Aquaman (2018)

James Wan
Running Time: 143 Minutes
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison

Despite being a prominent member of DC's premier superhero team, the media has not been kind to Aquaman. Through appearances on Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory, he's unfortunately been perceived as a joke, with the scope of his abilities unrealised as to their potential. What James Wan's film manages to do is justify the character, and show why Arthur Curry has endured after all of this time.

The product of a romance between a human lighthouse keeper and the Queen of Atlantis, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) must step forward as the rightful heir, and reclaim the throne of Atlantis. Standing in his way is current ruler Orm (Patrick Wilson), the half-brother of Arthur who wishes to unite the seven underwater kingdoms, in an effort to rise up against the surface world.

Reprising his role from Justice League, Jason Momoa does a great deal to make the character his own, embodying it with a great deal of charisma and likeability. He could've easily coasted through it playing the "Aqua-bro" role, but the character is very well rounded, portrayed as more than just the hard-headed lunk he could've been. He actively tries to help every innocent person however he can, and understands where his past actions have repercussions. Helping him along in the quest is Mera, an engaging figure in her own right that has the best interests of her home in mind throughout, tremendously portrayed by an all-in Amber Heard.

The catalyst for Arthur to venture to his mothers home, his half-brother Orm has all the makings for a compelling antagonist. He has a hatred for the surface world and their history of polluting the oceans, with a deep-seated resentment for his half sibling, all played with intensity by Patrick Wilson. It's unfortunate the characters feels a few scenes away from fulfilling that promise, as more of a look into his familial relationships, and how they affected his ideology, would've been welcome to see, and get a better grip on his character. More successful is Black Manta, an interesting and layered figure brought to life so well, thanks to impressive visuals, and a brilliant portrayal by Yahya Abdul-Mahteen II.

While his career certainly flourished within the horror genre, James Wan has lately been bouncing out of his comfort zone, while having a capable grip on the direction that tremendously brings alive the globe-trotting adventure aspect of this story. Much character is provided to the various underwater societies, which are brought alive so well to make them feel like real corners of this world. There's also a great sense of fun brought to the proceedings, delivering great joy with sights such as an Octopus having a drum solo, and wonderfully utilising the visuals to depict the action so well. The length may be felt, and the script is lacking in places (some of the dialogue especially), but what we have is a visually dynamic, and imaginatively fun, ride which brings a corner of this cinematic universe to life so well.

Far from a dead fish, Aquaman is a step in the right direction for this cinematic universe. A bit more fine tuning could've been utilised, but the end result is a visually terrific picture that ensures the title character will no longer be treated as the red-headed step child of the DC Universe. Although, we could've done without Pitbull's awful rap over Africa's Toto.