‘Aquaman’ is a fun superhero romp, represents a turning point for the DCEU

The film’s easygoing tone and humor succeed in saving the DCEU from a possible cancellation

By Patrick Yu

According to IMDb, “Aquaman” has grossed 978 million dollars worldwide – making it the most financially successful film of the Warner Brothers owned franchise, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). This milestone is particularly impressive given the franchise’s poor form. But why is “Aquaman” a success?

Originally, the DC films were made under director Zack Snyder’s vision, whose films were set in a grim, dark tone. After Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was panned by critics for its bleak tone, however, Warner Bros. decided that the Snyder-style of film would not be feasible. However, there was one issue: “Justice League” and “Suicide Squad” had already begun filming, and worse yet, these two films both had Zack Snyder’s cinematic tone. Thus, the studio began interfering with the film production, ordering last minute script rewrites and reshoots. The sudden changes rendered the two films a derided mess. The production of “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman” were further down the line, and as a result, did not suffer from drastic reshoots. Unsurprisingly, those two films received the most acclaim.

“Aquaman” had to contend with high stakes. After the recent box office disaster that was “Justice League”, “Aquaman” had to perform well both critically or financially – otherwise the continued existence of the DCEU would be called into question.

Viewers will find that the dazzling blues and pinks give this film a distinct look; indeed, with director James Wan having been given a fair amount of creative control, “Aquaman” is looks far different from the rest of the DCEU lineup. The overall tone of the film is more lighthearted and easygoing, which is good considering our the overall ridiculousness of our titular hero.

Speaking of which, I can happily report that Jason Momoa does a fine job as the leading man. While in “Justice League”, Aquaman was shown as an obnoxious drunk, this movie portrays his charismatic side. However, the same can’t be said for the villains of the movie, Orm, Aquaman’s half brother and the warmonger-like ruler of Atlantis, and Black Manta, a mercenary determined to kill Aquaman after the latter murdered his father.

Orm seeks to conquer the “surface world” because we humans have dumped mountains of trash in the ocean, and by extension, Atlantis. While there is an effective social commentary on the consequences of pollution, it is hardly explored, and Orm is merely reduced to the mustache twirling, slicked hair wearing archetype of villains.

For an action movie, “Aquaman” is certainly one of the better ones out there. The action is fast paced and the camera work is wonderfully dynamic. As a result, there are some truly exhilarating shots, even if they are marred by deluges of CGI.

Ultimately, “Aquaman” is a success. While it is not a brilliant film, it is at least an indication that the DCEU have fixed their mistakes. With upcoming films such as “Shazam!” appearing to have a similarly light tone, it looks like the DCEU may be able to save the sinking ship.