‘Aquaman’ brings new wave of comic movie

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W James

When it came to comics, I have always been the person people would go to with questions about their favorite superhero TV show or movie. I remember once in high school I was asked who my favorite superhero was. Everyone meandered like fish lost in a fish bowl until the bell signaled out departure into the next class. I was in the back right corner of the sterile science classroom when my friend asked, “Who is your favorite superhero?” 

Everyone waited not in suspense but in apathy as they expected an answer along the lines of Iron Man, Batman or perhaps even Captain America. As my pause fell away, I confidently knew who may favorite superhero was. I said “Aquaman”. Now I can share that same love and enthusiasm with millions and millions of fans with his silver screen debut in in Aquaman.

Aquaman follows half-human half-Atlantean Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa), as he is called to stop his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) from invading the surface world. Arthur is reluctant at first but with the help of warrior princess Mera (Amber Heard) and mentor Vulko (William Defoe) he slowly becomes the hero he is destined to be. 

While the story is straight forward for a comic book movie has far more heart than most superhero movies competitors. A lot of the heart came in the world they built with Atlantis. Whether it was the different kingdoms of Atlantis or the city vistas that lit the ocean depths, it all felt lived in. 

I thought the performances were really solid throughout. Mamoa leans into the rocker type of Aquaman we saw in Justice League. However, unlike Justice League, Aquaman has much more time to breath and grow as a character trying to find his place in the world. Mamoa toes the line well between a hokey and nuanced performance. Wilson helps carry this film and brings the best villain performance in a DC Comics movie in quite some time. He is over the top but that feeds well into the lighthearted nature of this comic book movie.  Orm’s character arc from calculated to vengeful sibling was well done. 

Heard was an excellent Mera balancing Mera’s inexperience with Surface world while and her quest to save her fellow Atlanteans from an unnecessary war. Mera also displays quite a bit of empathy compared to her comic counterpart which I thought was an interesting change for the adaptation. This is a large movie so both Vulko and especially Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) get a bit lost in the shuffle but still make their presences felt when they are on screen.

Atlantis wouldn’t have looked as realized if it weren’t for the tremendous VFX this movie pulled off. Any scene underwater mixed elements of the fantastical and the real to paint a tangible story. All the undersea creatures in the film never looked better as giant seahorses and krakens came to life. The VFX worked flawlessly with the cinematography to bring a dynamically shot film. The film never felt static as it moved from one scene to the other. 

I would be remiss to not mention how well the sound design is within the movie specifically the underwater scenes. There is an echo that comes with being underwater that differentiates it from talking on land which was an added touch to keep the movie feeling grounded.  

Overall, I loved Aquaman from start to finish. It had a lot of heart and was an well put together movie. Director James Wan created an Aquaman movie made for all. The King of the Seven Seas has arrived not with its wrath but with its wonder. 

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