PG-13 Dir: James Wan | Warner | 2h 23min
Plot: What’s it about?
It’s been over a decade since the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched and in that time, it’s done quite well. Any lover of comics knows that DC came first, and heroes like Batman and Superman had a few decades before contending with the likes of Spider-Man or Iron Man. And with the success of the MCU, so launched the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). 2013’s Man of Steel is credited as being the first film, think of it as DC’s Iron Man. Though we all know the tale of Superman, it was told once again to kick things off…again. Leaping forward to 2017, we were introduced to Aquaman. No longer the Arian-looking, seahorse riding hero we knew in comics, this version is a bit more contemporary. And he stole the show in Justice League. Look for history to repeat itself, this time with a different breed of superheroes. Ready or not, here we go!
Given that this is an origin story, we’re treated to how Arthur Curry (aka “Aquaman” – Jason Momoa) came to be. Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Queen of Atlantis has fled her underwater kingdom and begins a relationship with a kindly lighthouse keeper, Thomas (Temuera Morrison) who rescued her. But they no sooner celebrate the birth of their child than some Atlantean troops capture Atlanna, leaving Thomas to raise his son. Flash forward and we now see a grown Arthur who saves a submarine from pirates (which gives us the backstory on Black Manta – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and introduces us to Mera (Amber Heard). She wants him to return to his underwater sea kingdom and claim his throne before his evil half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) starts a war with the surface dwellers. He’s also to procure the magical trident to cement his place as the rightful ruler of the sea. Did he get it? Look at the box art/movie poster and your question will be answered.
Truthfully, there’s a lot to like about Aquaman and if you can shift your mind into neutral for 143 minutes, you’ll enjoy it. Admittedly I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy and some of the elements of the DCEU don’t resinate with me. I only recognized Black Manta from the old Justice League cartoons that I watched as a kid. The centerpiece is, of course, Jason Momoa who’s effortless charisma help carry the film even with such established stars like Patrick Wilson and Willem Dafoe. Special effects aside, I was tempted to make a drinking game out of the number of times he flips his hair back over his shoulders. Once you notice it, you’ll always notice it. The film was a box office success, something that the DCEU needed to ensure its longevity. Yes, there’ll be an Aquaman 2 and more. The DCEU is happening, so it’s best to embrace it and get in on the ground floor. As for the titular hero, if you can make riding a giant seahorse look cool, it can’t be all bad, right?
Video: How’s it look?
It goes without saying that Aquaman will (and does) look simply fabulous on the 4K format. This is the kind of movie that was meant for home theater demo material and it delivers. The image comes in varying aspect ratios of 2.40:1 and 1.78:1, with the first 30 minutes being shown in the wider aspect ratio. The film really excels underwater where, obviously, the lion’s share of the film takes place. The bioluminescent shown in the Atlantean culture really takes advantage of the HDR, offering up deep, dark blacks while showcasing the digital effects. Detail is second to none as well, showcasing Aquaman’s tribal tattoos, the detail in the faces as well as some of the sea creatures that are featured. It’s a stunning image.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Both the 4K and Blu-ray feature the same Atmos track, yet both also feature a redundant DTS HD Master Audio mix that’s selected as the default option. Go figure. But, as is the case with the video, this is a film that’s made for reference-quality technical levels and it excels on the audio front. The storm that opens the film showcases the depth and range of your setup and given that most of the scenes have a low hum to them, the LFE are almost always constantly churning. Vocals are pure and crisp, as we’d expect and the atmospheric orchestra fills the room with a sonic “goodness” that’s sure to please. Again, this is the epitome of what an action/adventure film should sound like.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are no supplements to be found on the 4K disc, rather they’re all relegated to its Blu-ray counterpart. So with that said, let’s begin.
- Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman – A somewhat chronological look at the making of the film that includes the rigs used to mimic the underwater movement as well as use of the bluescreen and creating Aquaman’s iconic armor.
- Becoming Aquaman – Jason Momoa shares his thoughts on being cast in the role, how he prepared for it and we get a look at his rehearsals with the swimming rig.
- James Wan: World Builder – Wan takes a very hands-on approach to his films and we get to see some of the depths he went to trying to re-create life under the sea. The amount of visual shots are also massive, and we get a look at the digital hair used in the film (which I personally found distracting).
- Aqua Tech – Again, we are treated to some of the virtual reality design as well as set design, the use of lighting walls and gimbals to create the vast, underwater effects seen in the film.
- Atlantis Warfare – Pretty self-explanatory as this showcases the use of the weapons that the Atlanteans used as well as some of the physical props and special effects used.
- The Dark Depths of Black Manta – Actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II discusses some of the motivations by his character in addition to his comic book origins and his use of weaponry and tech in the film.
- Heroines of Atlantis – Not to be overlooked, the lovely ladies are featured, notably Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman discussing their characters and roles, respectively.
- Villainous Training – Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II beef up for their respective roles and go through some fight training to play opposite Jason Momoa.
- Kingdoms of the Seven Seas – Dolph Lundgren serves as our tour guide through the six kingdoms shown in the film and teases us, ever so slightly, for one that wasn’t featured, but will obviously be in the sequel.
- Creating Undersea Creatures – Ever seen a giant seahorse? This feature gives us a peek at how the film’s digital bestiary of undersea creatures came to be.
- A Match Made in Atlantis – Jason Momoa and Amber Heard share some anecdotes from the shoot and bestow compliments on how well the two loved working together.
- Scene Study Breakdowns – Broken down into three shorter vingnettes, we get a brief look at some technical knowledge of how these came to be.
- Submarine Attack
- Showdown in Sicily
- The Trench
- Exclusive Sneak Peek of Shazam! – Though this will feel pointless and dated in a year or so, Warner is using the popularity of Aquaman to push the next hero of the DC Universe – Shazam!
The Bottom Line
I have to give the DC Universe credit as they are trying to make something happen. To their credit, the MCU set the bar pretty high. I didn’t dislike Aquaman, but I felt it over-boated and more of a “look how cool this is” kind of film. But I’m also a sucker for anything with Nicole Kidman. If you’re stick of hearing about Infinity Stones and want to switch gears, there’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor and the ladies will no doubt like to look at Momoa. The 4K disc offers reference-quality audio and video, so it’s one for your home theater as well.