The latest installment of the Worlds of DC is out now. Directed by James Wan and staring Jason Momoa as the titular character, Aquaman is already pulling in the cash from both domestic and foreign markets. The film follows Arthur Curry, Aquaman, and Princess Mera (Amber Heard) as they hunts down a trident and attempt to bridge the land and the sea, stopping an all out war led by his the King of Atlantis, Orm (Patrick Wilson).
Of course, many of our contributors watched the film this past weekend. With varying levels of investment in the DCEU, comic book knowledge, and overall Aquaman fandom, here are our feelings on the film. Myself, Drew, CJ, Nikko, Matt, Trishh, Lizzy, and Swara share our thoughts.
1.What did you expect going into the movie?
Drew: I had pretty low expectations. I liked Wonder Woman but didn’t make it through Justice League so I was hoping for a visually interesting superhero movie and not a whole lot else.
CJ: I honestly didn’t know what to expect. DC films have been a mixed bag ever since Man of Steel, so I was either going to love it or hate it. But I will admit the trailers got me hyped up as time went by.
Nikko: I was expecting this to be another disaster like many of the other DCEU films. I watched one trailer and it got my hopes up a bit, but not enough to fully be excited. But I had hope that James Wan could at least deliver a somewhat enjoyable movie.
Kate: I half expected it to let me down but whole expected it to have amazing visuals. From the trailer and what I know about James Wan as a horror director, I knew it would be pretty. But after Justice League, I just didn’t expect anything.
Matt: All I expected going into this movie was we were going to get a lot of intense visuals and fun colors.
Trishh: For the trailers and posters, I knew it was going to be a pop of color. I had to keep my expectations somewhat into what we got for Wonder Woman, great visuals and simple story.
Lizzy: I expected something fun and campy from the trailers and seeing Aquaman in Justice League. Overall, it was pretty on par with my expectations.
Swara: I expected to see something visually spectacular. On the acting and story front, my expectations were pretty low, based on the DCEU’s overall track record.
2. What did you think about the costuming?
Drew: Black Manta costuming blew everything else out of the water! Also strong costumes for Ocean Master and classic suit Aquaman. The Ocean Master helmet really visually separates Orm from the other characters.
CJ: The costumes look like they were literally ripped from the pages of a comic book! I love, love, LOVE that Momoa got to wear the classic orange and green – I never expected that costume to translate as well as it did to live action. Ocean Master and Black Manta’s armors were also impressive.
Nikko: I was really impressed with the costume design, especially Black Manta’s. I can tell how much dedication went into that costume. Also, seeing Jason Momoa in the classic Aquaman suit was amazing.
Kate: Every character looked like they stepped out of the comic book. I never believed that the classic Aquaman suit would work but damn it did. The detailing in every costume was great, and the only one I wasn’t happy with was Queen Atlanna’s mumu and the choice to give Mera that extremely red wig — but from a comics perspective, it fits with her illustrations.
Matt: I think overall the costumes were on point for me. They took characters are that are known for pretty bland and terrible costumes and made them look fantastic, not much more you can really ask for than that.
Trishh: This was a high point for me, I loved it. I’m a fan of how we usually see a “realistic” or somewhat toned down approach to the superhero costumes, but I am a fan of how the team made the comic costumes come to life in a realistic way but without sacrificing aesthetic or design.
Swara: The costuming was amazing. Everyone was their comic book character stepped out onto the stage. Echoing Matt, they updated the simple original designs to make them truly shine in the film. My favorite costumes were Aquaman’s and Black Manta’s.
3. What did you think about the action sequences?
Drew: Every above ground/live action sequence was very strong. The underwater action sequences were more of a mixed bag. It seemed the larger the scale of the battle or background shot the stronger the film got. The third act army collision was amazing but most of the 1 on 1 undersea battles were uneven. Tridents present a cool visual but not a great underwater fight.
