Hello! I meant to write and publish this about a month ago when the movie hit theaters, but I was sidetracked. Aquaman has hit streaming services now, so I have an excuse for getting this up late.
The movie follows Arthur, a superhuman/demigod, son of a human father and the Queen of Atlantis. Within the movie, Arthur’s main quest is to overthrow his idiot brother Orm, but he also claims his power as a man of two worlds. His personality is best summed up in two quotes: “You killed innocent people; you ask the sea for mercy” and “I’ll tell you what i told him, but nicer because you’re a lady: not interested [in saving Atlantis]”. The great draw of Arthur is his blend of rough, smartass biker and loving son.
My favorite part of the movie is that it’s what you might call “an after story”. It’s not about Arther finding out he is Atlantean, but about him reconciling two sides of him that have always been at war.
Another awesome part of the movie is that it celebrates a healthy father-son dynamic between two emotionally intelligent men. Arthur and his father Tom are regularly affectionate and protective of each other, and the film industry needs more of these examples.
*A side note: I need the first ten minutes of backstory to be expanded into a full-length rom-com about the Queen of Atlantis loving the lighthouse keeper Tom. The short montage we get is not enough to contain all the sweet tenderness between them!!!
Arthur’s leading lady Princess Mera is apparently played by Amber Heard, which I did not realize until the credits were rolling. Opinions of her personal life aside, she handled the role….decently. She wasn’t terrific but she wasn’t terrible either. She did what she could with the one-liners but her presence had little effect on the plot aside from saving Arthur which was interesting.
The movie borrows its plot from the legends of the Round Table (even using the name Arthur) and just replaces Excalibur with a magic trident. The quest to find said trident also gives off major Percy Jackson and the Olympians vibes to any longtime fans. The flirty banter between Arthur and Mara is the icing on the cake.
The underwater visuals in this movie are reminiscent of James Cameron’s Avatar, rather than standard “comic book visuals”.
For all of the cheese and humor of the movie, there are some interesting politics throughout, both internally and applying to the real world. The movie definitely raises awareness about the issue of pollution, with many of the characters complaining about the effects on the ocean. Within the movie, Orm’s goal of obtaining the throne and his battle with Arthur lead to lots of clan clashes with other sea kingdoms.
A word on Willem Dafoe as the “wise mentor”. The first role I ever saw him in was as Peter Van Houten in The Fault in Our Stars, a truly cruel character. The contrast between the two roles was jarring at first, but Dafoe fills the mentor shoes well, even adding some sarcasm and humor to a serious role.
One of the best parts of the movie is how anti-climatic the showdown between Arthur and the “big bad monster” is. There is a final battle, but it’s more between two ways of ruling than between man and nature. Arthur ends up having a conversation with the “monster” and claiming his rightful place as king of Atlantis.
An interesting thing I just noticed (in my third viewing) is that Aquaman’s story begins and ends with his parents. This framing technique enriches Arthur’s duality and his sense of loyalty to all aspects of his life.
Overall the movie is a typical action movie with some added political themes, and a bit more self-development of characters. 9,5/10 for well-rounded men, interesting politics, and using diplomacy instead of violence. Half a point deducted for not giving the female lead enough material.
(Here is an *article* from Buzzfeed that is basically just a gun show of Jason Momoa’s abs. Enjoy)