The DC Universe films haven’t always been the most lighthearted. From Man of Steel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there has been a rather dour feel. Wonder Woman changed all that and lightened things up, and Aquaman is the perfect successor here. The film hits theaters on December 21, and fans will be treated to a candy-colored underwater world that has humor and heart.
I was able to check out an early screening of the film where director James Wan was in attendance. He told the crowd that he really thought of this as more of a fantasy film, and the finished product absolutely reflects that. Here’s the deal: If you can accept that people ride giant seahorses into battle, you are going to have a blast at this film. The action here is non-stop, not that anyone would be surprised by that. Action has never been an issue with DC. The thing is, despite the slight darkness underwater, you can actually see everything that is going on because the lighting is spot on.
A large portion of the film takes place in Atlantis, and it’s everything you want it to be. Atlantis is technologically advanced, gorgeous and full of life. It’s an absolute fantasy world. You don’t need it to make sense, and maybe some of it doesn’t, but that doesn’t matter at all. It’s just stunning and shiny and everything you expect Atlantis to be. An underwater battle scene between Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Patrick Wilson’s King Orm is pretty darn incredible.
Speaking of visuals, there is some de-aging here that rival’s Marvel’s work. No spoilers, but it’s pretty great. Though if we’re talking about visuals, we do have to address that ridiculous wig on Amber Heard’s Mera. In a film that does everything so beautifully, you have to wonder how that got past anyone. Sure, it looks super cool underwater, but on land, it’s silly on the level of Medusa’s in the Netflix series Inhumans. The jokes about Mera as Ariel are pretty spot on. Other than the wig though, the hair and its movement underwater is handled pretty well.
On to the actors. We already knew that Jason Momoa’s Aquaman was great from Justice League, and the best piece of comic book film casting out there. He continues to be insanely charming and touching. Amber Heard is great as Mera, wig aside. The banter between them is engaging, and her action scenes are just as cool as Aquaman’s. Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lundgren are a joy as well, though it’s Nicole Kidman who really shines here. Her role as Queen Atlanna, Arthur’s mother, is small, but seeing this woman kicking all sorts of ass in the beginning is pretty awesome.
This film, without a doubt, belonged before Justice League. The minor switches in small plot points wouldn’t have mattered much. It would have done such a great job of establishing who these characters were. Having it after is a very odd decision, and a mistake I hope they don’t make again. They might not want to follow the Marvel model, but you can’t argue with what works. Establishing character is important if you’re going to have a slew of superheroes doing a zillion things in two hours.
The bottom line is this: Aquaman is joyous fun. Forget the small things, like how the underwater cars work. Just yell with happiness when certain creatures show up toward the end (no spoilers here, but you will absolutely know what I’m talking about). Enjoy shiny underwater warriors on very large sharks in harnesses. Glory in the voice of Julie Andrews in her role as the voice of a certain very large sea creature. We’ve been asking for fun in DC movies. We have it now.