CJ: Wan has a very interesting way of staging the fight scenes. The scenes on land are frantic and featured a lot of 360 degree camera work; at times it felt like playing a video game. In contrast, the underwater sequences had a more epic, fantasy feel to them.
Nikko: The fight scene in this movie were incredible. I was amazed by the fight choreography and the different fighting styles that were incorporated. The end battle between Orm and Arthur was so well put together. I wanted to scream with excitement when I saw that fight.
Kate: I was blown away by how good the fight scenes in the water looked. There seemed to be an element of wuxia in the underwater scenes and it paid off. Plus, let’s be honest, the Polynesian influence in Arthur’s fighting was there and amazing. From battle cries to stances, it was great. Nicole Kidman’s opening fight and the submarine fight set the tone. But the best has to be the use of tridents in the water between Orm and Arthur.
Matt: They were good on both land and water, but thought they did a great job of the underwater fighting and the final underwater battle is just so much fun.
Trishh: We’ve seen fights in both land and air, but what the element of water brought was this middle of not quite flight, plus it also became a weapon itself. I think they were good action scenes with a lot to explore and great camera work.
Lizzy: I loved everything Mera wore outside of maybe her wig on land. However, I appreciate how comic book accurate a lot of the looks are. With the tone of the film, they never felt too cheesy.
Swara: These are some of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen in a comic book or action film. They were fluid, incorporating their environments (especially the ocean one) seamlessly into the fights and the way the characters move. They were a visual thrill.
4. What was your favorite part?
Drew: For a big budget action spectacular this movie was really grounded in the relationship between Arthur’s parents. Anytime they were on-screen together the chemistry was there. Momoa’s narration sets a lovely scene.
CJ: When Arthur confronts the Karathen and confesses his fears of being unworthy and his desire to save his loved ones. It’s an unexpectedly emotional moment and Momoa sells it.
Nikko: It’s an even split between the final fight and Arthur & Mera diving into the trench. The final battle was visually stunning and such a joy to see. Seeing Arthur and Mera diving into the trench while being surrounded by all those creatures was jaw dropping. I can’t begin to image how much work was put into that. It was done very well.
Kate: Diving into the Trench. It was a small part but the creature design of the Trench was gorgeous and dark and Wan’s ability to show the distinction of Arthur and Mera against them was really good. It was clear that his horror skills paid off.
Matt: I want to say just seeing all the sea creatures was my favorite part, but if I had to go to one scene then would say the trench dive scene.
Trishh: We got good scenes, but my favorite has to be the story of Arthur’s parents. The beginning was part fairytale part tragedy and it got me right on the feels.
Lizzy: Mera. Amber Heard knocked it out of the park with this role and between her acting, solid dialogue, and costuming it really came together. Mera was a full-fledged character and far more than a love interest.
Swara: Like Matt, I loved any part with sea creatures. That’s always my jam. For an individual scene, it has to be the diving Into the Trench: it was a great “Excalibur” moment for Arthur that was a great culmination for his journey.
5. Who was your favorite character?
Drew: Black Manta steals the show with his intensity and the cool visual design at every phase of the film. I love how he got his own mini arc in the film. Finally the visual effects involved with his helmet was the most impressive visual effect in a visually stunning movie.
CJ: Black Manta, hands down. He has the coolest costume, the best back story (it broke my heart when he had to leave his dad behind), and the best fight scene. Plus the post credits scene gave me hope for his story to be continued.
Nikko: Arthur was my favorite character. I’m a sucker for any character that undergoes a hero’s / heroine’s journey. He was willing to put his feelings of Atlantis aside for the better of the entire world. He never lost his way or let anything keep him down. He’s a real hero.
Kate: When I walked out of the theater I had to say Mera, her fighting and use of aquamancy made me think of the current animations that she’s in, specifically Throne of Atlantis, but the more I’ve sat with it and talked about it, my favorite character is Arthur. The joy and passion that Momoa brings to the role is unmatched by any of the other actors in the DCEU. And the ability of Wan and Momoa to imbue the character with distinctly Polynesian culture added something more to a character I have never really cared about.
