Review: “Aquaman” Is A Step In The Right Direction For DC Extended Universe

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After many years in development, the film adaptation of “Aquaman” has finally seen release. While not the best film released under the label of DC Comics, it is an overall enjoyable experience that marks a solid model for the “Worlds of DC” rebrand of Warner Brothers’ often divisive shared cinematic universe.

The film is an origin story for the title character, which sees Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa) aiming to stop his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) from bringing both the land and seas into chaos. With the guidance of his mother Queen Atlanta (Nicole Kidman) and his lighthouse keeper father (Temuera Morrison), Curry must team with the princess Mera (Amber Heard) and his mentor (Willem Dafoe) as he clashes with a brusque ruler (Dolph Lundgren) and the assassin Black Manta (Yahya-Abdul Mateen II) to take his place as both a hero and the rightful king of Atlantis.

Though the title character has often lived in the shadow of the infamously campy “Superfriends” incarnation, this film continues the trend set by the 2017 “Justice League” film of portraying Curry as an Atlantean demigod in human form. Over the course of the film’s 143-minute runtime, Jason Mamoa proves his mettle on both land and sea; transforming Aquaman into a hard-drinking brawler that recalls his career in mixed martial arts as well as the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

That said, the film is definitely not perfect by any means. The villains of the film are often underdeveloped and underutilized, with Black Manta being a notable standout that gets far less screen time than Orm. The use of foreshadowing is also far less subtle than the rival films at Marvel, and the action does often have the busy but stylish aura that Zack Snyder left on the banner of DC Films.

Still, the movie is an overall impressive step in the right direction for DC. On a massive $160 million budget, director James Wan delivers a stunning spectacle on land and sea alike. With help from his frequent editor Kirk Morri and experienced cinematographer Don Burgess, Wan crafts one of the most unique versions of Atlantis that’s ever been put on film. The final battle with an army of sea creatures is one of the most gleefully mad scenes committed to the last few decades of comic book movies.

While not on the same level as “The Dark Knight Saga” or the Marvel Studios films it opts to emulate, “Aquaman” is definitely a good foundation for the future of the Worlds of DC. With the film marking a critical and commercial improvement over last year’s “Justice League,” the future of DC Films looks to be a bright one for both land and water.

Verdict: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Review by Steven Pryor

At a Glance:

Starring: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and Yahya-Abdul Mateen II
Directed by James Wan (Based on the DC Comic series by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger)
Rated PG-13

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