BY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Aquaman, the latest offering of the much-maligned DCU, is more or less a sequel to Justice League this time focusing on Arthur Curry AKA “The Aquaman” (Jason Momoa) and his origin story. Taking place a year after the battle over the Mother Boxes in Justice League, the film has the half-Atlantean/half-human now reluctantly falling into the role of superhero, when he is suddenly confronted by his past. As garbage and warships are cast from the ocean showing up on our shores, Arthur is tasked with stopping his full-Atlantean half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson from the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises) who is about to declare an all-out war on the people who live on the surface of the Earth for polluting the seas. The only way for Arthur to defeat his brother is to find a mythical trident with the aid of Princess Mera (Amber Heard), who was betrothed unwillingly to Orm, which will give him the ability to control all ocean life. Admittedly, this all sounds pretty ludicrous, but Aquaman simply put is a lot of fun and this all makes sense when you watch the film.
Wan, who honed his filmmaking chops in indie horror (Saw, Insidious) and on the Fast And Furious franchise, turns in a boisterous crowd pleaser that will no doubt surprise viewers with its captivating visuals and engaging characters. The film flips the script with Jason Momoa here as the shirtless, air-headed, eye-candy partnered with princess Mera, who is the real brains and brawn of the outfit. Momoa also drops the Aqua-Bro levels here a few notches to be a bit more bearable than previous outings. One thing that definitely stands out in the film is the world building and production design that create the deep-sea world of Atlantis. The immense amount of data on screen at times to digest from Easter eggs (Annabelle makes an appearance) to sea creatures and surroundings begs to be seen on the largest screen possible to truly appreciate the complex underwater realm Wan has created.
A glimmer of hope for the troubled DCU, Aquaman is a way better than a film about a superhero who talks to fishes has any right to be. Once again James Wan faces this cinematic challenge head on proving there’s more or less nothing he can’t do. The film is a sprawling adventure that moves at a brisk pace, that never feels overburdened with its origin story it’s also tasked with delivering. Momoa is not only charismatic as you would expect here, but proves he can dial it down for the more emotional moments when needed. Aquaman is a true evolution for the young director who has crafted a lush water world that will no doubt be fertile ground story-wise for the DCU going forward.