Aquaman Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Theatrical Release - December 21, 2018 Home Media Release - March 5, 2019 - Digital; March 26, 2019 - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD
From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime - one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be... a king.
The film also stars Amber Heard (Justice League, Magic Mike XXL) as Mera, a firece warrior and Aquaman's ally throughout his journey; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man 2) as Vulko, council to the Atlantean throne; Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring films, Watchmen) as Orm/Ocean Master, the present King of Atlantis; Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables films) as Nereus, King of the Atlantean tribe Xebel; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (upcoming Baywatch, Netflix's The Get Down) as the vengeful Black Manta; and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Lion) as Arthur's mom, Atlanna; as well as Ludi Lin (Power Rangers) as Captain Murk, Atlantean Commando; and Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Green Lantern) as Arthur's dad, Tom Curry.
Wan directs from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (The Conjuring 2) and Will Beall (Gangstar Squad, TV's Training Day), story by Geoff Johns & James Wan and Will Beall, based on characters from DC, Aquaman created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisnger. The film is produced by Peter Safran and Rob Cowan, with Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Jon Berg, Geoff Johns and Walter Hamada serving as executive producers.
Wan's team behind the scenes includes such frequent collaborators as Oscar-nominated director of photography Don Burgess (The Conjuring 2, Forrest Gump), his five-time editor Kirk Morri (The Conjuring films, Furious 7, the Insidious films), and production designer Bill Brzeski (Furious 7). They are joined by costume designer Kym Barrett (The Matrix trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man) and composer Rupert Gregson-Williams (Wonder Woman).
Defying expectations of basically everyone, and shaking off a lot of the dreariness that hindered some of the previous entries in the DC Comics-based cinematic universe, Aquaman is a colorful, absurdly fun adventure that does right by the character's comic book roots. Delivering an unbelievable scope akin to something out of Star Wars or Avatar, Aquaman excels as an inventive, creative visual tour-de-force but does stumble when it comes to certain aspects of film's story and some of the characters.
Director James Wan absolutely embraces the source material and, as a result, fans get arguably the funnest DC Comics movie to date, but by no means is it the best. Wonder Woman still reigns as easily the best big-screen DC Comics movie since The Dark Knight, but Aquaman is still no slouch. The movie manages to marry its insane visual style with a free-wheeling road trip vibe that wouldn't be out of place in a 1980s adventure flick. Aquaman may not hit all the right notes, but it does hit a lot of the key ones, resulting in a film that, even with its flaws, is still a heckuva good time.
Jason Momoa is clearly having a blast playing the fan-favorite DC Comics hero, portraying the King of the Seas as a gruffy brawler. He gives off this cool surfer vibe that, surprisingly, works even when he dons Aquaman's iconic costume (which, amazingly, looks pretty great here). Whether he's taking down pirates, fighting Black Manta, or riding a massive underwater creature, or just having a beer with his Dad, Momoa makes every bit of it work. He's charming and has a great on-screen presence. Unfortunately, his co-star, Amber Heard, doesn't fare as well. Playing Princess Mera, at times she appears awkward and even lost (which, given how nuts the film can get, makes sense), and doesn't have the commanding presence the character needs. She's serviceable in the role, but is possibly the movie's weakest link.
Patrick Wilson adds a Shakespearean spin to Orm and gleefully chews every bit of scenery as he plots war against the surface. And while he's the film's main antagonist, it would be hard to actually call him a villain. He wants what's best for his people, but just happens to be misguided in his efforts (which actually leads to a neat little moment in the film's climax between he and Aquaman). The rest of the cast is shockingly impressive, and includes the likes of Nicole Kidman, Djimon Hounsou, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and Temuera Morrison, among others. Even though some of these actors only get a few brief scenes, they definitely leave an impression. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a stand-out as Black Manta, bringing some real pathos to the role.
