Wow! That’s how I would describe “Aquaman,” latest cinematic addition to the DC Expanded Universe.
The movie, which was produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, was ably helmed by director James Wan.
I use the word “ably” because Wan succeeded in breaking away from the dark mood set by “Man of Steel”, which was the first movie of the DC Expanded Universe.
The director of “Man of Steel”, Zack Snyder, tried to set a seriously dark tone for the next set of DC movies to distinguish them from Marvel’s superhero movies.
Unfortunately, Snyder’s vision for DC’s movies really didn’t work. Superheroes are supposed to be symbols of hope, which Marvel’s movies adhered to. But Snyder, in an effort to be different from Marvel, chose to depict superheroes as dangerous people that ordinary folk should be wary of.
That’s something that was not going to sit well with fans.
And the ratings after “Man of Steel” was released bore this out. In Rotten Tomatoes, “Man of Steel” garnered only a favorable review from barely half of critics with 56%.
Snyder persisted with this view despite the low numbers in the movie “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The result was a dismal 26% rating in Rotten Tomatoes.
It seemed the end was near for DC’s superhero movies, especially after the release of “Suicide Squad” which received a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Fortunately, “Wonder Woman”, which starred Gal Gadot, came out to save the day. It garnered a rating of 93% from Rotten Tomatoes.
Because of the critical and audience acceptance earned by “Wonder Woman”, the dark setting of the DC Expanded Universe had to go.
The next movie, which was “Justice League,” was revamped and Snyder was replaced. Unfortunately, Snyder’s mark was still evident in movie and the result was a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Was “Wonder Woman” a fluke?
Nope. The movie “Aquaman” proved that returning to the light was the right move.
With Wan opting for a lighter and more hopeful tone, three of every four film critics praised the movie, which garnered a rating of 76%, making it “Certified Fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes.
Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman came across for me as honest. It didn’t feel forced. His portrayal of the character was consistent with how he played it in “Justice League”. And because of that, Aquaman the hero didn’t come across as just an afterthought.
Wan succeeded in adapting all the elements of the Aquaman story to the big screen. It was an adaptation that both audiences and critics appreciated. I certainly agreed with how Momoa’s Aquaman came across in the movie.
Aquaman’s foes in the movie were not one-dimensional character type that Steppenwolf was in “Justice League.” Black Manta, who was played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, looked as if he stepped out of a comic book. The actor played him with a nuance and showed Black Manta as both a villain and a tragic character.
Orn, the other villain in the movie, was played by Patrick Wilson. The character was Aquaman’s step brother and rival to the throne of Atlantis. Wison’s depiction of the character oozed with court intrigue and royal infighting. It was kind-of-a reminder of “Game of Thrones”, the hit HBO series that Momoa also starred in.
Wilson and Abdul-Mateen II both succeeded in making Momoa’s Aquaman look even more heroic.
Joining Momoa, Wilson and Abdul Mateen II in the movie are Amber Heard as Mera, Nicole Kidman as Atanta, Willem Dafoe as Vulko and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.
And I’d like to add one thing more. “Aquaman” has a mid-credit scene.