Directed By: James Wan
Release Date: December 21, 2018
Starring: Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman
It's been a year since the events of Justice League put Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) in the public eye when he helped save the world, but the man known as Aquaman doesn't quite see himself a hero. He spends his days saving people and fighting pirates, sure, but he's also more interested in getting back in time for his local bar's happy hour, content with a life that has allowed him to shirk his destiny as the king of Atlantis, an underwater kingdom that views him as a bastard - he is, after all, the son of Atlantean queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and a land-dwelling lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) - and is ruled instead by a half-brother he's never met, King Orm (Patrick Wilson).
When Orm decides it's time to punish the surface world for treating Earth's oceans like dumping grounds, Arthur is found by Mera (Amber Heard), a princess engaged to Orm, and called to action in order to help stop Orm. After seeing what his half-brother is capable of when Atlantis fires a global warning shot that nearly claims the life of his father, Arthur finally agrees to join Mera, setting off on a journey to stop Orm, save the world, and - quite possibly - embrace who he has always meant to be.
That a movie centered around Aquaman, a character who has spent decades as somewhat of a pop culture joke for many who know little about the character other than he can talk to fish, even works is no small miracle. As the sixth film in the troubled DC Extended Universe, Aquaman also has the unfortunate burden of being saddled with the baggage of its predecessors. For me personally, though I enjoyed 2013's Man of Steel and really loved 2017's Wonder Woman, I haven't quite dug any of the other entries, finding 2016's Batman v Superman an utter slog, Suicide Squad an outright waste of opportunity, and Justice League a mixed bag of good and bad traits that all add up to disappointment nonetheless.
Wisely, director James Wan and his creative team all make the decision to distance Aquaman from the franchise it's a part of. Aside from a quick reference to the events of Justice League, Aquaman doesn't actively try to link itself to the franchise by throwing in connections left and right to films past (or future) or cameos from any of the other major players, focusing purely on Arthur and his story alone, and for the most part, it works simply due to trying to stand on its own two feet. Unlike, say, Batman v Superman, which felt like an attempt to cram together too many ideas, or Suicide Squad, which felt like a Frankenstein's monster of different visions of a single movie haphazardly patched together, Aquaman benefits from staying on course with Arthur's journey from reluctant do-gooder to true hero and king.
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