The massive cast is able to absolutely sell Aquaman's overly complicated-but-still-predictable plot. We all know the hero is going to win the day, and movie takes us on a mostly crazy adventure to get us to that expected climax. However, the story takes a little longer than it should to get our characters where they need to be. Aquaman tosses in a few complications to pad out the respective journeys of both Arthur and Orm, and that starts to wear a little the further along it gets. It's a bit of a mess, really, with so much stuff thrown out there that some big events earlier in the film seem to be forgotten by the end. That said, any tedium felt is immediately washed away as we actually get to the film's massive (and stunning) climactic battle.
In general, the visual effects for the most part are so solid that it's hard to take your eyes off the screen. It's nearly impossible to predict just what we'll see next. An octopus playing drums? You got it, Massive prehistoric animals ripping through the water? Yup. The terrifying creatures of the Trench? Check (there's a creepy sequence involving them that really plays up Wan's horror roots)! There is always something new to see and it's usually pretty bonkers. There are also legitimate moments of awe, especially the deeper we get into the world of Atlantis and the creatures that inhabit the deep. However, the effects work isn't perfect across the board. There's some iffy de-aging work early in the film, and some CGI costume and hair work (yup) that looks pretty terrible and, in a few instances, unfinished (one example: Orm's golden armor). There are also couple moments where practical effects would've made more sense than CGI (again, some of the costumes, for one), but these moments don't break the film, but it does get a little distracting. And really, these moments are minuscule compared to the brilliant and captivating work seen elsewhere in the movie.
Aquaman works so well because it's a clear celebration of Aquaman and his mythos, and the film so vividly brings all the sea-based hero's world to life (future DC Comics-based live-action movies should definitely take cues from this flick). And it's done in a way that feels actually believable, no matter how weird it can occasionally get. It's a world one would easily get lost in, as it seems like there's always something new to discover from one minute to the next. There is a massive kaiju-sized sea creature that voiced by Julie Andrews. Just crazy, right? And it's amazing that it all works, even some of the more absurd parts, and that is undoubtedly due to Wan's extremely capable skills.
Unlike most of the previous live-action DC Comics-based movies from the last few years, Aquaman will definitely appeal to young fans, as well. The action is big, and sometimes intense, but it plays out more like a swashbuckling adventure instead of a dark deconstruction of our favorite DC Comics icons. Younger viewers will definitely latch on the Aquaman's cool "aqua-bro" characterization here. For those waiting for DC Comics' to give us their own Marvel Studio-esque big-screen adventure, this could be it. The movie is colorful, earnest and full of heart. Aquaman tells its story in a way that's both gripping to both younger fans and older ones alike - it's clearly made for both kids and kids at heart.
As mentioned previously, it's far from a perfect film and under a lesser director, this movie would've been an absolute mess. But Wan is able to keep things under control, though just barely at times. The script could be tighter and trimmed down, and the tone can be a little inconsistent (a scene earlier in Aquaman which takes place on a sub is decidedly darker than the rest of the movie and seems out of place, despite it being a key scene for one character), the score at times feels ill-fitting and some special effects could've used some more rendering time, but even those missteps are easy to brush away give just how flat-out fun this movie is.
Overall, Aquaman is an underwater epic that strikes its own unique path in the DC Comics movie landscape, and it's all the more better for it. Not only is Aquaman a blast, but it's got plenty of great action, insane visuals and some solid character beats. The film doesn't really break any new ground, but it also doesn't retread what's come before. It's safe, but also offers up enough variety, neat visuals and a few novel concepts that it feels relatively fresh. While the movie's plot may be a little too over-stuffed, and some of the performances might not really fit the material, there's an undeniable whimsy that makes the movie a joy to watch. It's a rewarding experience and a fun spin on the typical big-screen super hero adventure. Recommended.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings Aquaman to home video and, without question, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray audio and video transfer is an absolutely knock-out. It'll definitely end up being one of the best physical media releases of the year, despite it being just March 2019 as of this writing, and is a great title to demo your home theatre system. This and the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 4K UltraHD release truly deserve to be added to one's collection, especially if you're a fan of both character's comic book origins.
