Aquaman is swimming past expectations to break box office records. Despite being another divisive film, it’s safe to say that DC won the holiday weekend with their latest superhero flick.
SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen this movie yet (seriously, what are you waiting for?) and don’t want to be spoiled, then stop reading. Instead, check out my six reasons to see Aquaman. Then get to the theater! After the movie, make your way back here to read why I think this is the greatest superhero movie of 2018.
If you have seen it already, then let’s dive right in to the world of Atlantis!
This film isn’t trying hard to be something it’s not
It felt like we were treated to more superhero films than ever in 2018: Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant Man And The Wasp, Venom. But Aquaman feels like the only comic book film trying to stay truest to its source material. This movie isn’t trying to break the mold. It isn’t even expected to make a billion dollars. It just wants to be a super fun film that fans can enjoy.
And it succeeds.
The movie has everything you could want in a blockbuster film. It’s got the incredible action shots you’ve come to expect. Fierce female characters who can take care of themselves. Sympathetic villains who will break your heart. And a reluctant hero you can root for.
I don’t watch these movies because I expect them to be nominated for awards. I’ll leave those expectations for films like A Star Is Born. We live in a crazy world, so all I want from these comic book movies is two hours where I can disconnect from my own life and visit a world where the good guys always win because they deserve to. Is that really so much to ask for?
Mera and Atlanna are the fiercest Queens in DC
I know someone will ask, “What about Wonder Woman?” But Diana is technically only a princess who never becomes Queen because she leaves Themyscira. To be fair, Mera isn’t exactly Queen in this movie either, but we all know she will be when she marries Arthur.
In the mean time, Atlanna is Queen, and she is one fierce ruler. I love that they somehow got Nicole Kidman to play Aquaman’s mom. I can’t think of anyone more perfect for this role. Sometimes I still wonder how they managed that. I would have loved to be a fly on that wall, to be honest.
Atlanna is mostly missing throughout the film. Arthur grows up believing his mother was killed for falling in love with a surface dweller and having him. That narrative is pushed by several characters.
But it isn’t the whole truth. Yes, Atlanna’s husband sacrificed her to the Trench when he learned that she had a child with a surface dweller. He tried to kill her, but she is just way too much of a badass to kill so easily. We finally see her again toward the end of the second act. The reveal is probably one of my favorite moments in the entire film.
Atlanna has spent more than twenty years living in the center of the earth after escaping the creatures that guard the Trench. The film never really explains how she did that, but I am guessing it involved swimming really, really fast.
Mera, the film’s leading lady, doesn’t stay far behind. She is tasked by Atlanna’s friend Vulko to warn Arthur of his brother’s plans for the surface. While leading Arthur around the globe to find the Trident he needs to command the seas, Mera proves herself a warrior time and again. The more time she spends with the man the Atlanteans deride as a “half-breed,” the more she sees his worthiness to be King of her home.
It’s nice to watch the two of them slowly fall in love. The affection between Jason Momoa and Amber Heard shines through in every single one of their scenes. These two have a ton of chemistry, which isn’t really surprising. Has Momoa ever not had chemistry with one of his leading ladies? I didn’t think so.
I love that this film one allows more than one strong female character to shine. Not that this is a rarity for DC Films. They have a very good track record when it comes to the ladies in their films, and this one was no exception. (We won’t count that thirsty comment Martha made to Lois. Or The Flash landing on Wonder Woman’s boobs in the Justice League disaster. I’m still in denial that movie came out and I’m waiting for a better version that I deserve.) In the meantime though, this movie has met all my expectations when it comes to the women and for that I am extremely grateful.
A good villain is so hard to find sometimes
A lot of these superhero films have a villain problem. That has not been the case this year though. Every one released in 2018 had really complex villains. King Orm is no exception. As Arthur’s brother, King Orm is extremely sympathetic. Some fans even like calling him an antihero more than a “villain.”
A Twitter user beautifully explained what makes him so complex.
His motives make him an antihero. His actions make him a villain. https://t.co/V6LhppaLb4
— Mario-F. Robles (@I_Am_MFR) December 23, 2018
I honestly couldn’t have explained this better if I tried.
What makes King Orm so great is that you actually understand why he feels the way he does. He’s spent his entire life learning to be the King of Atlantis. Now, a brother he’s never met is challenging him for the throne. That would make anyone angry. But it doesn’t mean he should try to wipe out an entire population!
While it’s easy to sympathize with King Orm, AKA Ocean Master, he is not exactly someone we’re supposed to root for and the film makes that very clear.
The film also introduces Aquaman’s true arch-nemesis, Black Manta.
What’s great about this character is that his motivations are also completely understandable. He hates Arthur because Arthur let his father die instead of saving him. Throughout the film, he does King Orm’s bidding only because he hates Arthur so much. But by the end he no longer works for the King of Atlantis. In the film’s only mid-credits scene he vows to find Aquaman and take his revenge, setting up a potential sequel where Black Manta can continue his reign of villainy. I really hope we get to see that, because who doesn’t love Black Manta? He’s one of the best comic book villains ever!
A romance I can swoon over
To be honest, Arthur and Mera weren’t in my top five comic book pairings before this movie. I don’t even think they cracked my top ten. However, after this film, they’re definitely ranking higher than I ever expected.
I love how refreshing their scenes were. Jason and Amber’s chemistry was equal parts scorching and sweet. Some of my favorite moments in the entire film were when they argued or disagreed. I loved their love-hate banter.
And when they finally kissed in the film’s third act, it felt earned. Mera’s feelings for Arthur evolved. At first, she tolerated him out of respect for his mother and Vulko. Then she slowly started seeing his worthiness to be King. Eventually she saw that he truly was a good man with a good heart who wanted to do the right thing. They fell in love with each other despite their initial bias against one another.
I know this film was about making Arthur King, but I really hope they don’t make us wait forever to watch Mera become Queen. I want to see this dynamic duo rule Atlantis and continue to save both their worlds from threats that are out there.
Still, would you believe that Arthur and Mera weren’t the only romance worthy of swooning over in the film?
But the real love story to talk about is the one between Atlanna and Arthur’s father. I love that it was their love that basically saved the world. And that’s literally the note that the movie ends on. It is so hopeful and pure, and my heart actually soared when they’re finally reunited after Arthur becomes King. It’s nice to see a superhero with both their parents alive and well for a change. You don’t realize how rare that is until you watch it happening on screen. Arthur’s life is probably the least tragic of all the League members right now and I’m okay with that.
Jason Momoa is a star and he was born to shine
I may have a lot of issues with last year’s Justice League, but the cast was not one of them. I was always excited to have Momoa join DC as Aquaman, despite knowing it would be different from what we were used to reading in the comics.
Momoa was amazing in Justice League, but they really let him shine here. He’s got excellent comedic timing, but he also nails every emotional beat. The film may have a few sappy moments and some cheesy dialogue, but that doesn’t bother me.
I really enjoyed Momoa’s portrayal of this character. I am glad DC and Warner Bros. let Zack Snyder bring an updated version Aquaman to life in 2016’s Batman v Superman. It’s not yet confirmed whether Aquaman will get a sequel. But the film is currently crushing it at the box office, with good word of mouth, so there is a very good chance Momoa will suit up again.
And that’s good news because he definitely deserves to.
Aquaman is now playing in theaters. Check your local listing for showtimes.