After appearing in Justice League, Aquaman (Jason Momoa) gets his own solo outing in the sixth installment of the DC Extended Universe. The movie is a stuffed-to-the-gills blockbuster, more in line with the successful Wonder Woman than the franchise’s previous misfires as it covers familiar territory in a thrilling manner.
Aquaman opens with the meeting of his parents, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), lighthouse keeper of Maine, and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), queen of Atlantis. He found her unconscious and injured along the rocks near his home. She recovers, falling for Thomas and having Arthur, a child who she says one day might unite their worlds. King Orvax, who she was arranged to marry, sends forces for her. She returns to protect those she loves. However, once the king learned of Arthur, he sacrificed her to the creatures of the Trench. In her absence, Vulko (Willem Dafoe) mentored the boy.
In the present day, pirates hijack a Russian submarine but are stopped by Aquaman. During their fight, Jesse Kane, the pirate leader dies, making an enemy of his son David (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). King Orm (Patrick Wilson) of Atlantis, and Arthur’s younger half-brother, wants to lead the undersea kingdoms against the surface world because of their treatment of the oceans, but needs four of the Seven Kingdoms. A meeting with King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) of the Xebel tribe is attacked by surface dwellers, although it was a false-flag operation planned by Orm and executed by David to garner support for his plan.
Mera (Amber Heard), Nereus’ daughter and Orm’s fiancee, seeks out Arthur’s help. He agrees to return to Atlantis to stop the war, which leads to a battle for the throne between the brothers. Vulko sends him and Mera on a quest for the Lost Trident of Atlan. Orm gives David the tech to become Black Manta and to stop them.
The ending is never in question, so director James Wan and his team make sure the journey is one worth taking. Momoa is charming and leads a talented cast of actors. The characters are believable in this fantasy world as their motivations are understandable. Atlanna and Mera are each strong, smart, and vital to the story. The production design, particularly the different undersea kingdoms and the creatures that inhabit them, is a standout. The CGI work and the costume and props departments that bring them to life is impressive. The action scenes are both well executed by the stunt teams and well captured by the camera and editing department. The chase scene in Sicily is a highlight as the camera flies between two different pursuits. The all-out war during the climax is an epic sequence that overwhelms the senses and needs to be watched multiple times to take in everything going on.
The video is presented with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 except for the IMAX-formatted scenes which appear in 1.78:1. Colors across the spectrum pop in vibrant hues, such as deep red of Manta’s lasers, the yellow gold of armors and tridents, and blue of ocean waters. Blacks are inky and whites are bright, helping to achieve a strong contrast. The image has a sharp focus except for the underwater scenes which have been given a digital effect. The CGI effects retain their believability on a smaller screen,
The audio is available in Dolby Atmos, which plays as TrueHD 7.1 for those without the proper equipment. The track immerses the viewer. Rupert Gregson-Williams’s score fills the surrounds. Ambiance effects enhance the scenes and objects move about channels, such as when Arthur and Mera are battling the creatures of the Trench, expanding the soundscape. The subwoofer stays busy supporting the action and music from the bottom, but the bass never overwhelms. Dialogue, even when characters are underwater and when Manta’s voice is electronically augmented, is understandable. The elements are well balanced together in the mix and the track delivers a wide dynamic range.
The bonus features, all in HD, are:
- Becoming Aquaman (13 min) focuses on star Jason Momoa, from the character being pitched to him to his performance.
- Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman (19 min) takes viewers on a brief run through creating the film, including costumes, sets, and stunts.
- James Wan: World Builder (8 min) finds the director and others talking about creating his vision of Atlantis.
- The Dark Depths of Black Manta (7 min) – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II hosts a look at his character, from the film and and the comics.
- Heroines of Atlantis (6 min) – Mera and Atlanna share the spotlight and actresses share their thoughts.
- Villainous Training (6 min) – Patrick Wilson and Abdul-Mateen on their physical training for the film.
- A Match Made in Atlantis (3 min) – Momoa and Heard are pals, who goof around, and they want you to know about it.
- Atlantis Warfare (5 min) – Different creative members join Wan to discuss the making of weapons, armors, and ships.
- Creating Undersea Creatures (7 min) – A focus on different kingdoms and how creatures were paired with characters.
- Aqua Tech (6 min) shows how virtual reality helped during the different stages of production.
- Scene Study Breakdowns (11 min) – Viewers get a look at the creation of three scenes: “Submarine Attack,” “Showdown in Sicily,” and “The Trench.”
- Kingdoms of the Seven Seas (7 min) – Dolph Lundgren takes viewers on a tour of the film’s undersea kingdom.
- Shazam! Sneak Peek (3 min) of the next DC Extended Universe film.
In terms of superhero movies, Aquaman is a fun, over-the-top adventure albeit with a story that feels a bit bloated because they pack in so much, from his origin to his journey to claim the throne of Atlantis amidst palace intrigue and a quest that proves him a hero and the rightful heir. However, the cast and the action help propel the movie along. The Blu-ray offers a high-quality, high-definition experience. The extras cover different aspects of the movie’s making, but I would have preferred them edited together rather than a lot of short featurettes. Aquaman is a good addition to one’s superhero library.