4K Blu-ray Review: Aquaman

It’s been a long, bumpy road for the DC film universe as they fumbled the ball multiple times when trying to play catch-up to the Marvel Cinematic universe, and in doing so, put themselves behind even farther than when they began. Now a lot of changes are on deck with Ben Affleck out, and with his exit goes the chance to finally see a highly anticipated older, more seasoned Batman solo film; Henry Cavill’s future as Superman is also up in the air, and starting with this film, Aquaman, it seems that creative is almost eager to forget most of the events of Justice League ever even happened.

Yes, Aquaman is the first film after the disappointing Justice League and not only does it ignore Aquaman’s entire meeting with Mera, but it also changes up his feelings towards his mother and his story in general, all while only briefly mentioning that he saved the world with the rest of DC’s core heroes. But you know what? That’s actually a good thing. With the entire DCU in disarray, why not do a soft reboot of a character that was never truly introduced to audiences? That can only help things moving forward, and each of these characters getting their own solo film so that audiences recognized them and knew their story is what should’ve happened in the first place. Do you think The Avengers would’ve had the same impact, or been nearly as successful had they just released Iron Man and followed it up with The Avengers without properly introducing Thor, Captain America or even Loki? Not at all.

Aquaman has always been the laughing stock of the DC world, always being poked fun at for only being able to talk to fish and wearing a vibrant orange and green outfit. That’s changed a bit in the comic world recently, and some long-time fans of the character may try to argue it, but it’s still true as far as the mainstream fandom is concerned. So, it’s rather ironic that Aquaman is now the highest grossing DC film off all time, which is crazy considering that there’s been a live-action Justice League film and shows just how off-track the company has been when it comes to delivering the cinematic goods. The thing that the DCU did right was casting the role properly with Jason Mamoa playing the part of Arthur Curry aka: Aquaman. Like all casting choices, some knocked it out of the gate, but while he’s a far cry from the short, blond haired hero we’re used to seeing in the comic books, he’s exactly what the movie needed to hit the ground running.

The opening of Aquaman sees Arthur coming to the rescue of a submarine that’s under attack by pirates, and instantly we see how much charisma Mamoa brings to the role, and how much fun he’s having in the part. Yes, fun! In a DC movie! One of the big issues many had with Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman was how dark everything was when it came to Zack Snyder’s vision of what the DCU should be. Everything and everyone was brooding, colours were muted, and while there was some humour to be had, it was minimal. In an attempt to set the DCU apart from the MCU they went with the polar opposites in most cases, and that didn’t sit well with many fans.

Director James Wan takes the opposite approach here, as this film is incredibly vibrant, full of life and colour and is often mesmerizingly beautiful when we’re introduced to Atlantis and other parts of the underwater world around it. Now, Aquaman was more of the comic relief in Justice League, throwing out wise cracks and just enjoying the fight whenever it called for it, so the groundwork was laid there and is amped up even more here.

Aquaman is a globe-trotting, Indiana Jones-esque adventure film that just feels right. It’s not perfect, and I can see the sequel being even stronger – especially if Wan agrees to return to direct – but it was never expected to be, and it’s a lot more fun than many probably believed would be the case. This is a superhero film that’s epic scope, bringing to life a massive world and introducing audiences to a whole new array of characters, and an underwater utopia that many never knew existed. It’s a long film with a lot of ground to cover, but it’s filled with so much energy, both when it comes to the thrilling action sequences as well as the comedic beats that it’s almost always firing on all cylinders.

Playing well off of Mamoa is Amber Heard’s Mera, who has a number of awesome action scenes, has solid chemistry with Mamoa and is also able to stand on her own as a character I’m eager to see more of moving forward. Now while the two do work well together, one of the more awkward and forced sequences in the film is where Arthur and Mera begin to have feelings for one another while in Italy. There’s a love song playing, and some silly moments happen, and it’s all topped off with a little girl bringing Mera a book that just happens to be Pinocchio, in a payoff to a scene that happened earlier in the film that not only didn’t require a payoff, but especially not one that was as out of place and ridiculous as this one. There’s really zero reason why this girl would bring Mera a book, and for that book to just happen to be Pinocchio is really cringe-worthy.

Another issue the film faces is Aquaman’s comic book nemesis Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen.) The film lays the groundwork for Manta to become stronger down the road, but here he feels like such a side character to the point that he never really feels like an actual threat to Aquaman. I’m hoping they can right the ship here, as they actually pulled off the look of Black Manta without him looking silly, but he’s really going to have to step it up in the sequel for audiences to believe that Arthur may be in trouble when he comes around, because as it stands he feels like any other henchman, just with a cooler suit.

