Directed by James Wan.
Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ludi Lin, Temuera Morrison, Michael Beach, Randall Park, Graham McTavish, Djimon Hounsou, John Rhys-Davies, Leigh Whannell, Sophia Forrest, Natalie Safran, and Julie Andrews.
The bastard son of a human fisherman and Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) must return to an underwater realm that has shunned his lineage since birth, to stop an uprising that threatens worlds above and below the tide line.
Often thought of as the butt of the jokes in the Justice League and comics at large, Aquaman has always been something of an underdog due to the stigma surrounding him. A few years ago, anyone saying an Aquaman film would be a hit would have been laughed at, yet they’d be proven right. Director James Wan brings plenty of style and flourish to Aquaman, creating one of the most visually vibrant comic book films to date. Led by Jason Momoa and Amber Heard, Aquaman delivers a well-rounded film with a concise story and great spectacle.
Aquaman has a fairly straightforward plot that also involves a fair bit of globe-trotting as Arthur and Mera search for a mythical Atlantean object to prevent Arthur’s half-brother Orm from bringing war to the surface world. Though it’s simple, it is more than enough to pull you in thanks to entertaining action sequences and the chemistry between Momoa and Heard.
With a whole film to himself, Momoa gets to really stretch his muscles (both figurative and literal) as he dives deep into Arthur’s character. He imbues a little more comedic elements to the hero than he did in Justice League, but balances it with a nice level of seriousness as a man caught between two worlds who really doesn’t want to get involved in Atlantis. He’s charismatic in the role and shows Aquaman’s development quite well.
Heard is just as charismatic as Momoa and comes close to, if not outright, stealing several of the scenes. Heard displays a seriousness to Mera, yet also has fun in the role, especially in the moments where Mera’s lack of knowledge about the surface world or her lighter characteristics shine through. She’s a joy to watch whether she’s jus talking with Momoa or in an action scene, in which she excels.
Apart from Momoa and Heard sharing great chemistry together, the rest of the cast is just as good. Patrick Wilson makes a compelling villain as Arthur’s half-brother King Orm. While not entirely sympathetic, his motivations are understandable and his relationship with Arthur is a bit more complex than just sibling rivalry. On the other side of the villainous front, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II doesn’t appear a whole lot as Black Manta, but he makes every second he’s on screen count to add some layers to Manta’s character and really go toe-to-toe with Aquaman. The rest of the ensemble, from Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison and Dolph Lundgren, gives equally good performances that help elevate the film.
Comic book fans will be very pleased to know Aquaman fully embraces its source material that has made Aquaman a joke for so long. From Atlanteans riding various sea creatures, Mera using her hydrokenesis and Aquaman telepathically communicating with sea life, the film doesn’t shy away from the goofiness that has been associated with the hero. Its visuals are also reminiscent of a comic with a wide array of colours for its costumes, characters and underwater sequences that stands out even more on the IMAX screen. Atlantis looks great and doesn’t come across as too fake or goofy looking with its structures or people constantly swimming. It is definitely one of the most visually unique comic book films of the year thanks to its colour palette and cinematography.
Wan certainly doesn’t fool around when it comes to the cinematography either, especially when it comes to the film’s battles. Wan employs several one-take action scenes that are highly impressive and entertaining with the way they were shot and choreographed. Whether its Nicole Kidman’s opening fight or a chase across the rooftops of Sicily, every movement is fluid and easy to follow. Wan even uses his horror background to depict some of the sea’s most frightening creatures, but he really leans into the comic book feel with the climax’s underwater battle that doesn’t hold anything back. The IMAX presentation makes it even more glorious and epic with the expanded screen size, vibrant colours and booming sound quality.
James Wan delivers quite an entertaining Aquaman film that is true to the source material while giving his own take on the characters and their world. The cast give great performances with Momoa and Heard the clear standouts amid some very action-packed and well-shot sequences that leans into both the comic book craziness and Wan’s horror expertise. The spectacle is even more pronounced on the IMAX screen which is definitely the way to fully experience this film. For as much fun as Aquaman is, though, it doesn’t let you forget its characters or its heart and is one of the most memorable superhero films among DC’s stable.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★