Aquaman is a gloriously ridiculous film which embraces the absurdity that often destroys other comic book movies.

Hear me out. In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer we were given a severely underutilized and basically unrecognizable Galactus.

Maybe he’s really is in the cloud, but that tease of his silhouette just made the whole thing worse.

Who else wanted to see the real Galactus here? Sure, his get-up looks kinda dumb, but so what? It’s a comic book movie, costumes are just part of the deal. If they had dug in and given people more interaction between Norrin Radd and Galactus, when the Silver Surfer turned against him at the end, it could have had a lot more emotional weight, and instead, it just kinda fell flat.

Ryan Reynolds Gets Boned

In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we were once again teased with the prospect of something equally awesome and ridiculous, Deadpool.

But instead of getting the Deadpool everyone loved, we got this. . . We’ll get back to Deadpool in a minute, but first . . .

There was a lot not to like about this one, which is sad because it could actually have been a great movie. In addition to Ryan Reynolds, it had Tim Robbins, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Angela Basset, and even Taika Waititi. Green Lantern failed because they blew it with the villain. Yet again, instead of the real Parallax, we got a weird giant blob like smoke thing floating through space. and while they did an alright job with the constructs (the hot wheels bit was actually pretty good), if Hal had been able to go off the rails with the constructs he used to fight a GOOD version of Parallax, who knows how it might have fared.

This was pretty ridiculous, but not in the good way.

Alright, back to Deadpool. Eventually, Fox got it right and brought Ryan Reynolds back for a REAL Deadpool film and it succeeded because it embraced the character and the story. , , and then for the rerelease of the 2nd film, we got this:

Fox fully embraced who Wade Wilson is and it was glorious. While both the films definitely had their fair share of issues, they were still good films and the succeeded because of accepting the character and just going with it.

Embracing Aquaman

While others might disagree, for me, Aquaman was one of the few highlights of Justice League, from his first encounter with Batman/Bruce Wayne to unknowingly sitting on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, he was just fun to have around. Director James Wan along with writers David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beal took that character who hadn’t yet embraced his alter ego and made him into one of the highlights of the DCEU.

While the film followed the ‘The Hero’s Journey’ almost to spec, it did so in a way that combined aspects of movies like National Treasure, Galaxy Quest, Pacific Rim, and Pirates of the Caribbean with a film score that sounded like something out of Tron: Legacy. The story revolves around Arthur Curry taking his rightful place as the king of Atlantis before his half-brother Orm starts a war with the surface world and more or less destroys the planet. Initially uninterested in having anything to do with Atlantis due to the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death, after an attack nearly killed his father, Arthur agrees to help Mera stop Orm.

While there is a significant part of the film devoted to relationship drama and the political machinations of Atlantis, the quest for King Atlan’s trident and the rise of Black Manta are where this film really shines.

The Rise of Black Manta

Black Manta - Aquaman

After the events Justice League, it seems that the heroes are all off doing their solo thing again. . . well, at least it seems like Aquaman is. When a Russian sub is attacked by pirates and sends out a distress call and Arthur comes to its aid. During the fight, Manta’s father is pinned down and unable to break loose, Manta begs for Arthur to help free him, but Arthur refuses because it’s really their fault they’re in that jam. Jesse, Manta’s father, activates a grenade, forcing Manta to leave him behind in order to save himself.

So of course, in true comic book fashion, Aquaman now has an arch nemesis that he’s at least a little responsible for helping to create. Of course, this pirate has an amazing skill-set and is able to take the Atlantean technology given to him by Orm (in return for helping start the war, because of course there had to be some other connection between him and Arthur) and reconstruct it into his Black Manta suit.

The whole thing is just a typical comic book storyline that doesn’t always play on film the way it does in a book, but when tied together with the rest of the movie, it just works here. It fits in perfectly with the rest of the film.

Arthur’s Quest.

I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the continuity issues between what we learned about Arthur in Justice League and in this film and I don’t see it. When Arthur fights Steppenwolf underwater with Mera, nothing indicated that they knew each other and the location looked more like ruins than Atlantis itself, indicating it may have been outside of Atlantis proper. Outside of that, it’s not like comic book franchises don’t revise history every once in a while to serve the greater story.

In any case, in THIS film, Mera and Arthur go on a National Treasure/ Tomb Raider style hunt for the legendary trident of King Atlan, a weapon which will give Arthur the power and respect needed to defeat his half-brother Orm and take the throne. In proper ‘Hero’s Journey’ fashion, Arthur must face a series of challenges that test his resolve and ultimately leads him to become the hero he is destined to be. These scenes provide some of the most thought-provokingly absurd moments of the film.

Throughout their quest and the film, we meet several of the Atleantean sub-species including good old-fashioned mer-people, The Trench and the Brine. We also travel to the core of the earth where Dinosaurs live along with, SURPRISE, Arthur’s mother, Queen Atlanna, and the mother of all Kaiju’s,
the Karathen . . . voiced by the ORIGINAL MARY POPPINS, Julie-freakin-Andrews, who is guarding King Atlan’s remains and the Trident. . . and this is where shit gets really weird and AWESOME.

Utilizing his ability to talk to sea creatures, Arthur convinces the Karathen that he is worthy and wins the right to take the trident and King Atlan’s armor, which just happens to resemble his classic attire.Watching him emerge from the cave, I had to ask myself, do you think it was awkward for Arthur to change into the costume? I mean he had to take it off the king’s skeleton and then undress himself and put it on. That just seems like it would be a little. . . uncomfortable.

But then magic happens. Riding on the back of the Karathen, Arthur breaks through the ocean floor and joins the Brine in their fight against Orm who is trying to gather enough control to become “Ocean Master”. . . and it just works. All of the ridiculous moments in this film on their own would have been groan-inducing, but all together, they just make for a really fun ride.

Final Thoughts

While the current DC universe doesn’t really have a high bar for comparison, I’d firmly put Aquaman 2nd for me, right between Wonder Woman at #1 and Man of Steel at #3. The remainder or my rankings doesn’t really matter, but if you want to know, it rounds out with, in order, Justice League, Suicide Squad, and Batman v Superman comes in dead last.

So what about you guys? Let us know what you thought of Aquaman and how you rank the films of the DCEU.