Aquaman – No Better Fish in the Sea


                                                                          (Minor Spoilers for Aquaman)

       James Wan’s Aquaman was a movie that many felt was the DCEU’s (DC Extended Universe) last hope. Sure, the DCEU may have Shazam! coming out on April 5th of 2019 and other movies, such as Birds of Prey, coming out in 2020, but for now, the final verdict of if DC is still trying to find its footing or if live-action DC films are just destined to be CGI cesspools, was in the hands of Aquaman. And most, including myself, agree that Aquaman has allowed DC to stay afloat in the box office until Shazam! faces a similar test.

       Aquaman completely shocked me with a superhero film that was on par with higher tier Marvel films, such as Thor: Ragnorak and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and far surpassing what is considered to be the best DCEU film so far,Wonder Woman. It was completely filled with CGI, but what else could be expected from a movie that is 66% underwater and somehow has fish people riding on top of literal seahorse horses, firing laser guns, in the middle of an underwater city? The CGI was not distracting like Justice League either, where Henry Cavil’s mustache had to be digitally removed since he could not shave it for another movie he was working on simultaneously. In fact, Aquaman’s CGI actually made the film “visually stunning” as pointed out by CinemaBlend Managing Director Sean O’Connell, “If you’re going to see Aquaman at all, you better see it in theaters. The film is too visually stunning to skip seeing it on the big screen.” The fact that so much is underwater really sets it apart from other superhero movies and it’s a risk that really paid off.

       Aquaman’s plot was divided between two villains, with King Orm, aka Ocean Master and Aquaman’s half-brother, and David Hyde, aka Black Manta. It focused mostly on King Orm trying to bring war to the surface and Arthur Curry (Aquaman) teaming up with Mera, a princess who had been arranged to marry Orm, to stop him. However, the plot also focused on Black Manta seeking revenge against Aquaman (for an action I won’t mention here, but if you know the comics, then you know what it is). In most movies with similar side plots, this secondary villain often times is annoying, seems wedged in to add more action scenes or suspense, and just takes up way more time than the character is actually worth. (I’m looking at you Spider-Man 3. You should have just stuck with Sandman and left Venom out of it.) But in Aquaman, Black Manta gets the perfect amount of screen time and does not seem unnaturally shoved into the movie. The plot is well paced and Aquaman and Mera’s relationship does not appear to be rushed, with their relationship only starting to blossom by the end of the film.

The movie’s plot is a little predictable, with no crucial plot twists, besides the one that you could tell the story was building up to (no major spoilers here). Its story was also extremely similar to Blank Panther, which was released in early 2018, but that is not the movie’s fault, but rather the fact that the comic book characters are so similar. Both are the kings of civilizations that have remained isolated from the remainder of humanity for hundreds of years. Besides, in media, it’s been shown multiple times that if one work of fiction slightly copies another, it’s okay as long as the copier is better than the original.

       Jason Mamoa fits Arthur Curry’s character perfectly as a chill, yet serious when he needs to be, thrill-seeker, who enjoys jumping out of planes without a parachute. Due to Aquaman’s ridiculously long runtime and fantastic pacing, you can see a full transition “from ‘dude bro DC hero’ to ‘majestic heir to the throne of Atlantis’” (CinemaBlend Managing Director Sean O’Connell). At first, he declines Mera’s requests to challenge Orm for the throne of Atlantis multiple times, stating that he will just defend the surface when the Atlanteans start the attack and that he’s not fit to be king because of his human side, but after the brewing war almost kills his father, he has no choice but to go along with her. For the most part, he never wants to rule, but late into the movie, Mera and another character convinces him that Atlantis doesn’t need a king anymore, it needs a hero, and he has to be that hero, a statement further supported by his ability to communicate to the sea life, a trait pointed out by the character Karathen to be a trait that only the first king of Atlantis, Atlan, possessed. By the end of the film, Aquaman happily embraces the fact that he is going to be the next king, even though he doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what he is supposed to do to run a kingdom.

       Overall, James Wan’s Aquaman is a goofy movie that’s fun for people of all ages. It’s action-packed and whenever you think there’s a dull moment – boom – there’s an action scene out of nowhere, and it’s honestly amazing. Aquaman is by far the best live-action DC movie (sorry Wonder Woman); however, it can’t carry the DCEU on its own, so future DC movies, like Shazam!, need to take hold of Aquaman’s torch and keep it up as long as possible. DC isn’t out of the race yet Marvel, they were just warming up. 8.9/10