Long Live the King: Aquaman Comes to Blu-ray and DVD

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Aquaman on Bluray

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was being birthed, there were labor pains. How could they have a successful franchise, when their top selling titles -- Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men -- were already franchised out to other production houses?

It's hard to imagine it now (and for longtime comic boom fans, it was even hard to imagine it then), but at the time all this was going down, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America were not top-tier characters for the House of Ideas. There was literally nowhere to go but up with these guys, and so that's where they went.

The same philosophy can be applied to the DC Extended Universe films. While they didn't have the licensing restrictions, with Warner Brothers holding all the rights to all the characters, the films with their flagship characters when trying to build a unified universe were met with less than applause. MAN OF STEEL and BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE should have been fanboy blockbusters, yet scored dismally across the board. Even JUSTICE LEAGUE, which gave us our first glimpse at several of the DC heroes on the big screen, together for the first time, bore the scars of reviewers who knew the world of these heroes could deliver more.

But the DCEU also gave us WONDER WOMAN, which was an unadulterated success for the DCEU -- a third-tier character, sales-wise, on which there were fewer expectations, allowing director PATTY JENKINS to knock it out of the park. And the same is true now for AQUAMAN -- not even rated nearly as high as third-tier, and somewhat of a running joke of a superhero because his marketing has always been "breathes underwater and talks to fish" -- hardly impressive when you have a land-based catastrophe. It took decades before comic writers began to realize and communicate that Arthur Curry, King of the Seas, was a being who could withstand the pressures of the bottom of the sea and move fluidly in that environment, making him a veritable superman when on land. It's a notion that still hasn't quite gained traction.

But with this JAMES WAN film starring JASON MOMOA as Aquaman, more and more people may begin to realize that Aquaman isn't just a hero -- he's very, very cool.

Having been introduced in JUSTICE LEAGUE, viewers had no clue as to what Aquaman's story was. He was recruited by Batman, and for the rest of the movie, he was just there. AQUAMAN gives us the fleshed-out origin viewers needed to see, to get inside the head of the character, see the motivations of this unlikely and unwilling hero. 

Arthur is the half-breed son of Atlantian Queen Atlanna (NICOLE KIDMAN) and lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (TEMUERA MORRISON). As Atlantean royalty, he can breathe on land or under the sea, and is trained in his abilities by the royal vizier, Vulko (WILLEM DAFOE), who visits the exiled Arthur in secret preparing him for the day when he will take the throne. But Arthur doesn't want the throne, nor anything to do with the people who put his mother to death for daring to have him as a son.

But he reluctant hero may have no choice in the matter. His half-brother Orm (PATRICK WILSON) rules for the time being, and seeks to unite the other six kingdoms to wage a war against the surface -- and not without good reason. He has engaged the services of a high-tech pirate (YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN II) to steal a submarine and fake an attack on Atlantis, giving him the excuse he needs. The pirate, however, has already run into Arthur, and blames him (also with good reason) for the death of his father. Taking the Atlantean technology provided to him as payment for services rendered, he becomes Black Manta, and his only goal is the death of Aquaman.

Arthur is pulled into the fight when he meets Princess Mera (AMBER HEARD), who believes him to be the one true king. Convincing him that he's the only one who can stop the coming war, they end up on a world-spanning quest to locate the trident of the first king, which would embue Arthur with unimaginable power and seal his claim to the throne.

AQUAMAN is wall-to-wall action and adventure, with a color palette that pops off the screen and characters rich with their own motivations and desires. The variety of deep-sea life, the enormous sea-horses, the Kraken, the Trench -- all of it is one scene of wonder after another, buffeting the audience senseless as Momoa chews up every scene with verve and vigor.

This Blu-ray release comes with a wealth of bonus features, which take us behind the scenes of James Wan's worldbuilding view, the energy Momoa poured into becoming his character -- even the special paints that had to be invented for the costuming to work in an underwater environment (which, despite the enormity of blue-screen and harness work involved in this film, was still a necessary element).

This is the kind of film the DCEU desperately needs. Every scene crackles, the mixture of action and comedy is just right, and -- in the simplest of layman's terms -- it's just plain fun! Hopefully DC and Warner Brothers can learn something from AQUAMAN that they can take away and inject into the rest of their future DCEU films.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0