As mentioned above, the video transfer on the 4K Ultra HD release just might be second to none. It is at times legitimately jaw-dropping and stunning to watch. Atlantis has never looked so incredible than to does here. How Atlantis and assorted underwater creatures glow and radiant with such beautiful hues. Atlantean armor shines, creatures look photo-realistic and even Aquaman's classic costumed - faithfully re-imagined here - jumps off the screen. And while scenes which take place on land are not as stunning, the transfer quality is just as amazing. Detail is staggering and easy to get lost in. It's worth noting that portions of the movie are re-framed for an IMAX presentation, switching between a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and a 1.78:1 ratio, but it doesn't distract at all.
The Dolby Atmos audio transfer is big and boisterous, resulting in a thunderous and impressive rumble that will possibly push some home theatre systems to the limit. The detail is also impressive, as the track is able to shift between big action beats and quieter moments without missing a beat. Dialogue remains crisp and clear, regardless of whatever's happening in the background, and every beat sounds distinct. Nothing gets lost.
The only aspect of the 4K Ultra Blu-ray release that some viewers may find underwhelming is the bonus content. While content isn't lacking, it just isn't as in-depth as it could've been. "Becoming Aquaman," which runs roughly 13 minutes, breaks down the casting of Momoa in the title (tidal?) role and offers a behind-the-scene look at rehearsals and stunt work. "Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman" is possibly the meatiest look at the film's production, running 19 minutes and and touching upon pre-production, stunt work, special effects and costumes. It's a solid look at this film coming together, but it easily could've been three times the length. Up next, the 8-minute "James Wan: World Builder" offers a brief look at the director's hands-on approach to directing and his impressive ability to handle such a massive project.
Continuing, character-focused bonus content includes "The Dark Depths of Black Manta," and "Heroines of Atlantis," both of which approach some of the film's larger characters and breaks down their respective back stories and how they were adapted for the movie. They run 7 minutes and 6 minutes, respectively. "Villainous Training" runs 6 minutes and gives a quick look at the work Wilson put in to prep for his role as Ocean Master, followed by "A Match Made in Atlantis," a super quick 3-minute featurette about Heard and Momoa working together as the film's two main characters.
More production details come to light in the interesting 5-minute long "Atlantis Warfare" featurette, which breaks down the props and effects used to created Atlantean weaponry. Then, the "Creating Undersea Creatures" gives a 7-minute look at the assorted undersea creatures features in the movie, and "Aqua-Tech" somewhat continues the theme, providing a 6-minute look at the technology used to create the movie, both the digital and physical components. Also included are three Scene Study Breakdown featurettes, offering a closer look how a specific scene came together. The "Submarine Attack" breakdown runs at nearly 3 minutes, the "Showdown in Siciliy" at nearly 4 minutes and "The Trench" at roughly 3-1/2 minutes. The Aquaman-centric bonus content wraps with the "Kingdom of the Seven Seas" EPK, which runs 7 minutes and has Lundgren breaking down the kingdoms of Atlantis.
The bonus content wraps up with a selection of trailers and a preview of the April 2019 Shazam! theatrical feature. It's great to see Warner Bros. Home Entertainment taking a cue from the DC Universe Movie line releases and actively promoting the next DC Comics-themed movie.
The bonus content above is available on the regular Blu-ray disc included in the 4K Ultra HD release. It's worth noting that the Blu-ray release of Aquaman is also a solid presentation, with minimal transfer hiccups and an overall commendable presentation.
Overall, Aquaman's 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray home media release is legitimately impressive from a technical standpoint. The video transfer is a sight to behold and the audio transfer isn't anything to scoff at either. Unfortunately, the bonus features do come up a little short. While there is a wealth of featurettes, the short run-time of each hampers any deep dives into the film's production (pun intended). That said, there are plenty of interesting tidbits and anecdotes to be found here and are still worth checking out. Aquaman is also available on Blu-ray DVD and Digital, but the 4K Ultra HD release is second-to-none when it comes to getting the optimal home theater experience. Highly Recommended!
Review copies provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Please note that did not have any bearing on the final review of the products.