Warning: contains spoilers!
I am not ashamed to say that I have always been a big fan of superhero films. I don’t admit to being a connoisseur that can tell you the difference between the comic books and the movies, but I do admit to being a bit partial to the Marvel films rather than the DC ones. I am also not ashamed to say that I am a big fan of Jason Momoa, especially of his general aesthetic and built. He has consistently been very easy on the eyes, so when it was slated that he was to be Aquaman and have a standalone film separate from the Justice League, despite how I felt about DC films, I bit the bullet and went to watch it.
Whilst Aquaman doesn’t particularly stray away from your generic superhero film, it does have certain moments that set it apart. Momoa’s character Arthur is not your typical broody male protagonist with a dark backstory, but a slightly well-adjusted adult who is seemingly clear about what he wants to do and who he is. Uninterested in being ruler of Atlantis despite being the rightful heir, Arthur only embarks on the forcible quest to retrieve the magical and mythical Trident of Atlan to claim the throne from his half-brother Orm when the surface world (and subsequently his home and family) is threatened. With a lot of assistance from Princess Mera of Xebel, Arthur Curry eventually begins to embrace the role he was born to fulfill and becomes the Aquaman.
(Source: Google Images)
A large theme of this film is one that is not unfamiliar. The ideology of ‘half-breeds’ being marginalized and stigmatised against is a recurring underlying trope carrying different masks, from stories that look at identity diaspora in mixed race children such as Dear White People to large movie franchises that rebrand this discrimination like ‘half-bloods’ in the Harry Potter series. The resolution to this theme is not indignation as it usually is however, but a sense that the responsibility the protagonist holds surpasses the discrimination. This was a very mature take to the issue that adds a certain class to both the character and the film.
Whilst having an antagonist for Aquaman to face off with, the film does not villainize King Orm (played by Patrick Wilson) completely. His character contains human elements such as great ambition (to restore Atlantis to what it once was), a noble cause (going to war with the surface for the damage it has done to the oceans) and familial issues (having to deal with a loss of a mother). This is recognised in the film itself when Queen Atlanna (played by Nicole Kidman) states that her son is not evil, but simply misguided for too long. King Orm whilst not portrayed as repentant at the end, does seem to find relief and comfort in seeing his mother alive, and Aquaman’s offer to speak to King Orm when he is ready shows promise for pleasant resolution. This too shows maturity within the superhero film and sets it apart from the generic plots of the rest.
If there is one thing to nitpick on however, it would be the motivation behind King Orm’s attack on the surface world. Using the environmental angle to spur a villainous plot is acceptable only when the angle is properly fleshed out. Apart from a few careless examples in King Orm’s soliloquy, the environmental damage and the effect it has on the Atlantians isn’t fully portrayed, making it difficult for the audience to really see it as motivation. It weakens the effect of King Orm’s character as a whole as it makes him feel slightly directionless and petty, and also does not actually promote any awareness of the kind of oceanic environmental issues that the audience can get behind. The characters of the father-son sea pirates that lead to the birth of Manta was also a sloppy sub-plot that just poorly distracted from everything else happening in the film and felt like an unnecessary sideshow created to fill up more action scenes and minutes.
All in all however, James Wan’s Aquaman is a visual treat on every level, from the aesthetics of Jason Momoa to the impressive effects and graphics of the underwater world Atlantis. The attention to detail within the underwater city is nothing short of stunning and definitely something that needs to be experienced only on the big screen. With minimal flaws, a solid story and mature character developments, Aquaman is a quality film to end the year with. Here’s to hoping it will pave the way for greater DC films to come.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Muslim World Today.