Aquaman – King of the DCEU

Last night I was out with a couple friends enjoying a double feature for one of their birthdays. We took in the new addition to the Transformers Franchise Bumblebee and the newest addition to the floundering DCEU, Aquaman. While I immensely enjoyed Bumblebee, it’s by far the BEST Transformers movie, I had a few more reservations for Aquaman. After the disappointing Justice League and the terrible Batman V. Superman, Wonder Woman was the only thing keeping the DCEU afloat, until the king of the seven seas arrived.

Directed by James Wan (of Saw fame), this movie was the first salvo in the soft reboot currently underway from Warner Brothers and their DCEU. This review will be spoiler free but I will discuss several key aspects of the film and their relation to the source material.

STORY

The first thing I have to say and it can be taken a slight negative for the film, the story is all over the place. While they make it work for the film, they basically took the first five collected issues of Aquaman’s New 52 comic run and made it into the plot for the film. The main pull is the Throne of Atlantis story line which has already been made into an animated feature as part of the DCAU (DC Animated Universe). The story centers around King Orm (Aquaman’s half brother) a full blooded Atlantean and his bid for the throne of Atlantis. Wan’s film is a very ‘Shakespearean’ tale of family betrayal and political trickery with a healthy dose of comedic undertones. Arthur Curry (Aquaman) fresh off his defeat of Steppenwolf with the Justice League has decided to become the unofficial protector of the seas. This brings him into conflict with a particular group of pirates. These pirates have been operating with maximum casualties for quite some time and Aquaman has had enough. Those familiar with the storyline for the Throne of Atlantis arc will be able to see what will happen before it does; however, Wan and co. have worked enough subplots into the mix to provide some surprising turns wherever they can.

Left: Nereus and Xebel Forces; Right: Orm and Atlantean Forces

CAST

Jason Momoa returns as Arthur Curry (Aquaman) for his second foray into the DC comics world. He builds on his persona established in the Justice League and we are shown his origins with a great exposition at the opening of the film. As the film progresses we are also shown why he holds Atlantis in such low regard and refuses to help them in any capacity. It allows for a great heroic origin as Arthur goes from occasional vigilante to the full blown hero we’ve been waiting for.

Amber Heard straight up knocks it out of the park as Mera. There is a particular scene in the middle section of the movie where you really get to see why Mera is such a respected warrior and queen in the comics. She brings a very authoritative quality to the role which helps to balance out Momoa’s ‘bro take’ on the classic clean cut Atlantean king. Her arc through the film is one we’ve seen before in plenty of other works; however, Heard makes it her own and shows that Mera is worthy of her own movie.

The standout star for me is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta. At the beginning of the film we are shown a ruthless Kane as he and his pirate crew work to hijack a submarine. Through a turn of events he is left alone and blames Aquaman for it. This sets him on a path of revenge that has him crafting his Black Manta persona through the entirety of the film. When he finally confronts Arthur and Mera in Italy, he has emerged fully as the supervillain that has plagued Aquaman since his first appearance in Aquaman #35 from 1967. Abdul-Mateen II delivers a dark and gritty performance in an otherwise fairly light-hearted film which helps to cement Manta as someone who will continue to appear in future DC films.

Black Manta

Patrick Wilson gives us our main villain by his portrayal of King Orm/Ocean Master. A conflicted ruler who just wants to do right by his people, Wilson brings a certain gravitas to the role that helps to establish Orm as a force to be reckoned with. Wanting to preserve his people and their way of life he has grown tired of the mistreatment of the oceans by the surface world and he is through playing nice. Wilson’s protrayal of Orm helps to provide some sympathy for the young ruler but ultimately helps to give a villain you can’t help to love.

Other notable members of the cast are Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Despite 90% of the film taking place under water and in front of a green screen, Wan manages to deliver some stellar shots. One scene which appears to be a continuous shot (in the vein of the various Marvel Netflix series’), really showcases Wan’s keen eye. He created a living and breathing world at the bottom of the ocean that makes you believe in the might and magic of the fictional kingdom of Atlantis. As I said before in my review of Black Panther, I’m not a cinematographer and don’t pretend to be, but I can tell what shots look amazing and help to convey the emotion and feel of the scenes, and in that regard, Wan knocks it out of the park.

