“A star-studded cast and a great director make what the can with a story ripped off from an animated film.”
The announcement of Jason Mamoa being cast as Arthur Curry/Aquaman was the best thing to happen to this character in a long time. For years, Aquaman has been the butt of most jokes and the least liked of all the members of the Justice League for mainstream audiences. The minute Jason Momoa signed on to become Aquaman it changed the outlook of the character from a hero that could only talk to fish, to a badass that didn’t need fish to fight his battles. The second announcement that sparked an overall interest in this film was that James Wan would be the director to this film. His success as a director and producer seemed to calm everyone’s nerves about this film. The way he handled the struggles of Furious 7 made it seem like he could right the ship of the DC Extended Universe.
But is that what it does?
The movie begins with the typical hero’s journey with Queen Atlanna washing up onshore being saved by lighthouse keeper Tom Curry. They fall in love and give birth to half Atlantean/half human Arthur Curry. After some time, Queen Atlanna is summoned back to Atlantis for her arranged marriage leaving, Tom and Arthur. The story picks up some time after the events of Justice League with Arthur going back to his ways of being a part-time hero, saving a Russian submarine crew in the ocean from a pirate attack. It is during Aquaman’s battle with the pirates we get a brief introduction and origin to Manta and his hatred towards Aquaman. We then are introduced to Arthur’s half-brother King Orm and his mission to start a war against the human race. From the battle with Steppenwolf and years of humans polluting the oceans are the reasons King Orm uses to persuade the seven kingdoms of Atlantis to engage in a war with the humans. In order to convince the kingdoms to engage in war with the humans, he conspires with Manta to create a reason for the Atlanteans to unite for war. It is when the two sides are on the brink of war that Vulko sends Mera to find Arthur and take his place as King of Atlantis. The only way that Arthur is able to unite the kingdoms and prevent war is to hold the Trident of Atlan. It is up to Aquaman and Mera to find the Trident of Atlan, claim his birthright and, challenge King Orm as the Ocean Master.
Unfortunately, the story has some significant flaws in the film along with its artificial portrayal of its villains. This holds back how good this movie can be. Also, the plot of this movie is a direct rip-off of the DC animated movie Justice League: Throne of Atlantis with King Orm and Black Manta working together to instigate a war between the Atlanteans and Humans. The difference between the animated movie and the live action movie is the lack of the other characters from the Justice League and instead uses other Atlanteans to guide Arthur to his goal of becoming the Ocean Master. To make up for the lack of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in this movie, characters like Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (William Defaoe) guide Aquaman in his journey to become the Ocean Master. There is very little acknowledgment of the events from Justice League besides a couple of small references. It wants the audience to forget that Arthur already knew of Atlantis and Mera from when he went to protect the Motherbox from Steppenwolf. Mera reintroduces herself to Arthur when they first meet, which would mean that the events from Justice League either didn’t happen or James Wan wants us to forget about them. The motivation for war against the humans was lackluster and brushed over very fast. with the primary cause is the amount of pollution that humans have put in the ocean.
The use of Black Manta in this film was very disappointing as he only gets around 15 minutes of screen time in the whole film. Black Manta is considered Aquaman’s top antagonist in the comics and in this film he is relegated to a mid-tier henchman. King Orm is treated the same way being used as a scapegoat for Arthur’s reasoning to become Ocean Master. This is a trend that continues to plague the DCEU with non-memorable villains being relegated to pushovers. While Jason Mamoa is the star and probably making the most money in the film the true success of comic book films has been the villain. This movie takes the least amount of time to dig into Manta and Orm’s characters which is a real shame.
Overall, this movie has a great cast and visual effects, which are its greatest strengths. Jason Mamoa does his best to bring life into this movie along with Amber Heard, but the unoriginality of the story and fragmented way it is portrayed will ultimately make you feel like there is something missing. Is it bad? Nah. Can it save the DCEU? Nah.