact their revenge and bring a war to the surface world. All the while, Momoa takes Aquaman on a legitimate journey of self-discovery and must face up to his past mistakes to attain the hope of a brighter future, not only for himself but for the security of the entire planet.
When taking my seat in the auditorium I had high hopes for Aquaman. The vivid imagery of the trailers had revealed a truly beautiful setting for Arthur Curry’s solo adventure and with the dark and foreboding tone of Zack Snyder’s subpar movies banished I had imagined a cultural extravaganza that would rival Marvel’s success with Black Panther.
Within minutes of the movies opening sequence, all doubts had melted away and Jason Momoa’s incarnation of Aquaman was liberated under the watchful eye of James Wan. Despite offering a series of world-changing events, Aquaman is full of heart, humour and fun which brings a lighter tone to proceedings and takes you on a rollercoaster ride of pure DC Comics escapism. This film has an epic scale, bigger than anything DC has ever attempted before but James Wan pulls it off in the most rewarding of fashions. The incredible creatures of the undersea kingdom are as realistic as they are incredible and the joy of witnessing crocodiles, sharks, seahorses and deep-sea monsters from the pages of Greek mythology duelling on the screen is a joy to behold.
The special effects are beautifully seamless and the combined brilliance of both ILM and WETA deliver a vivid, immersive and polished sandbox for Aquaman to play in.
However, the grand scale and spectacle take nothing away from the incredible performances from the actors tasked with bringing these DC Universe titans to life. Under the watchful eye of a talented director, Jason Momoa has been allowed to thrive as Arthur Curry and delivers the best performance of his career and elevates Aquaman back to charismatic prominence. Amber Heard delivers a mesmerising performance as Princess Mera and proves without a shadow of a doubt that she could easily carry the weight of a solo movie on her shoulders single-handed.
Furthermore, Dolph Lundgren offers a traditionally steely performance as King Nereus while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II brings Black Manta to life in the most pleasing of fashions. His deep seeded hatred for Aquaman will play a pivotal role in future adventures which is a tantalising prospect. Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman offer solid performances as Thomas Curry and Queen Atlanna respectively and Patrick Wilson brings a suitably menacing King Orm/Ocean Master to life and dominates the screen at almost every turn.
With regards to the score, as with his previous efforts on Wonder Woman, Rupert Gregson-Williams has produced another pulse-pounding soundtrack which elevates the action on screen and affords Momoa a truly noteworthy and heroic theme. If you’re a soundtrack collector…this is the score you’ve been looking for.
Aquaman is breathtakingly vivid, mesmerizingly action-packed and heart-warmingly loyal to the character. In my opinion, James Wan and Jason Momoa have surpassed the brilliance of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and have delivered THE BEST DC MOVIE to date. It was the Aquaman of my childhood, and my inner self was doing somersaults during the finale.
Aquaman is for the DC Universe what Black Panther was for Marvel. It is a cultural phenomenon and an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking which will have you jumping for joy at every turn. The beauty of Atlantis will have you gasping with glee with its easy on the eye magnificence whilst the heartfelt journey of the characters on screen triggers more emotional investment that we’ve come to expect from comic book movies.
With cinematography this good it is hard to see how Aquaman can be rivalled. It easily surpasses the vibrancy of Black Panther and the drama of Avengers: Infinity War and leaves you yearning for a sequel before the end credits have finished rolling. To go into greater detail about Aquaman would be an injustice. This is a phenomenal movie that needs to be experienced. What was once regarded as a token character is now reinvigorated into a genuine hero worthy of our adulation and if this is a sign of things to come the future of the DC Universe looks breath-taking, and that is an exciting prospect.
Aquaman arrives in UK cinemas on December 12th and in the US on December 21.
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.