Amber Hear (Mera), James Wan (Director), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman) and Willem Dafoe (Vulko)

COSTUMES

The costumes in this film were perfectly done. Each character has a costume that directly references back to their comic roots and helps to provide a great feel for the overall tone of the film. I was extremely giddy when Arthur finally dons his orange and green comic accurate costume at the climax of the film. Mera’s costume is a direct recreation of her comic source material and Orm/Ocean Master’s full purple and silver battle garb is a perfect counterbalance to Arthur’s orange and green. Black Manta and the Atlantean soldiers take the cake for costume design. Giving us a great armoured and vibrant colour scheme for the costumes of the Atlanteans, Kym Barrett, worked closely with Wan to bring his vision to life. Manta’s costume was heavily influenced by the source material while adding a very apparent Atlantean touch to it to provide a truly menacing character.

“The Trench” which are an ancient race of Atlanteans since mutated into a cross of humans and Angler Fish, were truly horrifying and provided some very terrifying scenes.

Trench Drone
Trench Swarm

MUSIC

The score for the film worked extremely well to create and translate the mood and feel from the shots to the viewers. There were a couple of misfires with some of the music, in particular a horrible cover of ‘Africa’. In a movie of fantastical underwater civilizations and wondrous technology, it felt out of place and a cheap way to bring a small laugh from the audience. With the exception of that small misstep the music fit the film really well and even the inclusion of a Greta Van Fleet chart topper worked to immerse the audience in the world of Aquaman.

ACTION

It’s hard for me to accurately describe the action in the film. It’s not that it wasn’t apparent or well done, it’s just that the majority of it was done using CGI. For obvious reasons they needed to use CGI to convey the 360 degree combat that the Atlanteans and the other kingdoms of the sea are fluent in, not to mention their amazing powers, it just left me a little wanting. The up close and personal action scenes with Arthur,Mera, Manta, the Atlanteans and Orm were very well done and choreographed, but they were few and far between. There is a big CGI slugfest of a fight at the climax of the film that delivers on the building tensions throughout the run time and showcases the various kingdoms of the sea beautifully. I’m not sure if Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa went to trident combat training, or if there even is such a thing, but their work with those tridents is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Arthur and Orm before ‘Ring of Fire’

OVERALL

As someone who has seen every comic book movie to come out since the release of the Dark Knight in 2008, I can say that this is (in my opinion) the best DC movie since Nolan’s trilogy. While I did thoroughly enjoy Wonder Woman, the villain just didn’t capture me like Orm and Manta do. I love Gal Gadot and think she’s perfect for the role of Diana, but Momoa knocks this one out of the park. I would rate it as the top DCEU movie and overall I would give it a solid 9.0/10. Shazam and Wonder Woman 84 are going to have to really step their game up to even come close to this gem that Wan delivered. I highly recommend that if you’re a fan of the character or any of the cast listed that you go and see the film. If this is the first salvo in a new and improved DCEU, then the MCU could be getting a run for their money.

Aquaman movie poster

See you next time!

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Avengers: Endgame – Trailer Breakdown & Plot Prediction

Earlier this morning we were gifted with an early Christmas present, the new Avengers trailer! Originally it was supposed to be released on Wednesday earlier this week; however, due to the untimely death of past President George H. W. Bush, it was pushed to today to accommodate his televised funeral service in Washington. I was not familiar with his policies and and acts as president of the United States  but from what I understand he did a lot of good for the country and he will be sorely missed.

Onto the trailer!

Ever since the ‘snappening’ at the end of Infinity War, fans have been speculating as to what will happen to the defeated team. With Ant-Man and the Wasp, we were shown a probable solution to the Avengers’ problem of dealing with a fully powered Thanos with all the Infinity stones, Quantum Time Wells. In the post-credit sequence of Ant-Man and the Wasp, original Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) was coaching Scott on what to look for in the Quantum Realm. One of the anomalies that she cautions against is Quantum Time Wells, which (I think) is how the Avengers are more than likely going to beat Thanos. 

