Aquaman is wet and wild fun while not entirely holding together as well as it should. The film, the sixth in the in the loosely-connected DC Extended Universe, continues the momentum started with Wonder Woman. Director James Wan certainly makes the undersea world come to vivid life although I wish he spent a little more time on the world-building and character interrelationships.
We pick up a year after his appearance in the disappointing Justice League and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) continues to reject his fate as a hero. While he opens the film by stopping a sub full of pirates, including the man who will become Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), it seems an infrequent activity. He’s quickly back to drinking and bar fighting, hoping the world will leave him alone.
Instead, forces are at work to make certain that never happens.
While hanging out with dad, Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), he’s under attack and Mera (Amber Heard), whose relationship with him is never clearly established her or in JL, shows up to explain Atlantis is readying to make war on the surface world and this was just the beginning.
His half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), is scheming with Mera’s dad to either forge alliances with the various undersea kingdoms, or seize them, creating an unstoppable force.
Well, there’s one force: Arthur. He is convinced to claim his birthright and we get some lovely flashbacks about his origins so we see Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), an exiled queen, fall in love with the lonely lighthouse keeper until the day soldiers came crashing into their home to take her away. Young Arthur is trained by Vulko (Willem Dafoe), adviser to throne, and we watch his burgeoning telepathic command of sea life.
He challenges Orm, gets beaten, and goes on the run as the film shifts to a quest adventure to find the powerful trident of King Atlan, which will acknowledge his right to the throne. (Atlan was created by Peter David and Esteban Maroto for DC’s The Atlantis Chronicles which I edited and personally, couldn’t have been happier to see their names in the credits.)
While on the quest, the relationship between allies becomes something more, but they get interrupted by Black Manta, who is out for revenge since Arthur allowed his dad to die during the pre-credits sequence.
Everything builds to the all-out war between Aquaman and Meta versus Orm’s army. Lots of special effects, bombastic music, and special effects galore. Of course, once we reach the mid-point, the film stops surprising us and delivers every anticipated beat, robbing the film of being something above average.
The film is bloated but entertaining and with the backstory established, maybe the inevitable sequel (and unnecessary Trench spinoff) will go in fresh directions.
The movie is out in the usual assortment of packages, complete with retail exclusives. The Blu-ray combo was reviewed and the 1080p transfer looks sharp and brilliantly colorful. The aspect ratio is 2.40:1, with the IMAX-formatted scenes framed at 1.78:1. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is actually superior with TrueHD 7.1 in the mix. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is adequate.
One would think that with Aquaman a staple of television since his animated debut in 1967, there’d be some special features about the character and his comic book origins, but no such luck. Instead, its all about the movie, ranging from interesting to boring to perfunctory.
We open with Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman (19:00); Becoming Aquaman (13:00); James Wan: World Builder (8:00); Aqua Tech (6:00), Atlantis Warfare (5:00), The Dark Depths of Black Manta (7:00), Heroines of Atlantis (6:00), Villainous Training (6:00), Kingdoms of the Seven Seas (7:00), Creating Undersea Creatures (7:00), A Match Made in Atlantis (3:00), and finally, Scene Study Breakdowns (11:00). There’s also a Shazam! Sneak Peek (3:00), with a scene from the following film in the series.