After the success of Batman and Superman, DC comic book writer and artist Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger created Aquaman. First appearing in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, Aquaman first gained pop culture fame with the 60s animated series. While he’s one of the founding members of the Justice League, he’s often been the subject of ridicule and jokes. Many simply look at his abilities to breath underwater and communicate with fish, and they don’t go much further. Because of this, future comics tried to reinvent the character to be more brooding and series with less-than-stellar results. He even had a video game in 2003 called Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis, one of the worst games ever made. With the introduction of the DCEU in 2013, the character was reintroduced in Batman v Superman. Played by Jason Momoa, he reappeared in 2017’s Justice League before getting his own movie.
During a thunderstorm, lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues a woman who’s washed up on shore. After being restored to health, she reveals herself as Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), a princess from Atlantis fleeing an arranged marriage. They fall in love and have a son together named Arthur, but she is soon forced to return to Atlantis. Years later, Arthur (Jason Momoa) has grown up to become Aquaman, who recently joined up with the Justice League. He’s visited by Mera (Amber Heard), who warns him about his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) and his plans. Orm is planning to start a war against the surface world, and only by becoming king can Arthur stop him. While reluctant initially, Arthur agrees and they visit Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who tells them to find the Trident of Atlan. With time running out, the two must find the trident and stop Orm before becoming Oceanmaster.
While I am generally a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much of the DC Universe has been very underwhelming. Man of Steel was mediocre, Batman v Superman was dreadful, Suicide Squad was a mess, and Justice League was meh. However, 2017’s Wonder Woman was surprisingly good if somewhat flawed, so things seemed to be looking up. Much like Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa was one of the better elements of the movies, especially in Justice League. And just like her, his spinoff movie is easily one of the best entries in this series. This movie has an overall sense of fun and they take full advantage of just how ridiculous the premise is. At times, it feels like a live-action 80s Saturday morning cartoon, even with the casting of Dolph Lundgren. The big battle sequence in the last act perfectly emphasizes how over-the-top this is.
Jason Momoa, much like in Justice League, is easily the best part of the movie, thanks to his overwhelming charisma. Amber Heard, who was a nothing character in Justice League, is much improved here and given more to work with. Patrick Wilson makes for a great villain, and he even has his moment of redemption towards the end. The rest of the cast, including Kidman, Dafoe, and Lundgren, all do their jobs well and make this more grandiose. James Wan, primarily known for horror films like Insidious and The Conjuring, directs the film well and has great ambition. If there are any flaws, the runtime could be much shorter and the pacing is a bit messy. Also, sometimes it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on with all the exposition and backstories. Despite those flaws, Aquaman a fun superhero adventure that does the character justice.