As a whole though, Aquaman is great fun. It’s the exact jolt the DCU needed following up on the success of Wonder Woman. I’m sure when this all began nobody thought that these are the two characters that would be thriving right out of the gate, while Batman and Superman floundered around looking for proper footing, but that’s where we stand. Personally, I think that’s a good thing. While it’s incredibly frustrating to see Affleck squandered as Batman without ever really getting a shot, Batman is a character that will recover, as will Superman, regardless of the direction the DCU goes; however, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are both characters you want to get right the first time out, as it’s less likely audiences would be as forgiving if they had to do multiple reboots to represent them properly — if they were even given a second chance at all.

So if you haven’t seen it already and you’re in the mood for a fun, action-packed flick full of one-liners, badass over the shoulder smirks as guitar riffs hit just to solidify how cool a character you are, and a vibrant underwater world beautifully brought to life, then definitely check out Aquaman. If this film and Wonder Woman are any indication of what DC can do when they’re not worried about catching up to Marvel without putting in any of the groundwork, then the future looks bright for the DCU.

This film looks absolutely amazing in 4K and is one of the highlights in the format so far, as Atlantis truly comes to life the way it did on the big screen, with sharp, vibrant imagery that’s absolute eye-candy. This is one of those blockbuster flicks that truly showcases what the 4K format is capable of, and they’ve pulled no punches here. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s safe to say that this picture may be worth four thousand. If you have the ability to watch this movie in 4K, then there’s no other way to do so. If you’ve yet to upgrade to 4K but will likely do so down the road, then I’d recommend picking up the 4K version, and enjoying the also beautiful Blu-ray transfer of the film, and then enjoying it in its full 4K glory whenever the time comes.

The audio mix is also top tier, with the soundtrack and score blasting beautifully in surround sound, alongside the wonderful job done with the effects during both simple scenes and those packed with action. The dialogue is clean and clear, even amongst all the above, and a cap must be tipped to those in charge of the transfer of this film on both fronts because they did a fantastic job all around.

Special Features:

Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman This feature is 19-minutes in length and covers a lot of the making of the film in a quick, yet entertaining fashion. While DC and Warner are likely being a bit more cautious when it comes to going all out for these movies right now, this is the type of film that deserves a much heftier bunch of features for audiences to delve into. This one covers a lot of ground, but it does so without really getting too much into anything in particular. With a film of this scope, it’s one where you’d like to see those special features that hit the one hour mark and really get into it all.

Becoming Aquaman – This is a 13-minute feature that sees Mamoa talking about prepping for the role, his workout routing, and what it’s like to play Arthur Curry. This is a fun piece to watch as it’s clear that Mamoa is having the time of his life, and that comes through on screen and makes watching him play the part that much more enjoyable.

James Wan: World Builder – This is an 8-minute featurette that basically throws endless praise at Wan, and I’d say rightfully so. This is a guy who started out with Saw back in the day and has elevated his game to the point where he’s now leading the way for DC’s biggest movie moneymaker at the moment, as well as taking the keys to other major action franchises. Basically, he’s earned the praise, and this is a fun watch for newcomers and fans alike.

Aqua Tech – This is a quick, six-minute featurette that showcases some of the set design and bringing the underwater world to life. As mentioned above, this and some of the ones to come should’ve all been packed into a much more epic and involved group of features that really allowed audiences in to the making of process.

Atlantis Warfare – This five-minute featurette looks at some of the weapons in the film, and other items used by Atlantians throughout.

The Dark Depths of Black Manta – This is a seven-minute featurette that showcases Abdul-Mateen and he talks about the Black Manta character, his development in the movie and what may be to come.

Heroines of Atlantis – This is another brief, six minute featurette that sees Heard and Nicole Kidman talk about their characters in the film. With how important both are to the movie, this is again another featurette I’d like to see given more time and really get to know these characters more.

Villainous Training – Continuing through all the actors, we now hit Patrick Wilson, who plays Aquaman’s brother Orm in the film. He’s a complicated character, and Wilson explains this in a bit more detail, while also going in to preparing for the role. I’ve always been a fan of Wilson, and think he did a great job here. It’s clear to see why Wan enjoys working with him so much.

Kingdoms of the Seven Seas – Dolph Lundgren is up next in this seven-minute featurette about the six kingdoms that we visit briefly throughout the film.

Creating Undersea Creatures – This is a kudos featurette with nods to the VFX teams that helped bring the underwater worlds to life in this film. It’s another quick seven minute feature that touches on what the teams were going for with certain design choices, as well as the development process.

A Match Made in Atlantis – This is a quick three-minute featurette that sees Mamoa and Heard talk about enjoying their time working on the film, and the fun they had together, which again, is clear when watching the movie.

Scene Study Breakdowns – This is an 11-minute feature that delves a bit deeper into three of the bigger scenes in the film, which include the submarine attack in the film’s opening, as well as the big battle in Italy, and finally, the darker part of the film in the Trench – which is actually getting its own horror spinoff movie that Wan will be producing.

Finally, there’s a three-minute sneak peak at Shazam! for those who are interested.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Aquaman. Directed by: James Wan. Written by: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall. Starring: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison. Running time: 143 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Mar. 26, 2019.

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