Let’s breakdown the trailer…

We start with a lonely Tony recording a voice message in hopes that Pepper will one day see it and know that in his last moments he will be thinking about her. He states that his oxygen will run out by the next day and power a few days after that, but he wants her to know that in his final days she was all he could think about. Which shows a lot of personal growth for Tony, ever since we were first introduced to him in 2008’s Iron Man he has been a fairly narcissistic person. Pepper was the one person that he could care about and who he wanted above all to protect. 

Tony recording the message for Pepper

The title card for Marvel Studios got a bit of a redo since the ‘snappening’ and now shows the title discarding into dust much like some of the heroes did after the snap.

We are shown Thanos’ armour arranged on a stand to represent a scarecrow as Thanos walks through a field of alien plants still wearing the damaged gauntlet. Apparently after Thanos murders half of the life in the universe he decided to become a farmer?

Thanos scarecrow

We are shown some exterior shots of the Avengers compound while Widow is summarizing what Thanos did to a startled Bruce Banner. We see a shot of a now beardless and groomed Cap shedding a tear for either Bucky or his friends and allies. Banner is amazed at everything that happened and see all the people they lost as their faces begin rotating through a wheel on the holo-screen in front of him.

Cap sheds a tear for the fallen

We get a shot of the empty Avengers compound and then more shots of the survivors from the ‘snappening’ as they mourn their friends and loved ones. We get a nice voice over from Captain America as he states that they all lost someone either friends or family and that they all lost part of themselves when it happened. 

Ronin

We cut to a shot of a hooded figure cleaning a bloody sword on their sleeve while Widow watches in a town somewhere in Asia. The figure removes their hood and mask to reveal Clint Barton who has adopted his Ronin alias. Cap’s voice over then says “This is the fight of our lives” as we see him looking at the picture of Peggy Carter he keeps in his compass. Inside of a Quinjet, Widow turns to him and says that their plan will work while Steve says ” I know it will, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t”.

Cap in Quinjet

We then get the title card for the movie where the avengers “A” is being put back together from broken stone on a purple background. The Avengers title appears on the screen with the subtitle “Endgame” appearing out of a purple flash. The final shot of the trailer shows us Scott Lang arriving at the Avengers compound and talking to the security camera asking to be let in. He introduces himself as Ant-Man and that they would remember him from the airport in Germany. Cap stands up with a determined look in his eyes asking if it’s an old message with Widow stating “No, this is at the front gate”. We then get a purple title card stating April 2019 with the ‘A’ in April as the Avengers ‘A’. 

April 2019

My prediction of the plot is as follows:
Scott Lang arrives along with Clint who has assumed the Ronin persona to the Avengers compound where Captain America and Black Widow are thinking up a counterattack. He explains how everyone (Hank, Hope & Janet) were wiped out and he needs to get them back. Cap and Widow will then explain what happened with Thanos and they will take some time coming up with a plan.
Tony is floating in space in the Milano (Peter’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy) but without any fuel or knowledge of how the hip works/to fix it, he is set to drift in the void between Titan and Earth. He will be found by Captain Marvel who is answering Fury’s call from the post-credit scene in Infinity War. They return to Earth where the remaining Avengers and those that survived the ‘snappening’ are formulating their plan. 
Thanos is a farmer? and he is happy at what he has down knowing the universe will spin on. Though he knows something isn’t quite right.
The remaining Avengers decide to use Quantum Time Vortexes to go back in time to the battle of New York from the first Avengers film. Tony poses as a SHIELD security agent in order to help break Loki out so he can tell them where Thanos is. The original avengers and the new squad ally together during the battle of New York. The new squad are responsible for protecting the city while the original crew head through the wormhole to confront Thanos on the Chitauri station when he doesn’t have any of the stones.
In the climactic battle the portal will need to be closed . The original crew will still be fighting Thanos and they’ll make the sacrifice to hold the line while the new squad closes the portal to Earth, stranding them in Chitauri space. Cap and Tony will make a final stand against Thanos with both dying in the fight. With Thanos being defeated and not lasting to get both the power and space stones, the other stones are then returned to their rightful places and the timeline is reset. 

There you have it! My breakdown of the trailer and my prediction of the plot. I am super excited for this film and hope that it’s going to be even better than Infinity War was! See you next time!