Commenting on the DCEU on the internet is like poking a hungry lion with a stick, as there’s a good chance you might be eaten whole by a terrifying beast.
There are several enthusiastic people on either side of the fence, people who defend the DCEU, and Zack Snyder in particular, and declare his work as masterpieces and decry the Justice League film for its bastardisation at the hands of Warner Brothers and Joss Whedon, and there are people who consider the DCEU a dumpster fire beyond the control of any fire department.
Myself, I sit in neither camp. I have stated my views briefly before, I do not want the DCEU to fail. In my eyes, the more good comic book movies there are, the better. My favourite superhero is Batman, despite how much I love the MCU films, it makes no sense for me to want the DCEU to fail, and truth be told, there have been highlights, Wonder Woman was great, Man of Steel was a great start to something that should have been so much more.
However, I am not here for a DCEU retrospective, I’m here to review their latest offering, Aquaman, so here we go…
Arthur Curry is the son of a human lighthouse keeper, and the Queen of Atlantis, from his mother’s side he is blessed with the gift to breath underwater, talk to fish and possesses incredible strength, with these powers he becomes the Superhero Aquaman, and when his half brother, the current King of Atlantis threatens to declare war on the surface, Arthur must journey to Atlantis and challenge for the throne.
The first thing I’ll say for Aquaman is, it may well be the best looking superhero film of all time. Its visual style is striking, and beautiful. Specifically speaking the underwater worlds are incredibly well realised by James Wan, which isn’t to say the scenes on the surface were bad, they weren’t, in fact there’s a run of scenes in Italy which are amazing visually and practically, being home to some of the films best action.
Speaking of action, it is the films jewel in its crown, from the first five minutes, in a claustrophobic, closely-shot fight in the lighthouse to the grand-scale epic of the final battle between kingdoms, it shines brightest whilst focused on smaller skirmishes, with the aforementioned scenes in Italy shining brightest, two separate fights, effortlessly cut together to lead into each other, in a way which doesn’t drop the pace, some of the years best action scenes take place in this film.
In case you were still in the dark after that last sentence, I liked Aquaman, quite a lot actually. I’d even say it beats out Wonder Woman for best DCEU film, and if you’d have told me five years ago that the best film in a series that includes Batman, was an Aquaman film, I’d have been questioning your sanity.
When it comes to cast, the film doesn’t boast a number of highly-regarded performers, perhaps besides Willem Dafoe, but I can confidently say that all of the cast rise to the occasion brilliantly. Jason Momoa is charismatic and magnetic in his first lead outing for the DCEU, showing a surprising amount of depth too, in the more heartfelt scenes, I had in the past thought Momoa as someone who gets by on looks as opposed to ability, but here I see that he has that ability, and I am left to eat humble pie. Amber Heard is also impressive as Mera, I must confess to not knowing much of her work, but I liked what I saw here.
To me, Aquaman represents a new dawn for the DCEU, following the disappointment, critically and financially of Justice League, it needed a kick up the arse with a fresh, exciting film and it got it. Aquaman resets the path for the DCEU, in much the same way Wonder Woman did over a year ago. Not only has it brought financial success but a thematic departure from the DCEU’s darker, grungier offerings, Aquaman offers a vibrant, bright world, going so far as to explore new worlds below the surface, it’s a step in the right direction for the franchise, and a momentum boost that I hope they can carry on.
It is by no means a perfect film, of course. Clocking in at just under two-and-a-half hours, it is occasionally overstuffed, especially when juggling its antagonists, but at no point does it derail the pacing, it isn’t a long film that feels long, like Justice League, it does feel like it deserves its run-time to flesh out the world. There are also an adherence to a fair few cliche’s, none of which are deal breakers, the biggest recurring complaint from past films of forced humour isn’t as apparent here, as the humour lands well, and is, more importantly, thematically appropriate.
In conclusion then, I believe this to be the high point of this franchise so far, those going in with a dislike of past films should be pleasantly surprised, and long-time DCEU fans have another film to hold up as a badge of honour, just know that we still don’t agree on Batman v Superman though, sorry guys.