“My father was a lighthouse keeper. My mother was a queen. But life has a way of bringing people together. They made me what I am.”
It’s been a rough year for the DC Universe, losing both Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck as Superman and Batman respectively. In a time when Marvel is heading towards a big finale of sorts, this should be when DC goes full steam towards capitalizing on any residual momentum. The loss of two members of the Justice League is going to put a crimp in that plan; however, thanks to the release of Aquaman, DC does not have to start from scratch. Jason Momoa returns as the titular character in this origin story of sorts. One of the breakout stars of the critical failure that was the Justice League movie, Momoa proves that he was made to command the seven seas.
Picking up a year after the events of Justice League, Arthur’s identity has become common knowledge, as he continues to protect the oceans from all threats, including sea pirates like David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), while refusing to claim his birthright as the King of Atlantis much to the chagrin of Mera (Amber Heard). In his absence, his younger half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) sits upon the throne and plots to unite the kingdoms of seven seas and launch an attack on the surface world. Unable to ignore the threat his brother poses to land, Arthur is forced to partner with Mera and his childhood mentor, Vulko (Willem Dafoe) to retrieve the lost trident of King Atlan, which could give him command over the oceans. To ascend to the throne, Arthur will have to confront memories that he has long since buried about the fate his mother suffered for loving a mortal and having him.
I have long awaited this solo opportunity to showcase Momoa as Arthur Curry, and I was not disappointed. As I mentioned earlier, his character was one of the bright spots in the deeply flawed Justice League mashup. Momoa was a usual casting as the comics always depicted Aquaman as a blonde, but truth be told, after seeing Momoa in the role I can’t imagine it any other way. He brings an untamed and wild-man persona to the character that adds a layer depth that was not there before. Speaking of dream casting, I can’t not mention the lovely Amber Heard, who is a captivating and strong presence on screen. Normally a blonde, but I have to say, the red hair was really working for her. Beyond her beauty, though, she is the one who drives the plot forward, helping to motivate Arthur to protect the world he loves and encourage him that he is worthy to lead, or to put it in her word, “Atlantis has always had a king. Now it needs something more.”
Visuals were a huge part of this movie, as it is the first true opportunity that we are given to see the underwater world that is Atlantis, and it was gorgeous. Wan really put in some hard work to create an underworld kingdom that was not only modernized but also capitalized on the ocean theme. I encourage you to pay close attention to the emphasis that went into creating this world, as unfortunately we don’t get to spend a lot of time admiring it. So again, please pay attention to it so that it is not wasted effort on the part of the production staff. A special effect that I loved was the visuals of Mera utilizing her powers, especially in the wine bar; it was a really cool effect and showcased that the future queen of Atlantis would never have to be dependent on her king.
The storyline focused mainly on the “Throne of Atlantis” tale, which is the ideal selection for an origin story with the addition of showing the meeting of Arthur’s mother (Nicole Kidman) and father (Temuera Morrison). There are some variations on the original story, some good and some wasted opportunities in my opinion, such as the failure to capitalize on the chance to show just how devious Orm really is. You will know it when you see it. I think that was my biggest pet peeve about the movie, because it was the perfect chance to turn the tide (pun intended), and it is never addressed. All in all, the story is still good as is. A bit hokey towards the end.
I want to jump back onto the casting, as this will be a deciding factor in the film winning the weekend, which it is likely to do. Patrick Wilson was not my first choice when I thought about characters to play Orm, and he was clearly at least partially selected because of his working relationship with director James Wan; this marks the pair’s fifth collaboration. That said, he was great as Orm. He displayed ruthlessness, which again could have been more properly displayed if brought to the forefront. I believe that would have played better before than when they chose to end it. Finally, I want to talk about Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who has come a long way from his cameo in Baywatch. I won’t say too much about his role because I don’t want to give too much away, but I had to take the opportunity say bravo.
It has some stiff competition this weekend, but I have every confidence that Aquaman will be the box office winner. It features a Raiders of the Lost Ark-theme treasure hunt and is full of action, along with woman empowerment. My wife has already told me that she expects me to take her to see this movie, and to tell you the truth, I’m not at all upset about seeing it again.