I was personally extremely excited for James Wan’s take on Aquaman. Combining the dark and twisted elements of the DC Universe with a legendary horror visionary was supposed to lend itself to a fairly interesting and macabre tale. However, despite adding a horror director, Aquaman turned out to be the DCEU’s most childish and cheerful film – completely disregarding the DC ideals of gloom and doom. In fact, it seemed to have no connection to the DC Universe at all.
The film was too light and fluffy, which made it corny and overdramatic. It was like the producers knew that we weren’t going to feel the way they wanted us to, so they forced the feelings upon us with drawn-out “romance” scenes, cheering battle fans, temper tantrums, and cheesy one-liners. They wanted to show us exactly when to cheer, when to laugh, and when the characters were emotional, because we honestly wouldn’t have known otherwise.
In general, the film had a very simplistic storyline, with a very generic, Lion King-esque plot. The characters didn’t have any real struggles or character arc, and the film didn’t actually resolve any of the moral conflicts or themes that it introduced.
Aquaman was simply a movie all about the action. However, the action scenes truly were impeccable. They drew you in and filled your gills with awe and wonder. Wan also elegantly brought Aquaman back to his true origins. He made a splash in the hearts of every comic book fan and even threw in some nods to the comics.
The revival of comic book-Aquaman didn’t make up for the movie’s negatives though. So, if you’re ready to dive into the underwater world, here’s my complete review of Aquaman (2018).
Ultimately, the plot of the film was very simple: Aquaman must stop war, Aquaman must find Trident, Aquaman must beat Orm. It followed the mold of every generic adventure story: the villain wants power, the hero has to stop him from gaining power by going on a ridiculous journey, hero finds a love interest, and hero saves the day.
However, the simplistic plot was also complicated by the introduction of two villains. Having both Black Manta and Orm in the film diminishes both of the character’s personalities and origins. In the beginning, we see an amazing story develop between Aquaman and Black Manta which was ultimately killed by Orm’s introduction. The producers shouldn’t have included two jaded villains in the film and instead should have focused on having one outstanding enemy.
Another flaw that I saw with the plot was that there weren’t enough hurdles or struggles for Aquaman to overcome. About midway through the movie, there seemed to be no stopping Arthur Curry – everything coincidentally went his way and he magically solved all of his non-existent problems. The film climaxed way too early and then it was smooth sailing for the main character from then on. This means that Aquaman never actually completes his character arc or learns from his mistakes. His problems all become resolved by one major incident and therefore, he never had to confront any of his character flaws, become a better person, or change his worldly view. His one major personality flaw still remains unresolved and essentially, the movie failed to complete any of the themes it introduced.
James Wan also seemed to remove himself entirely from the DC Universe. Besides one quick line, there was no other mention of the timeline or anything that happened in Justice League. Although it was probably smart to distance himself from the unpopular film, it also left Aquaman feeling out of place. How did the film fit into the larger DC universe and what does it mean going forward?
As Aquaman’s first solo movie, the film was supposed to focus on his origins and rise to heroism. The movie did accomplish this goal, but it feels like they focused too much on Aquaman and not enough on everyone else in the film.
None of the other characters had any real character arc and some of them even disappeared throughout the movie. As soon as they served their purpose or gave their one humorous line, they were apparently deemed unnecessary to Aquaman’s story.
Orm was probably the most lacking character in terms of personality and arc. I was unable to understand his goals, mission, or plans and it’s most likely because Orm didn’t even know what he wanted. From condemning the surface world for polluting the waters to his wishy-washy relationship with his mom, it seemed like the character was all over the place. This ultimately set him up to be an archetype starving for power and a very unrelatable and lackluster villain.
In fact, Aquaman wasn’t even the character that I related to in the film. The only true emotional value in the movie focused on Black Manta, whose story was purposefully stripped for future DC films. However, if the film had focused more on his story and his relationship with Aquaman, there would have been a fuller character arc for the main character, a more interesting and moral focus to the plot, and a lot more emotional connection for the audience. In my opinion, Black Manta made the film and his lack of scenes was a true disappointment.
When Aquaman first entered Atlantis, I was truly impressed. The world was very thought out brilliantly built. From the vehicles to the buildings, it was all brought together perfectly. Even the colors of the world brightened the theater and gave the audience that stunning, awe-inspiring moment.
However, that’s where the amazement ended. After the first introduction of Atlantis, the cinematography seemed to fall to the wayside. Everything from then on seemed very fake to the point that it was slightly humorous.
In fact, the underwater world looked more realistic than the real world. Whenever Aquaman and Mera were on land (besides the scenes shot in Sicily), it was very clear to see that they weren’t actually there. So, it seemed like the production team spent too much time on the underwater world and failed to create a realistic experience for the world that we all live in.
The only connection Aquaman had to the rest of the DC Universe was its incredible action scenes. The DCEU is known for its engaging combat, and Aquaman definitely didn’t disappoint. Whenever anyone was using their powers or engaging in hand-to-hand combat, it drew you in and immediately reminded you that you’re watching a DC film. The action was stunning. It engaged you, it captured your attention, and it made your adrenaline rush.
The Costumes and Creatures
We finally got to see James Wan shine in his element through the design and production of the world’s underwater creatures. The Trench had components of horror that made them frightening and intriguing all at the same time. They had just enough mystery to make them misunderstood and the right amount of terror to place them as a fan favorite. Their intricate design even made me completely forget that their introduction scene lasted way too long.
The idea of the costumes throughout the movie also made comic fans proud. James Wan brought Aquaman, Orm, and Black Manta back to their original glory days and delivered fan service to the comics. However, the execution of the costumes was flawed. The costumes seemed cheap and fake throughout the movie, making the idea of the costumes turn to dust. The Atlantean’s costumes particularly were not well made and were too shiny and glittery for a DC film. Instead, it looked like we were watching a sequel to The Little Mermaid.
All in all, I would rate Aquaman a 6/10. Although Wan’s version of Aquaman brought him back to his true nature, I have to give two fins down for the film’s character arcs and dull storyline. It’s a good family film to watch if you simply want to see some fighting and action scenes, but it’s most likely a movie you’ll want to wait to see on DVD or Netflix.