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‘Aquaman’ (review by Clay N Ferno)

Produced by Peter Safran, Rob Cowan
Screenplay by Will Beall,
David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Story by Geoff Johns, James Wan, Will Beall
Based on Aquaman by
Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris

Directed by James Wan
Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard,
Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson,
Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II,
Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison

It’s time to take another look at the DCEU as a serious rival to the Marvel movies.

Aquaman, directed by James Wan (Saw, Furious 7, The Conjuring) will appeal to a broad audience, and not just because star Jason Momoa is a sexy beast!  Sure, there is that aspect, with Game of Thrones fans potentially rushing to see their favorite Dothraki King in his underwater adventures.

While I am an apologist for these DC movies, and fresh from the theatre I have consistently given high marks since Man of Steel, and thought Justice League was the most fun movie of last year, I am a total mark for a DC movie. Even Suicide Squad. There, I said it. Before you run away from this reviewers opinion on Aquaman as being biased, I really do think there was a sea-change with this film.

Mistakes were made from Justice League and the mustache, two directors and a crummy looking bad guy in both JL and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Wonder Woman, being set in the past gave it a bit of a buffer between heroes of today versus a World War I story, and no major complaints with that film in general. Most people liked it! Fast forward to Aquaman and the DCEU redemption is now in full speed, after lots of reflection, consultation from Geoff Johns and likely a lot of testing.

Aquaman is fun and you care about the characters. Justice League was also fun, but admittedly light on story and character development. Wan infused his horror and monster history with story elements of multiple successful franchises to deliver us to Atlantis with an all-star cast (some famous for water based or super hero movies in the past, more on that later) in a way that Snyder was able to capture back in his 300 and Murro on 300: Rise of an Empire.

Remember that Atlantis is an ancient civilization, with technology more advanced that today’s at some point before crumbling into the ocean and dividing into seven kingdoms. CGI is spectacular, if given the opportunity to see in RPX or IMAX, do it. Great sea creatures, impressive ships and entire civilizations below the sea are a true marvel. Imagine the Rainbow Bridge of Asgard (there is another version of this in the film) mixed with the scale of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the biodiversity of the best Star Wars prequel scenes. It’s a wonder to see this incredible use of graphics and storytelling.

Superhero and villain veterans Dolph Lundgren and Willem Dafoe are opposite Patrick Wilson’s Orm aka Ocean Master as the half-brother of Arthur Curry, half breed of the surface world. Nicole Kidman spent some time on a boat in 1989’s Dead Calm before revealing herself as Aquaman’s mom Atlanna here. Amber Heard plays a great, beautiful and strong Mera as their own family drama unfolds.

A comic-accurate Black Manta is played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as he seeks revenge for his father’s death by Aquaman’s hand. In fact, everyone’s costume is awesome and you even get an orange-scaled armor on Aquaman himself when he has a transformation into the hero he is destined to become.

I hardly can contain comparisons, in the positive, to other movies here, whereas Justice League a La carte had two directors piecing together some elements to make some kind of a finished product, what we have here in Aquaman is a well crafted curation of movie elements that skew familiar to make something new and amazing.

There’s a quest aspect like The Lord of the Rings combined with The Fifth Element, huge monster horror in the depths of the sea like Godzilla, similar and unavoidable Thor/Loki brotherly enemies parallels, and even aspects of Ant-Man and The Wasp could be cited as a coincidence for the storyline. This movie is part Indiana Jones as much as it is partly paying tribute to Avatar. Does this sound like a mess? It’s not, trust me. Lots to compare to but incomparable. Aquaman stands on it’s own as the next generation of DCEU movies. As we always hope for in future films, don’t mess it up next time!

Some great jokes about how much of a regular guy Arthur is, calling his mentor Vulko (Dafoe) a ‘puckered starfish’ and how he doesn’t have the same memorization capability of Mera, and tons of one-off jokes. A scene in the bar when some bikers happen upon Arthur and his dad Tom (Temuera Morrison) breaks the tension in an unexpected way.

I’m no Aquaman historian, far from it, but seeing the Aquaman sonar in action on the screen was awesome, with his ‘talking to fish’ powers explained in a cool way, developed by his mentor since he was a boy.

The soundtrack rocks too, with Depeche Mode, Greta Van Fleet, Roy Orbison, Sigur Ros, Skylar Gray and more. Some throwback to the 80s and Super Friends sound effects will be sure to make you smile.

As heir to the throne of Atlantis, a man named Arthur Curry, who’s parents were never meant to be together could not escape their destiny or the destiny of Aquaman. Neither can actor Randall Park, who seems to be playing the same anti (in the sense of ‘against’) hero character he played in Ant-Man and The Wasp!

That’s it for me, take my enthusiasm with a cup of salt water if you must, but I’m glad we got this as our Christmas movie this year and not another slog of a Star Wars film for fans to fight over. The clean slate of a hero who has not ever appeared in a solo movie before gave James Wan, Jason Momoa and team a starting point that will be difficult to top, but the future of the DCEU depends on it. Just kidding, this movie will make so much money and I predict less arguing about it’s merits than past films in the franchise. Perhaps we’ll get even less arguing than the Star Wars films are kicking up these days.

Ring in the new year under the sea! Bring your whole family, there might just be something for everyone and I mean it this time, really.


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