Aquaman (2018): ‘DC’s Black PanThor’ – A Film Review


So, while Marvel has been making significant headway with its cinematic universe, DC has been trailing behind. The recent additions of Suicide Squad and Justice League were huge indicators of this ‘rushing to catch up’. Both very poor and crammed with characters, they seemed blatantly desperate to introduce various characters into a shared universe. All without a film to set them up and to provide their backstories to us. One such Superhero was Aquaman. Almost in reverse, the super hero has contributed to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, but only in late 2018 did Aquaman get his proper service in a standalone film. DC have built up a bit of a reputation for botching their films, with only Wonder Woman, arguably, being of any merit as film. So, what shall the James Wan film, with Jason Mamoa as its star, be able to bring to the table?

Look and Style

At very least, DC seem to be stepping up their game with Aquaman, the CGI and the depiction of worlds seem to be stunning and colourful. Topping this off the fight choreography and cinematography can be absolutely stunning. The CGI doesn’t always work throughout the film but it generally keeps the film visibly interesting and beautiful, whilst the fight scenes are unique and ambitious. What we see fits in line with the Fantasy-like elements and colourful paradises that we’ve previously seen in the DC universe with Wonder Woman. It does remind of Thor at times but this was perhaps always going to be hard to avoid, which brings us to the plot.

The Super Hero Films

Interestingly James Wan has remarked upon the film as being unique: “We’re used to superhero movies where the threat is from another dimension or aliens from another universe (…) but we haven’t seen one where the main threat is from a massive, massive civilization (sic) that is right under our nose”. Black Panther beat them to this and Aquaman certainly shares plot elements of both Black Panther and Thor. It has also been noted that James Wan was influenced by films like Raiders of the Lost Ark like Black Panther was Marvel’s James Bond. In fact, the plot only really starts to get going when they start looking for the arc of the covenant- I mean their MacGuffin.

Interestingly enough, the other unspoken influence could well have been The Lion King, with a large part of Aquaman holding huge similarities – particularly in character motivation SPOILERS: Arthur (Momoa) turns his back on a kingdom in turmoil, like Simba had to. In part due to a confrontation with a relative no less: also see Black Panther. END OF SPOILERS. Despite the similarities the films biggest shortcomings lie in setting things up and ending things but most notably with the question of the antagonists. We understand their motivations and feel for them, unfortunately a lot more than we do for Aquaman. Following this, Patrick Wilson is a hard casting for a villain, his performance is great but his face is just too nice to effectively drive villainous.


Other than this, Aquaman may actually be one of DC’s better films – though admittedly this doesn’t say much. The performances by the cast are mostly on point and there are some great additions to the line up, whilst it also looks amazing. The film really gets going in the middle of the film, where the chemistry between Momoa and Amber Heard can get going. For these reasons the film can hold up, and anyone that can get over the misdirected establishments can make it through to the end, despite any allegiance problems. The ending strangely just doesn’t quite live up to the promises made by the rest of the film and effective conflicts could have been executed a lot better. SPOILERS Especially if one couldn’t control the sea and had to fight harder to overcome adversaries, or actually face emotional turmoil over the responsibilities of Kingship and the family troubles involved with that. END OF SPOILERS.


Years ago, Aquaman’s (Jason Momoa) mother left him with his father to grow up. In the present he finds that his people are struggling with the notion of going to war with the surface (humanity). As the rightful heir, he needs to learn how to reclaim his title and act as Master of the Sea.



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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.

Films Mentioned

Aquaman (d. James Wan Australia/USA 2018)

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (d. Zack Snyder USA 2016)

Black Panther (d. Ryan Coogler USA 2018)

Justice League (d. Zack Snyder USA 2017)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (d.  Steven Spielberg USA 1981)

Suicide Squad (d. David Ayer USA 2016)

The Lion King (d. Roger Allers, Rob Miknkoff USA 1994)

Thor (d. Kenneth Branagh USA 2011)

Wonder Woman (d. Patty Jenkins USA/China/Hong Kong 2017)

Further Reading

Official Site

Interview Comic-Con

Interview with James Wan

Interview with Jason Momoa

Behind the Scenes

Easter Eggs


If you liked this

Justice League (2017): ‘DC’s attempt at a Film’ – A Film Review

Black Panther (2018): ‘Marvel’s Black Superhero Film’ – A Film Review

Wonder Woman (2017) – A Film Review

Thor: Ragnarok (2017): ‘A Matter of Style and Tone’ – A Film Review

Batman V Superman: Justice League (2016) – A Film Review

Suicide Squad (2016) – A Film Review

Jigsaw (2017): ‘Just When You Thought it was Dead’ – A Film Review

This was an analytical review of….

Aquaman (d. James Wan Australia/USA 2018)

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