Movie Review: Aquaman (Wan, 2018)

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Movie: Aquaman

Production Companies: Warner Bros Pictures, DC Productions, DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, The Safran Company, Cruel and Unusual Films

Director: James Wan

Producers: Peter Safran, Rob Cowan

Scriptwriters: David Leslie McGoldrick-Johnson, Will Beall

Main Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Manteen II, Nicole Kidman

Release Date: December 21st 2018 (US)

Running Time: 143 minutes

Certificate: 12


Well, poor Jason Momoa. Despite the meteoric success of Aquaman, the signs do not look good for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. And that’s not even taking into consideration all the drama and editing of Amber Heard’s Mera in the sequel. But at least he’ll always have a decent performance and a billion dollar film with the first Aquaman. So, with his potentially last appearance in the DC Universe coming up in December, why not look back at Momoa and DC’s highest point, other than Shazam! And Wonder Woman, to remember when DC was a vaguely coherent cinematic universe. Anyway, without further ado here is my review of the film.


Aquaman follows Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Momoa), as he is drawn away from his life on the surface world by the enigmatic Mera (Heard) in order to save both the surface world and world of Atlantis. Firstly, how does he do this? By recovering the mystical Trident of Atlan and maybe bumping into his definitely dead mother, Atlanna (Kidman). Oh, and standing in his way are his half brother, Orm aka Ocean Master (Wilson) and former pirate turned mercenary David Kane, aka Black Manta (Manteen II) who both want revenge on Arthur for various things.

I mean Black Manta may have a point given the fact Aquaman essentially refuses to save his father from drowning. Oh, also there’s a subplot about pollution and how the humans are killing the Atlanteans which sort of gets forgotten about. Like how you sort of forget Willem Dafoe and Dolph Ludgren are there amongst all the chaos crammed into the film. Basically, the plot feels like a trilogy’s worth of plot crammed into one film. So with the synopsis out of the way, let’s get into my review of the film.


Jason Momoa’s Performance in Aquaman

To begin my analysis of Aquaman, I’m going to begin with the elephant in the room: Jason Momoa’s performance as Aquaman. And to start off it’s important to preface that Aquaman in the comics was nowhere near as charismatic as the rest of the Justice League, or even his own villains. So, with that said, Momoa’s performance is great and really demonstrates his credentials as both an action star and superhero actor. Now, the best example of this charismatic performance is the scene where he comes out with the Trident of Atlan. Simply put, the fact you don’t end up laughing at Momoa using the classic green and orange comic book suit shows off the physical charisma he brings to Aquaman.

Also, more evidence of Momoa’s great performance is seen in the submarine fight scene. And yes that’s mostly for the fact he starts pulling out one liners, like permission to come aboard?, before launching pirates everywhere. Seriously, Momoa really shines in the film’s fight scenes just because of the aforementioned physical charisma and the fact you’d believe he could launch somebody like a javelin if he wanted to. And a final note on his performance because he’s got great chemistry with the rest of the cast, especially Heard no matter how much that will annoy people. Hopefully, this performance is enough to keep him on as Aquaman or maybe Lobo…..

Cinematography in Aquaman 

Continuing my analysis of Aquaman, I’m going to discuss the film’s cinematography, with particular focus on two fight scenes. The first scene is when Atlantean soldiers come after Atlanna in Jango Fett-, sorry Thomas Curry’s Lighthouse. That’s a terrible Temuera Morrison joke right there.. Anyway in the Lighthouse, Wan uses a very mobile camera to pan around the fight. This is brilliant for several reasons. The first is a real problem with superhero film cinematography: character geography. Now while I may just have made up a term to describe it, Aquaman’s cinematography works really well as it bears this in mind. Basically, the panning of the camera allows the audience to see where all the characters are in relation to each other.

This removes a very confusing aspect of fight scenes where it can often cut away to other characters with no indication of where they are in relation to each other. And yes that’s me being a picky film reviewer…. Anyway, the other fight scene where the cinematography shines is the rooftop chase/fight in Sicily. Now this is fantastic cinematography as it pans between two chases/fights while always keeping the other fight/chase in the background. This is phenomenal cinematography as it allows the audience to take in the fight, the surroundings of Sicily and also be able to keep track of both fights/chases so massive props on the cinematography. Basically, the cinematography is often very smooth with a few exemptions like the big superhero CGI third act battle.

Soundtrack in Aquaman

Furthermore, I’m now going to touch on Aquaman’s soundtrack because at points it’s brilliant. Also, the composer, Rupert Gregson-Williams also composed Bee Movie’s soundtrack so Hollywood really is a small world. Anyway, what is an example of Aquaman’s great soundtrack? Well, the aforementioned scene where Aquaman gets the Trident of Atlan and his suit. The score really picks up when the camera zooms into Aquaman’s eye and shows how the trident is altering his DNA.

All this builds in a slow crescendo until it pays off with Aquaman walking out of a waterfall with the trident. Not only does this sound regal, which is definitely intentional, but it also just makes Aquaman look even more badass which is always a positive. Also, another high point of the soundtrack is the Black Manta score. While Aquaman’s music always sounds more regal and powerful, Black Manta’s sounds menacing. Take his arrival in Sicily where he jetpacks over a wall and the bass drop as he hits the ground really makes the audience go, ohh damn. So really, the score does a great job of fleshing out the characters and sets the tone of certain scenes.

World Building in Aquaman

And finally to conclude my analysis of Aquaman, I’m going to discuss the film’s world building and how it would have impacted the old DCEU, and maybe the new DCU. Anyway, the biggest sign of world building is in the mid credits scene where James Wan introduces Dr Stephen Shin. For those non-comic Aquaman fans, basically Shin is a marine biologist obsessed with finding the fabled kingdom of Atlantis. Oh and he just so happens to save the presumed dead Black Manta.

Now if that world building is anything to go by, I’d expect some form of alliance between Shin and Manta in the upcoming sequel as they attempt to find both Atlantis and Aquaman for two entirely different reasons. Also, other fun world building would have involved the monsters of the Trench and the submerged world where Aquaman finds his mum and the Trident. Now in typical DC fashion, the monsters of the Trench’s film, The Trench, got cancelled so that world building is out of the window. But also, the last interesting bit of world building may involve an uneasy alliance between the half brothers, Aquaman and Ocean Master, after how the film ended. So while most of the world building will likely go out of the window post Flash, it is fun to see what James Wan intended to build.


To summarise, Aquaman is an entertaining and overstuffed addition to the defunct DCEU which has some fun performances, cinematography and a great soundtrack. Overall, a fun watch if you don’t fancy watching Shazam: Fury of the Gods or any of DC’s other recent releases. Here’s to hoping Jason Momoa survives into James Gunn’s DCU….

Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Okay

Target Audience: 12+

Content Warning: Moderate Violence and Gore, Mild Profanity, Mild Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking, Mild Frightening and Intense Scenes

Recommendation: Yes