I’ve been big fan of Aquaman ever since I started reading about his adventures in DC Comics (hah, Adventure Comics) when I was a very young kid. I grew up on an island where the ocean was the centre of my universe, its all I knew, so reading stories about heroes fighting crime in these large concrete jungles in parts of the world I’d never visited was completely alien to me. You’re basically telling me tales of people living on the moon, and I couldn’t relate to that. But, heroes that fought crime in the ocean? That was literally my backyard and something that my young mind could wrap its head around.
The other part of the story that resonated with me was Arthur’s bi-racial and bi-cultural background. He had a foot in both worlds, but was treated like an outsider by each one. That was also a feature of my childhood, growing up as a minority on an island without much of a tie to the culture of the majority.
So, Aquaman was my guy.
The thing that impressed me the most about the film was the ambitiousness of the filmmakers. They didn’t hold back at all when making this movie. Given the underperformance and tepid reception of the DCU films to date (with the exception of Wonder Woman), it’s reasonable to expect that the studio would have scaled back the production budget and made a smaller film to reduce their risk and ensure that it turned a profit. But, they didn’t. They fully committed to the project and it shows; this is a very expensive looking movie.
The other thing that impressed me was how closely the film sticks to the source material. Based upon the rebooted DC Comics New 52 series from the creative team of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier, they changed very little from the book. Inculcating Jason’s Hawaiian heritage into the role of Arthur Curry and changing the sequence of events around Atlanna’s time spent on the surface world with Tom Curry (which is cleaner and works better than the comic book) are the only deviations, the rest is exactly like the source material.
In this day and age where they’re trying to generate broad appeal amongst an audience that has a casual relationship with the character and his world, that’s no small feat.
The filmmakers also give us the viewing audience an extensive look at Aquaman’s universe, taking us from his birthplace in Amnesty Bay to Atlantis and then on to all (or most) of the remaining undersea kingdoms all while introducing us to the main characters from those places. This could have easily caused the film to feel overstuffed, but it doesn’t. It really felt like world building, which is something that Marvel has done very well with the MCU, and that allows them to tell stories beyond the typical origin stories going forward. I think this is really important for the ongoing viability of the character because not a lot of people are familiar with him and his universe.
All that said, it is a bit of a silly movie, but in a good way. At no point during the film did I find it hard to suspend my disbelief. It wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it is; a big, bombastic summer blockbuster tentpole movie. You’re not going to find Shakespeare here, but you will find a superhero fantasy film with a little Greek mythology, Lord of The Rings, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and a smattering of horror elements. It blends together seamlessly and creates something unique amongst the superhero genre, not to mention unique amongst the typical origin story we’ve seen many times.
The bottom line is that this movie is fun and engaging, visually stunning with great action sequences supported by a compelling enough story without leaning too heavily on comic book tropes, all while staying very faithful to the source material.
This is for me the best DCU movie to date and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next installment with James Wan at the helm.
5 out of 5 stars