Before I begin this review, I just wanted to thank the amazing people at Warner Bros. UK. for giving me a spectacular gift yesterday. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend an early screening for Aquaman. It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to view one of my most anticipated films of the year, earlier than all of my colleagues.
From the moment I heard James Wan was attached to direct Aquaman, I felt I was waiting ages to see his take on The King of the Seven Seas. Aquaman not only showed me that Wan could take the comic book movie genre to another level, it would rise above that occasion as well. Now, If you’re like me, this film will leave you wanting to explore more of this Universe, while witnessing new depths of creativity.
Because of James Wan’s skills and talent behind the camera, I had high expectations about this film. I’m relieved to say that not only were those expectations met; they were exceeded beyond what I could imagine.
When I think back on what I just saw, the first word that comes to mind is ‘scale’. It’s massive in every form. I knew the ocean was huge, but even I was flushed when watching how they interpreted it on the big screen. I lost count on the amount of Kingdoms and underwater cities that were introduced. James was able to create unique aesthetics for each city, while at the same time, make every single one of them distinct from each other.
What I admire most about this film is its ambition. They could have gone the easy route and easily played it safe with the locations. For example, have the whole movie take place in Atlantis or in Amnesty Bay. But not James Wan. They really went all out by going full comic book mode!
Alert! (No Spoiler)
***You’re probably going to see this a hundred times over, while reading other reviews***
Yes! Aquaman feels like comic book pages brought to life on the big screen. I believe this is why comic book lovers and the general audience will enjoy this film.
Now, in order to see this type of scale in a film, I have to commend the visual effects department as a whole. Visually speaking alone, this film is a huge achievement. If memory serves me correct, 80% of the film takes place underwater. That would indicate that there’s going to be an extensive amount of VFX used, and for the most part it looked great. Every time they were below water, it actually looked natural (which was also helped by the great sound design team).
In general, I really enjoyed the cinematography. Reminiscing about a few shots in this film, and I can tell you that they’re epic. The final act/fight between Arthur and Orm played out amazingly! Seeing the lighting hit their costumes during their battle, provides for such an incredible viewing. Once again, it also helps for this whole comic book aesthetic the film is going for.
Another thing I really liked about Aquaman, is how the tone was handled. At the end of the day, Aquaman can be a fun film. It can also be a more serious film if you view it as such. It strikes a good balance in between the two. I found this even more enjoyable as the film was juggling both tones at the same time.
Its also balances out the different genres as well. To me, these two elements go hand-in-hand. For me, I could find genres ranging from Sci-fi, action, adventure, horror and comedy during Aquaman. Because of these elements being balanced so well, you can see why I enjoyed them blended into one another.
Not being defined by one genre really gives Aquaman its own, personal style. Having the film mainly underwater should be evident enough, especially when attempting to grade this film compared to past comic book films from the past.
My Only Con
I would have personally enjoyed the film more if some of the comedic aspects were minimized. I understand why they were added in, but a lot of the jokes and humor didn’t quite work for me. The audience I attended the film with were laughing quite a lot during the screening though, so it worked for them.
I think it’s time I talk about the characters in this film. Just by looking at the cast attached to this project, the acting in this film was easily the least of my worries. At this point, I almost feel as if I’m giving this film too much praise as it is. But I cannot lie: I loved the characters for the most part in this film.
Jason Momoa is clearly having the time of his life as Arthur Curry, and it translates well on screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out most of his lines were improvised on the spot. He just seems to be enjoying the role that much. Arthur’s journey back home and to the throne is one that was very much entertaining. It has me very interested in seeing where the character goes after this.
Orm is up there with one of my favourite comic book villains in the past couple of years. This is mainly because of Patrick Wilson’s performance. Much like Jason, you can tell he really enjoys this role too. All you have to do is look at some of his recent tweets, and you’ll see that this guy is still in character.
Orm’s motivations are easy to understand, while also even more relatable to Humans as a species. I imagine quite a few of the DC fans will find similarities between Orm and General Zod from Man of Steel. What I enjoyed most about Orm, was how he isn’t just an evil version of Arthur. He can stand on his own. You genuinely believe that he’s a major threat to both Arthur and the surface world. Overall, Orm is portrayed fantastically as the primary villain. Oh, did I mention he looks amazing when he’s fighting in his full costume as well? Beautiful.
The Women In This Film
They are, dare I say, straight up bad-ass! Lets begin with Mera. If you thought she would end up being this damsel-in-distress or to serve this romance angle, you’re totally wrong. Mera almost steals the show for me. In-fact, she basically carries the film in certain parts. She can very much hold her own. I also enjoyed that she doesn’t need to rely on Arthur to get her out of difficult situations whenever she finds herself in one.
For our next kick-ass female in the film, we see Arthur’s mother, Queen Atlanna, join the fray. Since discussing her role in the film would stray into spoiler area, I can’t really go into specifics with her character. But trust me when I say that Arthur definitely inherited most of his fighting style from his mother.
I Saved The Best Character For Last
Black Manta! Hands downs, he is my favourite thing about this film. Black Manta has always been one of the coolest DC characters too me. And seeing him in that outfit, moving around on the screen was a joy to watch. I love his backstory as well, but again, I can’t really go into detail without spoiling it for you. I did enjoy how his story connected him with Arthur and a few other characters.
If I had to pick out one issue I had with the character, it’s that I wanted more of him! Don’t get me wrong; I thought he was used well. But, looking back on it now, I think they could have easily used Orm and Black Manta as villains in separate films. I believe they didn’t need both of them, together, in one. My apologies if that sounded like a back-handled compliment in someway. I just feel that both characters/actors are more than enough to star as the main villain in their own film.
To give you a little background about myself. I love my scores in superhero movies. I couldn’t wait to hear what Rupert Gregson-Williams had come up with, for this type of film. Unfortunately, I must say, I was kind of disappointed. Apart from Orm, who has a great theme, nothing really caught my attention. I can’t really tell you what Arthur’s theme sounded like, because it didn’t jump out to me. Again, a lot was going on during this film, so maybe I was just too caught up in the moment to notice the score.
I can only speak for myself, but I was expecting something along the sounds of the Man of Steel/Dawn of Justice type of score. Sadly, I didn’t get that. Hopefully, my opinion on the score will change once I get a chance to listen to the soundtrack, once it’s released.
Aquaman is about as blockbuster as they come. I had a great time and would highly recommend this film to anyone, not just comic book fans. I think everyone will find something they love while watching it. Whether it’s from the stunning visuals, the great character interactions, or the breath-taking action in this film.
Or it could be the amazing third act/final battle which is one of the strongest I’ve seen in years, when it comes to comic book films. As for what this means in the DCEU? Is it “saved” once again? I can’t tell you how bored I am of that conversation. To me, the DCEU has always been alive and thriving. Sure, it’s had a few bumps in the road. But ultimately, films such as Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman will continue to be talked about for years to come. Aquaman joins the pantheon of great DC Films and proves that the DCEU isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.