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A (Potential) New Beginning for DC Comics in “Aquaman”

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A (Potential) New Beginning for DC Comics in “Aquaman”

Is DC catching up or will this be a spark of hope in a dumpster fire?

To start this review, I expected absolutely nothing from this movie. The trailers looked amazing, and the cast had incredible actors in lead and supportive roles. But everyone knows about DC’s cinematic track record. Aside from the highly successful “Wonderwoman”, I would argue that DC hasn’t had a good movie since the “Dark Knight” trilogy. “Man of Steel”, “Suicide Squad”, “Batman vs. Superman”, and “Justice League” were all plagued by bad writing and weak plots. The latter two of that list also had the added obstacle of rushed production in an attempt to keep up with Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War”.

“Aquaman” broke this track record and, in my opinion, joined “Wonder Woman” in the ranks of great DC movies. Though I can safely say that “Wonder Woman” was better. Jason Momoa nailed the role of Aquaman, making him into a gruff, but caring man who wants the best for the world and those he cares about. And his costar Amber Heard made Mera into a powerful hero that I would argue is cooler than Aquaman. Big names like Nicole Kidman (Atlanna) and Willem Dafoe (Nudis Volko) made up the background characters, which gave these characters a lot of dimension. It’s very easy for superhero and action movies in particular to have flat side characters that only serve to further the plot. “Aquaman” avoided this completely, every character that appeared on the screen had a distinct personality with unique quirks.

The other thing that “Aquaman” did was avoid the curse that DC seems to have with focusing more on special effects and pyrotechnics instead of a coherent plot. The movie had a good plot following Arthur/Aquaman as he overcomes his own personal obstacles and takes the throne of Atlantis from his younger half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). There’s also complex ties of family and morality that include Mera and Arthur’s mother, Atlanna. There were some moments here and there where the plot could’ve been stronger, or the reasoning behind characters’ motives could’ve been more clear or realistic. I feel that this is what prevents “Aquaman” from being as good as “Wonder Woman”. The latter had a strong and coherent plot with well-defined characters that always had established motives behind their actions. It’s not that “Aquaman” doesn’t have this, they just didn’t do it quite as well as the “Wonderwoman” team did.

There was an awkward introduction of the villain Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is a very cool supervillain, but he added absolutely nothing to the plot. They started out with how he came to hate Aquaman, but from there he didn’t do very much. It was revealed that he was working for Orm to kill Aquaman, but all that resulted in was a pretty useless chase scene. Had that chase scene been cut out, the movie would still make sense since there was no sense of present danger and there weren’t high stakes for either party. When I say that, I mean that the chase was predictable, making it obvious that Aquaman and Mera would escape unscathed. The end credit scene also featured Black Manta meeting up with a scientist that wasn’t even named during the movie; he only appeared briefly on a couple of fake newscasts talking about Atlantis conspiracy theories. Luckily Google could tell me that this was Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park). This is obviously setting up for a sequel, but Warner Bros. has yet to confirm that they’re planning a sequel. This wouldn’t be the first time they set up for a sequel that they later pretended didn’t happen. Just watch the end credits scene of “Justice League” and you’ll see what I mean.

Speaking of “Justice League”, this movie did a way better job at everything really. I could rant for hours about the many shortcomings of “Justice League”, but that’s for another time. In short, “Aquaman” is much better than any of the recent DC movies aside from “Wonder Woman”. We’ll see if this is the start of DC’s cinematic come back soon since they have several movies set for release this year and in 2020. The closest release is “Shazam!”, which I think is just DC’s attempt at comedic relief from the darkness of the rest of their film universe. The next time we’ll see a Justice League member on the silver screen should be in June of 2020 with “Wonder Woman 1984”. Who knows? This could make DC the new Marvel, but they’ve got a very long way to go.

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