Warner Bros and DC Comics begins correcting course from their disastrous first run of films by finally focusing on characters that have been woefully under valued for decades. If “Aquaman” is any indication, DC and Warner are on course for a huge comeback that could signal a string of fantastic comic book films, finally. DC garners such a gallery of wonderful mythical superheroes, and James Wan comes on board to not only embrace Aquaman’s universe whole hog, but show us why he’s not at all the geekiest superhero in his stable. If there was anyone that could pull Aquaman out of the doldrums, it’s James Wan. Wan is one of the best, most dynamic filmmakers working today and he can put a creative spin on just about everything.
The son of a royal Atlantean and a human being who fell in love, Arthur Curry grew up struggling to find his place in the world, and uses his super powers imbued at birth to fight pirates and raiders at his sea side home. When the surface begins getting destroyed by seemingly natural disasters, Arthur is beckoned by Attlantean Mera to conjure up his powers to stop a potential war looming in the kingdom of Atlantis between his half brother Ocean Master, and humanity as well as re-claim his throne and rule over his kingdom once and for all. With Ocean Master and new enemy Black Manta scheming to stop him, Arthur must search for his long lost mother, and realize his destiny if he hopes to stop Ocean Master, and prevent a war that threatens to destroy the surface world.
“Aquaman” reworks the iconic DC hero for a new generation without losing what makes the character so unique and entertaining. “Aquaman” contains a wonderful share of science fiction, fantasy, family drama, good old fashioned camp, and some beautifully filmed action sequences that looked straight out of the comics. What I loved most is that Wan embraces the mythology and characters of Aquaman without ever making the audience feel like the writers were embarrassed going in to it. Aquaman wears his iconic yellow and green suit, Ocean Master is Ocean Master, Mera is Mera, and Black Manta is a formidable foe who delights in being about as vicious and violent as humanly possible. “Aquaman” hits the ground running the moment the film begins, but thankfully Wan is able to maintain a lot of the sub-plots and create what is a very exciting action spectacle.
Not since “Superman: The Movie” have I seen a DC comic book movie wear its heart on its sleeve, unveiling every single element of the Aquaman lore with sheer unabashed excitement and enthusiasm. Wan is able to convey so much information in such a short amount of time, leaving almost nothing dangling in the air by the time the credits roll. Of course, there is some groundwork laid for a potential sequel, but it doesn’t subtract from “Aquaman” and prevent it from feeling like a complete experience. It also helps that the cast is fantastic, with a wonderful supporting cast like Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, and Dolph Lundgren, while folks like Jason Momoa manages to shine. Momoa’s take on Aquaman is a mix of beefy hero and subtly vulnerable, if flawed, man looking for a purpose. He’s a being from two worlds that is looking for some sense of identity and he does so through committing good deeds and helping his ocean side town whenever he possibly can.
The two villains of the piece Ocean Master, and Black Manta also put Aquaman through the wringer and might possibly be the best villains of the DC Extended Universe yet. Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II successfully convey two sides of the villainous coin, as one commits himself to maintain some deluded sense of honor in a world he wants to control, while the other is committed to vengeance and just good old fashioned villainy. “Aquaman” isn’t just great, it’s fucking great. It is a banner film in the new generation of DC/Warner live action fare, and I hope DC/Warner use Wan’s bright, vibrant, fun, and energetic treatment of their source material as a template for future outings with other characters in their stable for the DC Extended Universe.