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Review by Henry Varona

Aquaman is a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Let that sink in for a moment. As a fan who was introduced to the hero through various cartoons like Super Friends and Justice League, I’ll admit that I never thought I would see this day, but I am thrilled to witness it. Aquaman proves all the haters wrong, whether they be critics of the DC Extended Universe or the character itself, with a fast-paced and stylized movie that is sure to bring a smile to the face of even the most-jaded fan. With dazzling visuals, fun action, and a strong cast, Aquaman makes a great case for being the best DC movie of the decade.

Aquaman tells the tale of Arthur Curry, a man torn between his life on land and his lineage at sea. The film opens with his parents meeting, as a humble lighthouse keeper falls in love with the Queen of Atlantis. Realizing that their worlds have a history of tension, Atlanna leaves behind her husband and young son, Arthur. Years later, this young man has grown into the hero Aquaman and finds himself forced into a looming war between the kingdom of Atlantis and the surface world. His only hope of stopping the bloodshed is to find a mythical trident that can save his people and make him king, but his brother’s quest to become Ocean Master could spell doom for the entire planet!

Aquaman is one of the most ambitious superhero movies ever made and it delivers throughout. Traditionally, Aquaman has dealt with an infamous reputation as “that guy who talks to fish”, but James Wan and company show that there’s so much more to Arthur Curry and his heroic exploits. Framing the hero as a wayward warrior seeking his place in the world, the movie puts him through a series of challenges that gradually escalate into a mind-boggling final battle. This build mirrors the excitement I felt as a viewer, as the growing tension made me burst with pure glee in the final act.

Jason Momoa plays the titular Aquaman, and he does so swimmingly. When he was originally cast as Aquaman years ago, it was clear that the powers at Warner Bros. were trying to capitalize on a manly-aesthetic more akin to the Peter David-era of the hero (Or the Justice League cartoon) than anything before or after. Admittedly, I had my reservations on how Momoa would pull off the more stoic aspects of the character, since he does his best playing brooding behemoths with a wild fury. Here, he shows more depth than many would expect, as a man searching for his place in the world. One of the things that helps Momoa out with this is that he isn’t driving the plot, he’s along for the ride. Most of the story is driven by Amber Heard’s Mera. This benefits everybody involved, since it allows Mera to have a strong character and journey of her own, while also allowing Aquaman to react along with the audience. This keeps Momoa’s trademark charisma and sense of humor in tact, and makes it easy to fall in love with him.

Of course, as cool as Jason Momoa is, he wouldn’t be able to make it through the movie without a strong supporting cast. Luckily, there are great performances from a number of his friends and foes. Nicole Kidman is a breath of fresh air and watching her in action was incredible. Though she doesn’t have a ton of screen time, she easily makes the most of it, particularly in her scenes opposite Temuera Morrison, who plays Arthur’s father. Their “starcrossed lovers” storyline is a strong emotional backdrop to the whirlwind action of the movie. Amber Heard’s Mera is sure to win over hearts, as she is a driving force behind the plot and introduces viewers to much of the world of story. She avoids the trapping of just being a princess for Aquaman to save, and instead takes control of the action with a powerful mastery over the ocean itself. Speaking of being an Ocean Master, Patrick Wilson is underutilized as Arthur’s younger brother and primary antagonist, Orm. His motivation is underwhelming and while his design is phenomenally realized, he doesn’t have enough time to flesh out the villainous role. This is not a reflection on Wilson, who is clearly having a great time, but rather a consequence of how much this movie must accomplish. In contrast, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is outstanding as Black Manta. This is one of the purest translations of a villain from comic to screen, and his performance had me on the edge of my seat with excitement. Black Manta is lethal, wild, and like all great villains, somebody we can sympathize with. Comic fans will be sure to take delight in his fight scenes throughout the movie.

More than anything else, Aquaman is an impressive deviation from superhero movies that are afraid to embrace the source material. While other DC films have teased audiences of a larger world instead of outright showing them their favorite elements from the comics, Aquaman chooses to give fans everything they could possibly want. It feels like the production team knew that this might be their only shot and didn’t want to have any regrets, so they went above and beyond to provide everything from the comics. This is reflected in shockingly accurate costume designs for some characters that I never expected to see done right, including the aforementioned Ocean Master and Black Manta, and it also extends to expansive world-building like the inclusion of the terrifying Trench monsters. If Warner Bros. never makes a sequel to this movie, fans can rest easy knowing that they got to see more of Aquaman, Atlantis, and the world under the sea than anybody could have expected. And on that note, it’s really wonderful that all of these elements were treated with respect, and the movie avoids falling into the pitfall of making fun of these elements. By embracing them and exploring how fantastical they can be, the movie becomes an epic quest in the truest sense, with a scale rarely seen in solo movies.

Aquaman is a joy from beginning to end and is epic in every sense of the word. While it may be light on philosophical debates or heart-wrenching character introspection, it is a genuinely enjoyable movie with a breakneck pace and a creative flair that distinguishes itself from other superhero films. A charismatic cast and innovative approach to action keep things very fresh and fun, and ensure that the future of DC’s cinematic exploits is full of hope.

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The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics. Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.


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