Aquaman is a film based on the DC Comics character of the same name directed by James Wan. While it is part of the DC Extended Universe, it is also considered the "first" entry into the Worlds of DC series.
One stormy night, lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry found a injured woman stranded on the shore, she happened to be Atlanna, the queen of Atlantis who had fled to avoid an arranged marriage. Thomas and Atlanna soon became lovers and had a child whom they named Arthur. However Atlantean soldiers tracked down and attacked Atlanna, forcing her to return to Atlantis so that Thomas and Arthur would be safe but she promised to one day return. Being a human/Atlantean hybrid, Arthur was born with the abilities of an Atlantean such as being able to breathe underwater, however he also had the ability to speak with sea creatures, a feat thought to be impossible even by pure Atlanteans.
Growing up, Arthur was trained by Niudis Vulko to hone his Atlantean skills and combat abilities as well as training him in in the use of Tridents, as he's the firstborn of queen Atlanna. Arthur hoped to one day go to Atlantis and meet his mother, but was informed by Vulko that when Atlantis found out that Atlanna had a child with a human they condemned her as a blood-traitor and had her sacrificed to the Trench, a race of vicious water monsters who actually used to be Atlanteans, but before she perished she had a second child, Orm Marnius who is next in line to take the throne. Devastated that his mother died because of him, Arthur developed an intense grudge towards Atlantis and vowed to never go there. As an adult, Arthur is now a vigilante, protecting the seas and coastal areas from threats; overtime multiple witnesses of his exploits made his existence known and public media dubbed him the "Aquaman", a name Arthur isn't particularly a fan of.
One year after Steppenwolf's defeat, Aquaman faced a group of pirates attempting to hijack a Russian submarine. Aquaman defeated the pirates and faced their leader David Kane, during the fight David's father was critically injured and the submarine began flooding but Aquaman refused to help the pirates, leaving David's father to die while he rescued the crew. David survived and vowed to murder the Aquaman to avenge his father. Meanwhile on Atlantis, King Orm, fed up by mankind polluting the ocean for decades is planning to launch an invasion against the surface but he's not allowed to begin the invasion until four out of the seven Atlantean kingdoms swear loyalty to him, those kingdoms being the Central, Xebel, Fishermen, Brine, Trench, Deserters, and the Hidden land. Since the Trench are mindless savages, the Deserters have gone extinct, and the Hidden land disappeared long ago, Orm must conquer the other three remaining kingdoms, if he does he'll be given the title of Ocean Master. Nereus, king of the Xebel, quickly allies with Orm as he also wants to attack the surface.
Nereus' daughter Mera contacted Arthur, asking him to come to Atlantis and take the throne from Orm before the invasion but Arthur immediately refuses and leaves. Later that night Arthur and Thomas are caught on a massive Tsunami where Thomas nearly dies but Mera saves his life using her water controlling powers, the next day Arthur learns that Tsunamis like the one he saw happened all over the world at once, dragging all the polluted water and trash floating in the sea and tossing it back to the land. Knowing that this was Orm's doing, and out of gratitude for saving his father's life, Arthur agreed to help Mera stop Orm.
Mera took Arthur to Atlantis to meet up with Vulko on a private section of the underwater city. Vulko explained that Atlan, the very first king of Atlantis, had an almighty trident made by the gods which gave him absolute power over the seven seas, but the power of the trident proved too much and sunk the Atlantis underwater while mutating its population to be able to live underwater. Vulko found evidence that Atlan's trident is real as well as an artifact with clues where it might be located, if Arthur can retrieve the trident he would be able to dethrone Orm with no trouble. Atlantean soldiers capture Arthur and take him to Orm, luckily Mera took the artifact without being noticed. Orm and Arthur meet face to face and Orm quickly baits Arthur into challenging him to a fight over the throne. Mera and Vulko scold Arthur for letting Orm taunt him so easily and challenging him before getting Atlan's trident, but Arthur assures them that he could just beat Orm right away. Orm and Arthur fight each other in a colosseum, Arthur finds himself overpowered but Mera interrupts the fight to flee with Arthur. Arthur and Mera are chased away from the city but Arthur uses his ability to communicate with sea creatures to hide them inside a whale.
