Aquaman (2018)

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Critic Consensus: Aquaman swims with its entertainingly ludicrous tide, offering up CGI superhero spectacle that delivers energetic action with an emphasis on good old-fashioned fun.

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From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, "Aquaman," starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime--one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be... a king.

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Critic Reviews for Aquaman

All Critics (322) | Top Critics (38)

Through it all, Jason Momoa... tosses off coyly bluff one-liners with understated humor that goes to waste in this bloated and sludgy movie.

Dec 31, 2018 | Full Review…

Veteran cinematographer Don Burgess's widescreen images beguile, and Bill Brzeski's production design impresses mightily, but next time, someone please give Momoa and company some memorable dialogue.

Dec 27, 2018 | Full Review…

A thoroughly entertaining ride.

Dec 25, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

But oh, those action sequences: this is what the Tron sequel should have looked and sounded like.

Dec 21, 2018 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

Had this movie arrived as recently as two years ago, it might have been heralded as a higher-end superhero movie. Things have changed, however, in both the DCEU and the MCU.

Dec 21, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The bright spots (Momoa, that octopus) can be difficult to really relish amid the oceans of exposition and a typically pulverizing, overelaborate screenplay.

Dec 21, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Aquaman

It's always a pleasure to see a studio recognize their flaws and do their best to correct the mistakes that caused them so much heartache in the past. With a very enjoyable Man of Steel setting a tone that would be completely overdone by the time Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theatres, it was only a matter of time before they decided to change it up. Suicide Squad was financially successful, but admittedly a step in the wrong direction. Justice League was a mess of a movie, but the saving grace of the franchise will always be known as Wonder Woman. Loved by critics and fans across the globe, DC and Warner Brothers decided to steer the ship in a new direction, taking a step into the past and creating origin stories for the characters we've only briefly seen. It worked with Wonder Woman, and I'm happy to say that I believe it's also working with Aquaman. Being very, very loosely tied to the previous films (almost not at all), Aquaman sees Arthur Curry go from an infant to a full-grown man. Being a half-breed from both land in our world and the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, he comes to the realization that he's the rightful heir to the throne. Challenged by his only brother who despises his existence, this creates tension amongst the people. With some very likable side characters and others who will more than likely have repercussions in future installments, there's a lot to like about this film in terms of character and story, which is what I was expecting to find lacking. Jason Momoa once again demands the audience's attention as he completely invests himself in this wacky character. His charisma is easily one of the highlights of this film and his many journeys with Amber Heard's Mera are a blast to watch. This is a film filled with tons of adventure and I was on the edge of my seat throughout a lot of it. It's visually stunning (for the most part) and I found that made it the biggest looking film of the franchise in terms of scope. Although it does borrow from pretty much every movie you've ever seen, it mixes in enough new content to differentiate itself from others. As it seems from my review, I had a blast watching Aquaman, but it's by no means a perfect movie, even by the standards set by this franchise. Patrick Wilson plays King Orm, Arthur's younger brother and although his motivations are clear, his portrayal is quite over-the-top. I personally took issue with this, as he's in quite a bit of the film. The disposable villains of this film actually have quite a bit of depth and backstory but are highly under-utilized. I felt like they were part of a set-up for something bigger in the future. Without ruining it, the scenes where these characters are used are very well-done, so it's a very minor flaw in my opinion. There are many small issues I have with the movie as a whole, but in retrospect, they're all nitpicks. In the end, Aquaman embraces the fact that the premise of an underwater city is ridiculous and runs with that from beginning to end. From giant sea battles to genuine heart-to-heart moments between characters that stood out to me, this is a film that has every I like about good blockbusters. While it's not one of the best superhero films I've ever seen, it's a joy to watch and easily in the discussion for as one of the best movies of this franchise. If you're a fan of comic-based films, I'd definitely suggest giving this one a shot.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

