Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman (2018) 17

Aquaman is the breakthrough film that the DC Expanded Universe has desperately needed. If we’re going to follow the modern example that Marvel has set, then this is DC’s Iron Man moment. Does that mean it’s good? Does it mean that the first Iron Man is suddenly good? No. All that it means is that the formula has been solidified and a path to future success has been established. So, let’s see what happens when you get out of Arthur Curry’s way.

Jason Momoa is having the kind of star moment that it took Dwayne Johnson nearly a decade to hammer out. What’s so funny about this turn is how it passively contradicts so much of what Joss Whedon tried to hammer out in Justice League. James Wan was an interesting choice to direct and he hits many high notes. However, the level of world building on display is insane and clumsy. It’s cool to see Black Manta, but it feels like only half of his scenes were needed.

The same goes for Ocean Master who can never back up the necessity of his rage. It’s the curse of figures like Namor or other remote monarchs. It’s hard to argue against the status quo, when your motivations don’t make a ton of sense. Ocean Master is mad at the surface world for hurting the oceans and producing too much garbage. He fears that once Atlantis is outed, they will go out of their way to take over their world. Meanwhile, Aquaman is present enough on the surface world to become a substantiated local tale.

I didn’t mind CG de-aged Nicole Kidman or Sea Monster Julie Andrews. Even the cool octopus and the drums worked for me. What didn’t work was the latter day Geoff Johns storytelling vibe I was getting from the script. It wasn’t enough to just to focus on Arthur becoming Aquaman, we also had to watch a variety of side origins. Even the Randall Park bit role is actually a major role in the Johns’ relaunch of Aquaman. But, it ultimately means nothing in the DCU outside of outing Aquaman and his people to the populace.

But, wasn’t that what Ocean Master was going to do in the first place? I’m always looking for problems in movies and this constant thread keeps irking me. Why is it such a big deal that Atlantis is discovered? We live in a world that has fought off two public alien invasions, supports Superman and generally knows of Wonder Woman working internationally for years. The film could have been legendary by just letting Momoa do what he does best and keep the focus on him.

I don’t care about outcast mommy, anything with Mera or hanging too long on Ocean Master’s side quests. Stick to the King of Tides who seems to be rocking a mix of Peter David’s version with a modern take on the Haney/Cardy/Skeates/Aparo years. I’ve always had a hard time seeing Aquaman as anything other than a supporting character. My favorite interpretation up to this point has been Waid/Kitson’s use of Aquaman in JLA: Year One.

The DC Cinematic Universe finally had its breakthrough. I feel like I’m repeating that, but it’s important in an age where lines get drawn based on brand loyalty. As a kid that started reading New Teen Titans and Justice League Detroit era books before picking up Marvel, I don’t get it. Every character has the chance to shine when given the opportunity.

While I strongly disliked Man of Steel, the chains of improvement have been visible in every DC movie that came afterwards. Finally, we had that moment that shows the DC Cinematic reign is going to begin in earnest. Good on the Distinguished Competition. Now, impress me with Shazam in April.

Aquaman is in theaters now!


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