Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited by Warner Bros. to attend an early screening for Aquaman. So, before I start this review I just wanted to thank the good people at Warner Bros. UK for allowing me to watch one of my most anticipated movies of the year a little earlier than everyone else. I’ve been waiting so long to see James Wan’s take on The King of the Seven Seas. From the moment he was attached to the project I had extremely high expectations. And yesterday, those expectations were not only met, but beyond exceeded. Aquaman showed us that Wan could take the comic book movie genre to another level. The film rises to the occasion and will leave you wanting more as there is still so much that is yet to be explored in this universe.
A very ambitious film!
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this movie is the term, ‘scale’. It’s huge in every form. Look, I knew the ocean was huge, but even I was taken back when watching how they interpreted it on the big screen. I lost count on the amount of kingdoms/underwater cities were introduced. Every single one of them were distinct from each other. None of them looked the same at all. This is what I admire the most about the movie, its ambition. They could’ve easily played it safe. For example, have the whole movie take place in Atlantis or another city. But they really went all out, by going full comic book! You’re probably going to see this a hundred times while reading other reviews. Yes, Aquaman feels like a comic book brought to life on the big screen. And I believe this is why comic book lovers and the general audience will enjoy this movie.
On the subject of scale I think it would also be a great time to mention the visuals in this film. Visually, alone this movie is a huge achievement. I mean 80% of it takes place underwater and of course there’s going to be an extensive amount of VFX used, and for the most part it looked great. Every time they were underwater it actually looked natural (helped by the great sound design). In general, I really enjoyed the cinematography. There are some shots in this film that are just epic. The final act/fight between Arthur and Orm played out amazingly! Seeing the two fighting with the lights hitting their costumes provides for an incredible viewing. Once again, it helps this whole comic book aesthetic the film is going for.
Well balanced tone
Another thing I really liked about Aquaman is how the tone was handled. At the end of the day Aquaman can be a fun movie. It can also be a more serious movie if you want to look at it in that way. It strikes a good balance in between the two. I found this even more enjoyable because not only is the film juggling tones at the same time. Its also doing that with genres too. To me these two elements go hand-in-hand. Honestly, you can find genres ranging from Sci-fi, action, adventure, horror and comedy when watching Aquaman. Like I said, because all these elements are balanced well. It really gives Aquaman this lane of its own when it comes to the comic book movie genre. Having said that, I would have personally, toned down on some of the comedy aspects. A lot of the jokes just didn’t quite work for me. But, I understand why they were there. The audience were laughing quite a lot during the screening.
I think it’s time I talk about the characters in the movie. Just by looking at the of names attached to this project the acting in this movie was easily, the least of my worries. At this point I feel like I’m giving this movie too much praise. 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 on the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out a bunch 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 entertaining and has me in 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. The guy is still in character. Orm’s motivations are both easy to understand and relatable. I think a lot of DC fans will find similarities between Orm and General Zod from Man of Steel. What I liked the most about Orm is 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’s a really great villain in this movie. Not to mention he looks amazing too when he’s fighting in his full costume.
The women in this movie are badass!
Now, onto the women in this movie. They are straight up badass! Starting with Mera. If you thought she would end up being this damsel-in-distress. Or just there to serve this romance angle. You’re totally wrong. Mera almost steals the show for me. In-fact she carries the movie in certain parts. She can very much hold her own and doesn’t need to rely on Arthur to get her out of difficult situations whenever she finds herself in one. Arthur’s mother too, Queen Atlanna, another strong female character. I can’t really go into detail about her character for spoiler reasons. But trust me, Arthur inherited a lot of his fighting style from his mother.
Black Manta! (major highlight)
I had to save the best for last…Black Manta! Hands downs my favourite thing about this movie. 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 too. Again, I can’t really go into detail but, I liked how he tied in 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 split up Orm and Black Manta as main villains in separate movies. I guess that’s still kind of a compliment at the same time by suggesting both characters/actors are good enough to carry a movie as the main villain by themselves.
The Score…was disappointing
If you know anything about me you would know that I love my scores in superhero movies. I couldn’t wait to see what Rupert Gregson-Williams had come up with for this type of movie. I have to admit 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 is like, because it didn’t jump out to me. Again, a lot was going on during this movie and maybe I was just too caught up in the moment to notice the score. I can only speak for myself. I was going in expecting this Man of Steel/Dawn of Justice level type of score and I didn’t get that. I will still be checking out the soundtrack when it releases. Hopefully, my opinion on the score will change.
Overall, Aquaman is about as blockbuster as they come. I had a great time and would recommend this movie to anyone, not just comic book fans. I think anyone will find something they would love in this movie. From the stunning visuals, great characters and the breath-taking action. Or it could be that amazing third act/final fight which is one of the strongest I’ve seen in years when it comes to comic book movies. As for what this means for 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 to me. Yeah, it’s had a few bumps in the road. But, films such as Man of Steel, BvS and Wonder Woman will continued to be talked about for the coming years. Aquaman, joins those other movies and proves that the DCEU isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.