Matt: I don’t really have a favorite character of this movie, as all the characters had issues whether was terrible dialog, bad acting, or just weren’t on the screen that much., but if I had to choose I would say William Dafoe as Vulko or Nicole Kidman as Atlanna. You can clearly tell they are the best actors/actresses in this movie despite very limited screen time.
Trishh: I think Arthur was my favorite. I really like how they gave him a personality and made him more complex that what Justice League showed us.
Lizzy: As I said above, Mera but Nicole Kidman as Atlanna is a close second.
Swara: I think it’s a tie between Arthur and Mera. With Arthur, you got to see him go on a journey facing his insecurities and become a better person and hero for it. With Mera, you got to see her stand up to her family and society to prevent Atlantis from making a huge mistake. Both Jason Momoa and Amber Heard played them wonderfully, and their banter and chemistry was delightful.
6. What were the highs and lows?
Drew: The world building and large-scale filmmaking were both visually and technically impressive. Standout performances include Black Manta and Nicole Kidman as our newest action heroine. The lows, well for me Aquaman’s character was a bit of a low. The quippy comic relief from Justice League got his own movie and his character was never really expanded. The action was cool but I was never drawn in by the main character. Also this movie had too many long self serious speeches delivered directly into the camera.
CJ: The stunning visuals, the insane amount of world-building, Wan’s willingness to embrace all aspects of the Aquaman mythos, and the cast. The lows were the pacing; the second act drags. It honestly felt like two films’ worth of material packed into one.
Nikko: The highs of the film were the visual components, Black Manta’s character, and the moments of humor. It didn’t take itself too serious but also wasn’t filled with pointless humor. One of the major lows was not exploring the backstories of the main characters. I would’ve loved to learn more about Orm and him dealing with his mother’s past. Black Manta is a badass character, but I would’ve loved to seen more of him. Mera mentioned her childhood and her people’s customs, but that never went anywhere.
Kate: The dialogue is weak and the plot is sparce, but the massive amount of action visual beauty makes this film more highs than lows. Namely the use of color and lighting while under water. The work under water is amazing, even taking time o add a small distortion to voices while submerged shows that Wan aimed to create a whole world beneath the surface and not just a set piece.
Matt: The highs were exploring the ocean and seeing all the great creatures and the beautiful visuals in the water. The lows were by far the dialog as it was completely awful and as much as enjoyed this movie, might as well watched it on mute or subtitles so I could read in my own head because it was awful.
Trishh: I think one of the lows was not exploring Orm enough, for being the main villain he was a bit flat. The high is how they expand the lore and differentiating Arthur from the other Atlanteans, for both being true king and half human, we only have an introduction of what he can do.
Lizzy: The fight scenes and cinematography were a major high but there were moments where dialogue did not land and the serious moments conflicted with the campy tone of the movie.
Swara: The highest high was how beautiful and stunning the film was. It had the most amazing and innovative effects I’ve ever seen on screen. From the sea creatures, to Atlantis, to the capturing of the ocean’s sheer beauty, this was a visual masterpiece. The lows had to be the how weighty and tedious the dialogue could be at times, along with how long the film was.
7. Give a one-sentence review of the movie:
Drew: This was the second best DC movie, it is worth seeing in theaters and it is just a tad bit too long.
CJ: A pleasant surprise, and proof that Aquaman can be more than a joke.
Nikko: The best DC film and living proof that you don’t need to over pack a film with multiple heroes for it to be a success.
Kate: Aquaman is a hyper-colored adventure film that lives in comic book realness and even offers up a kaiju, becoming the best DCEU film thus far.
Matt: This is the best DC film by far and it isn’t even close.
Trishh: It’s a fun movie that takes the elements that made Aquaman a joke, and turns them into his strengths.
Lizzy: Not flawless but a whole heck of a lot of fun.
Swara: This is a great DC film that embraces its comic mythology for general audiences, even if it is a tad overstuffed.
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Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.