Orm contacts David Kane and offers him an alliance to fight against Aquaman. Orm supplies David with specialized Atlantean weaponry and armory, including a powerful plasma cannon. David takes all the Atlantean equipment and combines it with his own diving equipment to create a specialized battle suit to counter Aquaman, he also built the plasma cannon into is helmet's eyes allowing him to fire eye laser blasts, though he had to make the helmet much bigger so his own head wasn't blown up by the lasers. Meanwhile Orm conquers the Fishermen tribe and is heading for the Brine.
Arthur and Mera travel to the Sahara desert where the Deserter kingdom once resided, there they find a device where the artifact Vulko found could be connected. The artifact activated a message from king Atlan regarding the location of his mighty trident alongside clues to find it. The clues lead Arthur and Mera to Sicily, Italy. The two manage to pinpoint the location of Atlan's trident but before they can do anything they are ambushed by a group of Atlantean soldiers led by David Kane, now calling himself "Black Manta". Black Manta fights Aquaman while the soldiers chase Mera, Arthur tries to fend off Black Manta but Manta's new equipment and laser blasts allow him to injure Aquaman. Black Manta almost kills Aquaman but Mera dispatches the soldiers and damages Black Manta's suit, giving Arthur the chance to throw a stone ball directly at his helmet. The helmet explodes causing Black Manta to fall off a cliff. With Manta dealt with, Mera heals Arthur's wounds and the two head off to the location of Atlan's trident.
Arthur and Mera approach the location pinpointed by Atlan's clues but they are attacked by the Trench, the same creatures that killed Atlanna all those years ago. The two try to scare off the Trench using torches and dive deep into the water but they're caught in a powerful current that separates them, at the last moment an odd-looking Trench rescues Mera and takes her to the Hidden land. Arthur reaches the land as well and to his shock finds that the Trench that rescued Mera is none other than Atlanna, who was in disguise; Atlanna was sentenced to death by the Trench but she survived just like Arthur did and found herself stranded on the Hidden land all these years. After a heartfelt reunion, Atlanna informs Arthur and Mera that Atlan's Trident is indeed here but it is guarded by the Karatheen, an incredibly powerful beast that only obeys King Atlan. Arthur confronts the Karatheen but instead of fighting her he uses his power to communicate with the beast. The Karatheen notes that only Atlan's true heir should have the ability to communicate with sea life and thus allows to take the Trident from Atlan's corpse. Arthur successfully pulls the Trident and dons the same armor that Atlan himself wore millennia ago.
Orm's forces reach the Brine and demand their leader to surrender to his army and officially declare him Ocean Master, but the Brine instead attack Orm's army. A massive battle begins with many casualties, but the Karatheen appears to the shock of everyone, alongside Aquaman wielding Atlan's trident and commanding the Trench. The Trench and the Karatheen destroy most of Orm's forces and Aquaman uses his trident to order all the sea creatures to end the war, once all the Atlantean tribes see Arthur with the Trident of Atlantis the turn their backs on Orm and support Arthur. Orm continues to reject Arthur and dismisses the trident as proof of his worthiness. Aquaman pushes Orm to the surface so the two can have a final showdown, ultimately, Arthur comes out victor and forces Orm to yield. Orm demands Arthur to kill him but Arthur refuses, at that moment Atlanna appears and talks some sense into her son. Seeing that his mother is safe, Orm surrenders. Vulko has Orm arrested while Atlanna crowns Arthur as the true king of Atlantis. Arthur finally accepts his rightful place as king and also takes Mera as his fiance, while Atlanna returns to Thomas as she had promised all those years ago.
Some time later, Black Manta is revealed to have survived his defeat and is rescued by Dr. Stephen Shin, a scientist obsessed with finding Atlantis. Black Manta and Shin soon form an alliance as both are looking for the Aquaman.
Why It Rocks
- Historically, Aquaman was considered one of the least popular superheroes, is often seen as a joke, and his appearance in Justice League was underwhelming. This movie does an fantastic job at presenting Aquaman as a much more badass and relatable character, making him an Atlantian who feels as an outsider and feels unworthy of being a king, but then learns why he's worthy of being the true king.
