Aquaman Review: DC’s first step in the right direction


Photo Courtesy of DC

Aquaman costume designer Kym Barrett (The Matrix Trilogy, the Amazing Spider-man) says the concepts for Aquaman, Black Manta and King Orm try to stay true to their respective designs in the comics.

Benjamin Kim, Business Team

With DC’s newest installment in the multi-film franchise, director James Wan’s “Aquaman” proves that the DC Extended Universe can stand on its own. After the box office failure of “Justice League,” many wondered if Warner Brothers would pull the plug on its grand vision for a Marvel-esque billion-dollar franchise. With “Aquaman,” there may still be hope.

The movie opens as lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) rescues Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), princess of the underwater kingdom Atlantis who escaped her home to avoid a betrothed marriage but is forced to return. Before she leaves, Tom and Atlanna are able to have a child: Arthur Curry. Many years later, Arthur is now Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and is called upon by Mera (Amber Heard), another princess in Atlantis, to stop younger half-brother King Orm’s (Patrick Wilson) planned attack on the surface world. On the way, Aquaman needs to find Atlan’s Spear, a magic artifact that would ensure his victory.

During Aquaman’s quest, he kills someone close to Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a modern-day pirate engineer who, as revenge, teams up with Orm to kill Aquaman. Unfortunately, Black Manta is finished off early in the film, a shame because Black Manta is a more dangerous, appealing villain than Orm. On the bright side, the movie is able to maintain focus on the central narrative and keep the audience engaged and perceptive.

If there is one quality that sets “Aquaman” apart, it is the awesome action sequences. The two duels between Aquaman and King Orm are never boring, and Wan uses a fresh directing style in Black Manta’s chase scenes in Sicily, Italy by moving the camera between two fights at the same time, giving the audience a sense of grandeur. Even when action sequences last long, Wan makes sure the audience is never bored by constantly changing the environment.

The largest and regrettably most important flaw in the film is dialogue. Characters often recite incredibly short phrases that are neither meaningful to the audience’s perception of the narrative or are so cringe-worthy that it is difficult to keep a straight face, even when the audience is meant to be anything but amused.

Even with all the improvements since “Justice League,” “Aquaman” is by no means a perfect movie. This film is Wan’s first in the superhero genre, and his lack of experience clearly show, especially in narrative-propelling dialogue. With more background in horror films like the “Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” franchises, Wan struggles to find a solid tone. “Aquaman” tries to be funny like the Marvel franchise but often adds seriousness to scenes as if only remembered at the last moment.