Finally DC has two films that service the characters, something they have not been able to do since they kickstarted the universe with Man of Steel. James Wan was the correct choice for the vision behind the scenes, there is 200 million on the screen and you can see it. Black Mantra entered the world and I was like a little kid at the candy store, nerd heaven. The key is respecting the source material, the guy is an underwater king of Atlantis, why would you want to attempt to base this in reality. This feels like a Flash Gordon camp movie with a solid budget. The sky is the limit for DC and as they attempt to salvage the wreckage from Justice League. You look at this film and I feel it works so much better with Justice League, while Marvel introduced everyone first, DC actually made a correct choice with Batman finding them to unite. The Justice League film should have lead to individual films straight away, I feel Warner Bros weren't confident enough from the beginning and were one foot and one foot out. This film will lead to more, and I hope Aquaman is revisited soon to ensure the series has a stable footing. Wonder Woman finally has a companion hero to share the critical and financial success. 15/01/2019.

Brendan Nicholls
Brendan Nicholls

Super Reviewer

½

I like how this refreshing and visually spectacular superhero movie combines the old-fashioned concept of hot machos beating each other with their phallic, pointy weapons and a more modern approach, with brave female warriors kicking ass and a welcome message about prejudice.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

It's hard not to talk about the fledgling DCU without grading on a curve. Wonder Woman was a great success and a definite step in the right direction but it still had clear Act Three problems. However, when your previous movies are the abysmal Suicide Squad and Batman vs. Superman, anything in the right direction is seen as enlightenment. There are currently no planned Superman films, no planned Batman films, and it looks like the teetering DCU is banking its future on the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman. If you had told me that the future of an interconnected series of franchises would rest upon the shoulders of a man who talks to fish, I would have laughed. Enter director James Wan, best known for the Conjuring franchise and plugging into Furious 7 without missing a beat. Warner Bros. desperately wanted Wan's stewardship to get a notoriously difficult comics property to float in the modern market. The early marketing was not encouraging but I held out a slim degree of hope that Wan would make it work. While Aquaman as a whole has its share of problems, Wan has done it. He's made a big screen Aquaman movie that is fun, visually immersive, weird, and packed with great action. I was just as surprised as you, dear reader, but the smile on my face was evident. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is heir to the undersea throne of Atlantis. His mother (Nicole Kidman) fled her arranged marriage and had a son with a human lighthouse keeper. She retreated back into the ocean to prevent further harm to her shore side family. Arthur is approached by princess Meera (Amber Heard) to return to Atlantis and claim his birthright to the throne, currently occupied by Arthur's half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson). The reigning king is planning to unite the seven sea kingdoms to launch an attack against the surface-dwellers. Arthur must go back to the people who reportedly killed his mother and challenge his half-brother for supremacy. Along the way he'll have to venture across the globe with Meera for a series of adventures to reclaim lost artifacts, while also dodging Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a pirate gifted with underwater technology who swears vengeance against Arthur for letting his father die. Make no mistake, there is definitely a ceiling capped for Aquaman. The characterization is pretty standard stuff with little added nuance. It's a dash of Chosen One destined to bridge communities, a dash of Prodigal Son outcast trying to make amends and duty, and there's the general pledged vengeance that reappears again and again for motivation. The plot is reminiscent of a video game, structured so that Arthur and Meera have to travel from one stage to another, finding an important artifact and then going to the next stage. Sometimes there are mini-bosses at these various video game stages. The antagonists are acceptable but without much in the way of depth or charisma. You might even find yourself agreeing with King Orm as far as his pre-emptive strike over mankind (the latent racism of "half-breeds" maybe not as much). The leads are also given little. Momoa (Justice League) is a naturally charismatic actor but his range is limited; he basically has two modes, off and on. This might have been one reason why the screenplay resolves to merely push him toward his "call to action," which I thought was his Justice League arc. Still he's an affable and handsome presence even with lesser material. Heard (London Fields) is struggling