Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Courage / bravery / self-sacrifice
Protecting others from harm or death
Jason Momoa … Arthur Curry / Aquaman
Amber Heard … Mera
Nicole Kidman … Queen Atlanna
Dolph Lundgren … King Nereus
Patrick Wilson … Orm / Ocean Master
Willem Dafoe … Nuidis Vulko
Djimon Hounsou … The Fisherman King
Natalia Safran … Fisherman Queen
Sophia Forrest … Fisherman Princess
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II … David Kane / Black Manta
Temuera Morrison … Thomas Curry, a lighthouse keeper who is Arthur Curry’s father
Graham McTavish … Atlan, the ancient king of Atlantis who is the ancestor of Atlanna
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|Director||James Wan—“Saw” (2004), “The Conjuring 2” (2016), “Furious 7” (2015)|
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|Distributor||Warner Bros. Pictures|
Arthur Curry’s origin story is no ordinary tale. His father, a mere lighthouse keeper, and his mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the princess of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, raised Arthur on land, making Arthur half-mortal and half-Atlantean, bringing hope that one day the true king of Atlantis will unite both the land and sea.
However, unbeknownst to Arthur and his father, Atlanna was already betrothed against her will to another, and, upon first meeting, Arthur’s father, came to the land in hopes of escaping said fate. But time is swift, and the King of Atlantis never forgets, eventually tracking down Atlanna at the lighthouse. Atlanna decides, for her family’s safety, she must go back into hiding, only to return when things return to normal.
Time passes, Arthur grows, becomes stronger, more agile and, yes, a defender of the seas, in the hopes of someday being worthy enough for his mother to return to him. In fact, in the opening scene, we witness Arthur successfully halting a band of pirates, leaving them to their watery fate.
But all is not well under the sea. Tensions are high in Atlantis, especially for Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who currently reigns over Atlantis. Orm’s desire is to wage war upon the land for their constant abuse and destruction of the sea and its resources (pollution and the like), but in order to do so much, he must unite all the other kingdoms of the sea to build an army strong enough to finally name him Ocean Master (the commander of the seas).
Wait a second, let’s get back to our hero. Arthur is approached by Princess Mera (Amber Heard) who informs him of Orm’s plan to attack the land. She tells him that the only way to stop him is to find the Trident of Atlan (the first ruler of Atlantis), the most powerful trident in the entire world, which will prove to everyone that Arthur is the true king of Atlantis. Oh, did I forget to mention one of the pirates left to their watery fate had a son at the scene that escaped and wants revenge on Arthur?
It’s up to Arthur and Mera to find the trident, challenge Orm, and prove to Atlantis Arthur’s legitimacy as a ruler, before life on the land and in the sea is undone.
Many have stated that DC Comics will always live in the shadows of Marvel Comics when it comes to the moviemaking industry. That DC will always play second chair, while Marvel is playing first chair. Some will argue that Marvel’s films tend to have stronger story arcs, stronger character performances and more clearly thought-out, constructive action sequences. By that I mean, it has a purpose, even when it’s intense. In other words, it’s not just violence for the sake of violence, and that DC tries to attempt all of these things but ends up falling short.
On the other hand, one might argue that DC provides us characters who become heroes, that we can actually relate to with regards to their overall upbringing and development. Take Batman, for example. He came from a wealthy upbringing as a young boy, and, yet, when he lost his parents, the money meant nothing to him. Instead of turning to crime to avenge his parents’ death, he fought crime, not with superhero abilities, but through strength that he was given and his technological wonders. Aquaman, likewise, shares the familiar “horrific-past-turned-it-around” upbringing, in the sense that instead of hiding because the land would not accept him nor could he really become part of the sea, he honed his abilities, his strength and determination and defied what he was told that he could not become.
Why do I bring all this up, you ask? Because one must remember DC Comics’ first films were not “Superman vs. Batman” or “Man of Steel” (these were the DC Extended Universe), there were films such as “Batman Begins,” the “Dark Knight,” “The Dark Knight Rises” (and yes, non-Batman films before this) that many considered at par or even superior to the Marvel Films (remember, Marvel Films has only been around since 2007, whereas DC has been doing this for a while). And these films, before the DC Extended Universe existed, provided depth and development to everyday characters who would become heroes.
