By Tiara Spells
2017 was a strange year for the DCEU. The Summer’s Wonder Woman was hugely successful, making over $800 million dollars worldwide, women and girls all over the world dressed as Diana Prince for Halloween, and even for myself I remember bursting in to watch it because seeing a woman be strong, heroic, and fierce was something that was so overwhelming that it still gives me chills to this day.
So, after 2016’s mixed bag of Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad (which both received mixed reviews at best) people were sort of hopeful for what the future of the DCEU had to offer. Then Justice League came out, and it was plagued with a slew of production issues and it showed. The film was was both objectively and subjectively a mess.
2018 was essentially going to be a comeback year for Warner Brothers and the DCEU. The first trailer for Shazam! was released in July and in December Aquaman was finally released to the masses to mostly positive reviews and this is going to be another one.
Aquaman stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, and Willem Dafoe and it chronicles Arthur Curry’s story of becoming the King of Atlantis. The film picks up right after Justice League, at the start of the film he’s approached by Mera, the Princess of a neighboring kingdom, Xebel. Mera tells Arthur that his half-brother King Orm is preparing for war against the surface world and it could kill millions of people, reluctantly, Arthur agrees and he’s sent on a journey of self-discovery, figuring out who he is and where he belongs in the world.
The film wasn’t perfect, some of the acting was a bit hokey, there’s a scene where Mera and Arthur walk out of the ocean and a Pitbull remix of Toto’s Africa plays while it happens. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but a lot of the ridiculous moments are what made this film for me. As a fan of the comic books, Aquaman and his stories in Atlantis are sort of silly and James Wan wholeheartedly embraces its comic roots. There’s even a reference to Topo, a giant drum playing-octopus character from the comic books.
Aquaman doesn’t try to hold anything back; it knows exactly what it is and it’s silly undersea fun. Jason Momoa is clearly having the time of his life and Patrick Wilson practically shouts every line he delivers, but despite the silliness, there is a lot of heart in the film. These characters are beloved by many, not just me, so seeing Wan take these characters and give them good arcs and treat them with respect and care was something I was so thankful to see.
Other standouts include Temura Morrison and Nicole Kidman, who play Arthur’s parents Tom Curry, a lighthouse keeper, and Queen Atlanna, the Queen of Atlantis. The film shows their love story and some of the most emotional moments of the film come from the two of them. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who starred in Netflix’s unfortunately canceled, The Get Down, played Black Manta so I was extremely excited to see him in another role again. He was amazing as Black Manta and I can’t wait to see what they do with him in any potential sequels considering he is one of Aquaman’s biggest nemesis in the comic books.
Overall, Aquaman was a ride full of thrills, laughs, and even some tears. Though it wasn’t always perfect, I thought it was gorgeous and well executed and it didn’t do anything to shy away from its roots (though maybe it did a lot to get away from how people thought of Aquaman thanks to Superfriends). This film still holds a special place in my heart and in my opinion I thought it was completely deserving of the 1 Billion dollars it reached recently. You could tell it was made with a lot of love and passion and that’s all we could really ask for. It’s exactly what the DCEU needed and by the looks of Shazam! it could be another sign that the DCEU is finally getting some much needed stable footing.