to find her character's place in the story. She's a romantic interest, quest cohort, and there are attempts to push through more feminist agency but it's too murky. It feels like she's trapped by her character and her giant Halloween store red wig. If you cannot get over these deficits, it's going to feel like a relentless 143-minute video game. And yet the movie works thanks to the talents of Wan and the overall abundant sense of exuberant fun. Wan has become a first-class chameleon, able to adapt his skill set to whatever genre he attaches himself to, be it high-octane car chase thriller, slow burn horror to grisly torture porn, or now splashy superhero blockbuster. Early on, I knew we were in good hands when Wan showcases a destructive fight scene between Kidman and a group of aqua storm troopers in long takes and wide angles, letting the choreography speak for itself and allowing the audience to fully take in every smash and crash. The action is consistently interesting and filmed in ways to highlight its best points. An underwater brotherly battle takes the movement within water into account, adapting fight choreography to add this new dimension. That's what good action movies should be doing, applying their unique settings into the action development. There isn't a boring action moment in the film. Even when we get to the big CGI armies duking it out, Wan instinctively knows to pull back to avoid overkill. Even the otherwise normal hand-to-hand combat is clever and consistently entertaining. The highlight of the movie is actually on land, an extended chase through the villas of Tuscany. Arthur and Meera are battling Black Manta but they're also divided, and Wan's camera will zoom back and forth between the two, connecting each on their parallel tracks. They jump from tiled roof to tiled roof, escaping danger. There's one super aqua storm trooper who takes a more direct approach and just runs through room after room, and the camera follows him on this direct line of destruction. There's even a payoff where Meera uses her powers in a wine shop to her great advantage. It's moments like this where Wan is clearly having fun and demonstrating that he and his team have put good thought into their action. The visuals are wildly immersive and amplify the sense of fun the film has to offer. There are plenty of cinematic reference points of influence here, from George Lucas to James Cameron, but Wan and his team do an excellent job of making this universe feel full. We visit many different undersea realms and people, including seahorse people, crab people, and just taking ownership of the weirdness without irony is refreshing. With the exception of Momoa's need to undercut moments with quips, the film feels genuine and proud of its old-fashioned mentality, taking the ridiculousness and treating it with sincerity. That doesn't mean there aren't campy and absurd moments that are enjoyable precisely because of their camp and absurdity. There are people riding great white sharks and battling crab people to the death. How can that not be silly? There's one group of creatures that feel plucked from Pitch Black, a band of feral monsters vulnerable to fire. There's a fun and effective sequence where Arthur and Meera must dive to escape with their lit flare and we see the full totality of their situation, a literal sea of these monsters breaking apart just so as they dive. It's a creepy moment made even better by Wan's visual choices, which always seem to correspond to what's best for the experience. The special effects are uniformly great and the attention to the undersea worlds is pristine. Ultimately your view of Aquaman will come down to what you're willing to forgive in the name of fun spectacle. Its best Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) equivalent are the pre-Ragnarok Thor films. There are definite deficits with the minimal characterization and the familiar hero's journey plot arc, but the execution level and the sheer energetic entertainment are enough to rise above. The action sequences are routinely thrilling, eye-catching, and wonderfully alive and clever thanks to Wan. They've found a way to make Aquaman cool and fun, which is what rules the day when it comes to the film version. Aquaman is another step in the right direction for the notoriously gloomy DCU. If Wan was attached for a sequel, I'd genuinely be interested. This is nothing you haven't seen before in any number of movies (just now underwater), it's not exactly intellectually stimulating or emotionally involving, and yet the sheer success of the visuals, action orchestration, and the sense of fun override the rest of the detractions for me. It reminds me of the Fast and Furious franchise. I don't care a lick for any non-Rock/Statham characters; I'm just there for the physics-defying stunts and set pieces. It provides the goods when it comes to action spectacle, and so does this movie. If you're looking for a 90s throwback to big, fun action movies, then take the dive with Aquaman. Nate's Grade: B

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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