- This interpretation is helped by Jason Momoa's portrayal of the character, which was much better than before. Momoa rolls well with the "macho" take on Aquaman as a brute who solves his problems with fists but has a more conflicted side that he struggles with and is overall a very likeable character.
- The movie completely throws away the dull grim tone previously established by the DCEU and instead opts for a very imaginative and epic tone that stands out very well without being a "Marvel clone".
- Beautiful visuals, especially underwater where the visuals are very colorful and bright, especially for a DCEU film.
- Mindblowing, spectacular action scenes, with highlights such as the Submarine battle at the start and the third act with the war of the Brine Kingdom and Prince Ohlm.
- The Ocean Master is one of the more memorable villains of the DCEU, being an interesting villain who has a motivation that makes sense but is nonetheless a bad person who is in the wrong.
- Unlike most DCEU finales that devolve into a mindless punchout with a grey colored CGI monster, the final battle between Aquaman and Ocean Master is very well made and less predictable.
- Black Manta is also a good villain whose actions are justified despite being bad. The movie also gives a good explanation for why his helmet is so huge.
- Good cinematography, with very few cuts during actions scenes so it is very possible to keep track of the action during fast paced moments. This is helped by a good camera work that follows the action well without relying on constant cuts unlike most action movies.
- Roy Orbison's song "She's a Mystery to Me" was fitting the scene when Aquaman and Mera went to Sicily to find the second piece, but before they going to continue their quest, Mera just experience what the human world looks like and it was so romantic they just eating roses, forming water particles as dolphins and whales to make a little girl smiles, etc.
- Aside from a small Steppenwolf reference, the film is fairly standalone from the rest of the DCEU and focuses more on being its own movie rather than setting up sequels.
- A astoundingly perfect soundtrack orchestrated by Rupert Gregson-Williams that's amazingly moving and fits the tone of the movie.
- If you take the DC logo off of the movie, it's still a really solid underwater sci-fi film.
- Lots of funny moments such as the Bar scene. That being said, the comedy isn't overused.
- The movie gives a very true message about how water pollution is a serious problem for the ocean. At the same time, this message isn't shoved down the audience's throat constantly with blatantly obvious "symbolism" unlike the Superman Jesus allegory in previous DCEU movies.
- Has little connections to Zack Snyder's version of Justice League.
- During the credits, Skylar Grey's "Everything I Need" was beautiful.
- The film feels a bit too long, being nearly two and a half hours long.
- Black Manta is underutilized, as he only appears in his full suit in one scene.
- While the cinematography and camera work is good, some tricks such as the rotating camera during action scenes are overused.
- The acting for teenage Arthur is poor.
- The song "Ocean to Ocean" was merely a rip-off to Toto's "Africa" and the lyrics has nothing to do with Aquaman and the ocean.
- The de-aging CGI used on Temuera Morrison isn't good, he looks like Mike Myers under the CGI.
- Unlikeable characters like Arthur Curry's bullies who make fun of Arthur for talking to fish and call him a freak for that.
- Dr. Stephen Shin's motivation to turn into a villain is pretty lame. He just believes that Atlantis exists, but just because he gets ridiculed for that belief by a news reporter, he becomes evil and joins forces with Black Manta. Hopefully, his motivations will be further explored in the sequel.
- Plot hole: Speaking about Dr. Shin, why no one believes him that Atlantis exists when the Earth has experienced alien invasions, the appearance of metahumans, the rise of super-powered heroes and even when Aquaman's existence is all but confirmed?
The initial reveal of Aquaman was met with heavy skepticism due to the overall underwhelming quality of the DCEU and the flopped Justice League of the previous year being the only time the character had appeared so far. Initial posters were also poorly received.
Upon release however, Aquaman received mixed-to-positive reviews from critics and very positive reception from audiences. It was praised for its portrayal of the character, spectacular visuals, and is widely considered "a step in the right direction" for DC movies, but was criticized for its length and jumbled plot. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 65% based on 397 reviews and an average rating of 6.03/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Aquaman swims with its entertainingly ludicrous tide, offering up CGI superhero spectacle that delivers energetic action with an emphasis on good old-fashioned fun.". Metacritic surveyed 50 critics and assigned an aggregate score of 55 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
The movie was a massive commercial success, being the most profitable movie in the DCEU so far.