This brings us to “Aquaman.” With this film, as we saw with “Wonder Woman” last year, I feel that we are seeing a re-birth of the DC Film industry, a re-birth with a lot of great potential in store. It’s true that, if today, you were to read many of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or any other meta-critic site, you would likely hear comments like, “‘Aquaman’ is all about spectacle… It’s always about trying to put the coolest, most imaginative sequence on screen at every single turn of the story, no matter what the cost.” Well, that is not necessarily the case. True, there’s a lot of action in this film, as much as you would likely see in an Avengers film, but, like I said, it has purpose, and it is specifically timed. Yes, the film uses a lot of CGI, but it is used purposefully. There are moments it strengthens the film, and moments it weakens it.
You might also read something like (and I’m paraphrasing), “the plot was messy and the story was just way too long for my liking.” Yes, there are a few moments where the plot feels disjointed, but I, for one, could follow the main objective of the story (and a film’s plot is something that I am incredibly critical about). In action film, as long as the main objective(s) are in place, that is half the battle in having a decent action film. However, I agree that the length of the film is too long, especially in the second act (about an hour to an hour and a half in). Also, the performances, even from some of the veteran actors like Nicole Kidman (who is very sadly under-utilized in this film), Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson, are fair, for the most part, but there are moments where they could have been better.
Violence: Very Heavy. When Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) first appears at the lighthouse, she is wounded; we witness some blood. There is a brief fight sequence between Atlanna and some guards, and she throws a sharp object through one of them (not graphic). We witness a young Arthur being bullied, very briefly. We also witness some Navy officers being shot by pirates (impacts are offscreen, but we witness one being gutted onscreen). Arthur is seen throwing a bunch of the pirates around and using various war items to fight the pirates (even an inactive torpedo). Some characters are killed. A submarine attacks and kills various sea creatures during a meeting. A submarine, with everyone in it, is destroyed. Huge tsunami waves are seen tossing two men out of a car and into the water. Wwe also witness the aftermath of the waves destruction on a town. A brief flashback shows people in peril and the destruction of Atlantis. There is a brief trident battle between two characters. Two people jump out of a moving plane and land on sand. A character is killed. A man is sliced in the back with some steel, and his wound is visible. We see one Atlantean with his hand cut off for a brief moment (shown twice). There is a scene where we witness some horrifying sea creatures (called Trench creatures) who attack. There is a prolonged, somewhat intense war sequence.
Vulgarity: Moderately Heavy. Sh*t (3+), d*ck (1), sc*ew (1), a** (4), son of a b*tch (1), b*stard (2), peed (1).
Sex/Nudity: Two lead characters share two passionate kisses. Mera wears a cleavage bearing outfit. We are provided a scene where is Atlanna is pregnant, and her bare abdomen is exposed.
Other: Atlanna tries to eat a live fish whole. A character talks about missing happy hour. There is a scene involving alcohol use. There is a brief conversation regarding Evolution. Someone sticks their head in toilet water. Something that also caught my attention is when a character sees Arthur and says, “The King is Risen” (I’m not sure if that’s a jab at Christianity).
In the movie, Arthur strives to become King of the Seas. As Christians, we know that there is only one true King and that is the Lord God. He is the Alpha and Omega—the beginning and the End, maker of all things, judge of all men. He is the one that created the seas and the lands, and it is HIM that we must bow down and glorify in all that we say and in all that we do. Even if we don’t bow down, Jesus states:
“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” -Luke 19:40
“Ask the beasts, and they will teach you [that God exists]; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you…and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. -Job 12: 7-10
God is all loving, yes, but he is omnipotent, as well. We must remember who it is we worship, who is in control:
Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. —Jeremiah 5:22
Thus says the Lord…who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name… —Jeremiah 31:35
Fix your eyes on HIM, not on the Earth, which offers nothing of great, ultimate value.
We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. —Acts 14:15
Slightly flawed, yet still fun to watch, “Aquaman” serves as a testimony to the capabilities and possibilities of what DC Films has to offer in the future. While there is some heavy violence and language to contend with, I still feel that, for mature older teens and adults, this film is relatively safe for viewing, although to err on the safe side, I recommend parents view the film first before bringing the teens. As always, viewer discretion is advised.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.