The reviews are in for Aquaman and critics have enjoyed the latest DC Films offering, for the most part. The film sits at 75% on Rotten Tomatoes after 64 reviews, as of this writing. If Aquaman holds that line on the Tomatometer, it will be the second-best-reviewed DC movie of the current era. It would only trail Wonder Woman (93%) in that respect.
We called Aquaman the best DC-based film of the current (post-Nolan) era in our review and stand by it. Director James Wan delivered a thrilling fantasy adventure with lots of charm and even more heart. Moviegoers who give the film a chance are going to get their money’s worth.
You can see an excerpt from our review below, followed by a balanced sample of what other critics are saying. Everyone’s entitle to their opinion and most reviewers are in favor of Aquaman.
Superhero movies have been abundant for several years now. That’s not a complaint, but necessary to point out while acknowledging the difficulty a filmmaker faces when trying to offer something truly unique in the genre. Director James Wan has answered the call with Aquaman, an epic fantasy adventure on the high seas that feels completely original while still retaining some classic superhero sensibilities.
James Wan has crafted a superhero comic book come to glorious, vivid life. First and foremost, no other superhero movie has really ever looked like this before — the colors, imagery, and visual concepts are big and bold, bright and stunning, taking us back and forth from complimentary and contrasting surface-world locales to breathtaking undersea settings. Atlantis is like Avatar underwater, if the Na’vi had advanced sci-fi technology. There are hidden seas within the sea, dark and foreboding caverns of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an artist-poets civilization of Fishermen, and other glorious places within the oceans to explore.
James Wan‘s Aquaman is impossibly fun. Taking on the first solo movie about the Atlantean King is behemoth task, as the general–and incorrect–perception of Arthur Curry is that he’s the punchline of the DC Universe. Wan dispels that myth with ease in the action-packed adventure, creating something utterly fantastical.
If you want a real movie with real characters using something beyond a third-grade vocabulary and doing things other than getting preposterously physical in, on or near water, Aquaman will be a very trying two and a half hours (actually less if you don’t stay for what seems like 15 minutes of very slowly crawling end credits — why can’t these be sped up as on TV?). The laws of physics are meant to be broken, characters make easy-to-understand statements rather than have conversations, and the resemblance to a video game is more pronounced than is any kinship with real movies made before this century.
There’s a scene that comes early on in the goofy, tonally bizarre Aquaman where Jason Momoa’s half-Atlantean sea-hunk makes his first big entrance by boarding a Russian submarine that’s been hijacked by hi-tech pirates. He’s arrived to dispense his signature brand of fishy whoop-ass. The shirtless superhero leaps down through the top hatch, turns to the lead bad guy (who will later become “Manta”) and uncorks the one-liner: “Permission to come aboard.” Momoa delivers the cornball quip with a Dwayne Johnson-like smirk, then whips his long hair like he’s shooting an Axe Body Spray commercial as a thick heavy metal guitar riff is struck. I laughed, but I’m still not sure if I was meant to. That pretty much sums up every minute (and there a lot of them) in director James Wan’s new DC action-comedy folly. It can’t decide if it wants to be silly or serious — a superhero movie or a parody of one.
At the end of the day (or, anytime of the day, really) I think I admire Aquaman more than I like it. It’s certainly ambitious. Remember earlier when I used the cliché about this movie “swinging for the fences.” I do think Wan and company pulled off what they wanted to accomplish. But it’s basically a “swing for the fence” where the ball donks off someone’s head and then goes over the fence, leaving us all standing here not knowing quite what to make of what we just saw. Should I cheer? Should I laugh? Is everyone okay? Aquaman is one strange movie, but certainly a fun one.
Wan is usually great at juggling genres and doesn’t disappoint here. There’s a sense of fantasy wonder a la “Black Panther” and “Avatar” as Arthur sees the neon majesty of Atlantis for the first time, and Wan borrows from his own horror-movie tool set to unleash the vicious and monstrous Trench (imagine dudes crossed with piranhas) on our heroes. But unlike its cinematic cousins “Wonder Woman” and “Suicide Squad,” “Aquaman” is akin to a trove of borrowed treasures instead of being its own thing.
If you’ve ever wondered what pure joy looks like on screen, look no further than the latest film in the DC Universe, Aquaman. It’s littered with moments that marry grand spectacle, rousing music, and dramatic stakes with results sure to elicit ear-to-ear smiles from anyone from ages 8 to 80. Director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring, Furious 7) has infused his DC adaptation with a flair we rarely see in filmmaking these days. It’s as if, with every single take, he said: “Well, if we’re going to make a movie about a muscle-bound man who talks to fish, let’s make this really crazy.” Then you get scenes of two characters kissing while the camera does multiple 360-degree circles around them, complete with massive explosions and frickin’ laser beams whizzing by their heads. It’s bonkers. It’s bananas. It doesn’t always work but when it does, oh wow, is it fun.
Aquaman isn’t like the other DC Comics superheroes, so it seems only right that his big-screen solo show should have a personality all its own — which, in the hands of “Furious 7” director James Wan, it does. Gone is the Aryan-looking Atlantean in green-and-orange spandex, replaced with a bare-chested Hawaiian super-stud with long, shaggy surfer hair and all-over tribal tattoos. After being unveiled to the DC Comics Extended Universe as the scales of “Justice League” last year, Aquaman gets his own adventure, and it’s kind of a shock that it doesn’t suck, but only if you’re willing to sit through two hours of waterlogged world-building before the movie finally takes off.
Aquaman’s greatest superpower isn’t controlling the seas or communicating with fish – it’s the ability to embrace and absorb his own inherent cheesiness and use it to make himself more entertaining to watch. His first solo movie is often corny, but it owns all that with the audacity and fearlessness to just go for it. This James Wan-directed DC film declares to the world that this is a giant B-movie where krakens are voiced by screen legends and characters ride seahorses into battle, and it’s not going to pause to let you dwell on any of that. It’s precisely because it’s so damn zany, unafraid to embrace its comic bookiness, and is just plain out there that Aquaman is a blast.
For about the first half of its running time, Aquaman feels like a fake movie. (And yes, I know it was already a fake movie on Entourage.)
To be clear, I mean that as a compliment. There’s a knowing silliness to Aquaman that helps gloss over its sometimes-shaky CG and over-complicated mythology, and a willingness to go for broke that keeps us guessing about what we’ll witness next.
Crashing down like a relentless tsunami that has vomited out every colorful sea creature from the ocean depths, the stranger and weirder the better, Warner Bros.’ “Aquaman” is a sight to behold. The DC superhero film following “Justice League” and “Wonder Woman” is a soap opera supernova of overblown melodrama that’s incredibly goofy and garishly designed. It’s go for broke, it’s insane and subtlety is not anywhere within its vocabulary. It’s not a good movie per se, featuring risible dialogue, acting, plot, story, intention, with some of the most egregiously ugly design choices in recent memory in terms of costumes, hair, color and more, but it can be at times, undeniably entertaining, and at the very least, never ever dull. “Aquaman” is empty-headed and as dumb as the lead character it constantly mocks as an imbecile (an amusing touch), but it possesses the capacity to thrill, and awe nonetheless. And honestly, audiences will love this above all.