Director: James Wan
Writers: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick
Cast: Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe
Of course it’s not entirely without precedent. Some of the biggest Marvel movies now are Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther and who would’ve thought they would even have their own movies ten years ago, let alone become some of the biggest blockbuster films of the modern age.
James Wan’s Aquaman works because despite its (considerable) rough edges, it is the antithesis of the modern DC picture. Unlike the stodgy Batman vs Superman, it is full of colour, is light in tone and cheerfully clips along from one explosive set piece to the next.
The not-so-secret ingredient that makes this work is Jason Momoa. Aquaman’s screenplay hands him some pretty wobbly dialogue but his cheerful delivery and considerable on-screen charisma makes it work. Honestly, there are patches of the film where he isn’t particularly coherent, just shouting out one catch phrase after another (“This is bad ass!”, “I call it an ass-whooping!”) but it just about works because of Momoa’s likeability and earnest delivery. After Aquaman he has cemented himself as a box office draw and a career as the modern day Arnie or The Rock beckons.
As you’d expect, Aquaman is the origin story of how Arthur Curry, the offspring of a normal human and the Queen of Atlantis learns to embrace his aquatic heritage and become the King of Atlantis. There’s a jealous half-brother, a quest for a special trident and handful of villains including Black Mantis and a leviathan.
Bringing this adventure to the big screen is James Wan, of Fast and Furious fame. He’s the right guy for the job. Explosive, high octane action movies is Wan’s stock and trade. He’s also able to cram the story – superhero origin, a young couple’s romance, an older couple’s romance, two underwater armies at war, a battle between monarchs for the throne – basically about four movies worth of content, and smoosh it together into a 140 minutes of popcorn fun.
Its not always pretty. The poor screenwriters clearly exhaust their ideas for how to transition from exposition to action, so something like FOUR scenes have a character explaining the plot to the audience only to be interrupted by an explosion followed by some goons leading the next charge against the heroes.
But in the rebuilding of the must much maligned DC Cinematic Universe, Aquaman is another step in the right direction. Like Wonder Woman before it, the films are elevated by a fantastic casting decision for the lead, and have a freshness about them that any modern Batman or Superman movie can’t really hope to match. The sensational box office performance ensures we’ll get a Aquaman 2, 3 & 4 and hopefully the stories can only improve from here. For now, Aquaman will be remembered as the breakout performance for Jason Momoa.