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article imageReview: ‘Aquaman’ is king of the DCEU Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 22, 2018 in Entertainment
‘Aquaman’ is given the freedom to be his sarcastic self, which makes this epic quest to unite land and sea more fun than DC fans are accustomed.
DC has been trying to follow in Marvel’s cinematic footsteps for years, but they’ve been unable to find the same level of success. In spite of their television shows doing relatively well and gaining significant followings, their films have always been lacking. However, they may finally be moving in the right direction. Parts of Justice League were passable and Wonder Woman blew everything else they’d done out of the water. Now, after introducing several characters in the big screen team-up, it’s time for them to helm their standalone pictures. First up is the king of the sea, though that’s not his title when this movie starts — at first, he was just Aquaman.
Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is the son of a human lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman). In spite of being the underwater city’s rightful ruler, he’s spurned the throne and rejected the people who killed his mother for her forbidden love. In his place, however, has risen Orm (Patrick Wilson), a cruel, warmongering king who is determined to destroy the surface world. While Orm sets out on a mission to unite the underwater kingdoms and prepare for battle, Mera (Amber Heard) entreats Arthur to claim his crown by finding the first king’s golden trident. In the meantime, the half-Atlantean’s alter ego, Aquaman, has made an enemy of a resourceful privateer (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who won’t stop until one or both of them are dead.
Like his colleagues, Aquaman doesn’t play well with others — but that’s basically where the similarities end. He’s got a dark sense of humour and his eyes dance with mischief when he’s about to embark on something dangerous. Of course, his idea of fun involves death-defying thrashings and taking on superhuman armies singlehandedly. He spent years hiding his abilities, but now he’s making the news, posing for selfies and trying to stop a potentially devastating war. He’s also more comfortable in a pair of jeans and muscle-clinging shirts than spandex.
Orm definitely has a valid grievance against humans. His first warning to the surface world is to return their garbage and warships to the land from whence they came. People are flabbergasted when their beaches are suddenly littered with their refuse, but at least one conspiracy theorist (Randall Park) has some idea of what’s happening. Nonetheless, as Orm flexes his power, he demonstrates there are better ways to teach humans a lesson than annihilation — but they’d also be less immediate and the water dwellers’ assessment that the situation is dire is indisputable.
Director James Wan is not concerned with shoehorning his film into the greater DCEU, which gives him the freedom to make a film that rolls Aquaman’s origin story and an exciting plot into a movie that surpasses most of the studio’s other efforts. Still, there is a brief exchange between Arthur and Mera that positions the film after Justice League and their defeat of Steppenwolf. Other than that, this is strictly a vehicle to properly introduce audiences to a lesser-known character led by an excellent cast and convincing special effects.
At least half of the movie occurs underwater and there are some impressive effects at work to make it appear as if they are indeed performing beneath the surface, including moving auras and floating hair. Moreover, the picture also imagines several spectacular kingdoms and numerous, never-before-seen species that inhabit this secret world. It’s all very striking and quite engrossing, especially when viewed in IMAX 3D. The epic CGI battles and unexpected Kaiju are just one part of this film’s visual parade. The costumes and fight scenes are designed with the environment at top of mind, and the care to these details are evident in every scene.
Momoa brings his unique personality to Aquaman, imbuing him with sarcasm, roguery and a personally defined sense of honour that doesn’t always coincide with others’. His individualism made him a standout in the DC team-up and it continues here as he dominates his scenes — and not just physically. Heard is hit-and-miss throughout, though she does seem to find her stride in the latter half of the film. Villain duties are split between Wilson and Abdul-Mateen II, which presents its own issues as neither seems to get the attention they deserve and one gets an underwhelming send-off. Nonetheless, they are both adequately aggressive and self-serving to fill their respective roles. Willem Dafoe and Kidman use their experience to breathe life into two characters who radiate love and devotion, though the objects of their regard differ.
This still isn’t a Marvel grade superhero movie, but it’s an undeniable step up for DC and hopefully a promise of a brighter future.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Willem Dafoe
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