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Aquaman Early Reviews: DC's Latest is Messy, Weird & Lots of Fun

Jason Momoa as Aquaman on a submarine

The first reviews are in for James Wan's Aquaman movie. The DC Extended Universe (as it's unofficially known) kicked off in 2013 with Man of Steel, but is only now beginning to really focus on solo character adventures. That's not to say the franchise is leaving team-up movies behind; Birds of Prey is coming out in 2020, after all. Nevertheless, following the success of last year's Wonder Woman, solo movies featuring Aquaman and Shazam! have made their way down the pipeline, and films for characters like Batgirl are beginning to move forward again.

Up first, of course, is Aquaman, which follows Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa, reprising his Justice League role) on a journey to claim his birthright as the King of Atlantis and prevent war between the ocean's seven kingdoms and those who dwell on-land. Early reactions to Aquaman have been positive overall and painted the film as being a fun (if overstuffed) and unapologetically goofy swash-buckling fantasy adventure. Now, it's time for the professional critics to have their say on the matter.

Related: Warner Bros. Reportedly Already Discussing an Aquaman Sequel

Directed by Wan, the Aquaman cast includes Amber Heard (also reprising her Justice League role) as Mera, Patrick Wilson as Orm (Arthur's half-brother), Willem Dafoe as Arthur's mentor Nuidis Vulko, and Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison as Arthur's Atlantean mother and human father, respectively. To find out what critics thinks of the film, read on for spoiler-free excerpts from the first wave of Aquaman reviews. To read the full reviews, just click on the corresponding links.

Aquaman Jason Momoa Amber Heard
Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in Aquaman

Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

Ultimately, Aquaman is a superhero origin story that separates itself from the rest of the Worlds of DC movies as much as possible - but not in a way that disparages the work of the directors who came before Wan. Instead, Aquaman stands on its own feet in a way that reflects Arthur's own journey of coming into his own as a superhero, separate from the other heroes of the land.

Alexandra August, CBR

Your enjoyment of director James Wan's Aquaman will likely be defined by your expectations. It’s far from a perfect film, but it's so joyful and fun that you’d have to be in a really bad mood not to find something that’ll make you involuntarily clip your hands. Whether it’s the stunning underwater sequences and locations, Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard’s scene-stealing performances or Jason Momoa’s never-ending swagger, this movie is a crowd-pleaser.

Hoai-Tran Bui, SlashFilm

Wan manages to marry Arthurian fantasy and swashbuckling adventure with camp in Aquaman, a film that feels a little like a miracle in Warner Bros.’ catalogue of superhero movies. Left to its own devices and mostly unconnected from the films that came before it, Aquaman is one of the weirdest, oddball blockbuster superhero movies ever.

William Bibbiani, The Wrap

“Aquaman” is a sword-and-sorcery sci-fi archaeology horror war superhero epic without shame. But why would it have shame? James Wan dives into the strangest caverns of DC’s vast mythologies and brings it all to the big screen, challenging you to accept just how unusual superhero stories can be.

Helen O'Hara, Empire

Imagine if someone cut together all the biggest action sequences from the last few decades of Hollywood, resulting in a mash of Tron, Avatar, Clash Of The Titans, Superman, Jurassic Park, and Gladiator. Imagine a film where an octopus gets a drum solo, and it isn’t among the top ten weirdest moments. Welcome to Aquaman, where you won’t have a clue what’s going on, but you won’t be able to look away either.

Peter Debruge, Variety

After being unveiled to the DC Comics Extended Universe as the scales of “Justice League” last year, Aquaman gets his own adventure, and it’s kind of a shock that it doesn’t suck, but only if you’re willing to sit through two hours of water-logged world-building before the movie finally takes off.

Todd McCarthy, THR

[Aquaman] is so elemental in its tall-tale telling, its concentration on royalty and the overriding significance of battle that it feels closer in nature to ancient myth than do most comics-derived epics. This is arguably what works in its favor in comparison to most Warner Bros./DC features other than those by Christopher Nolan; even as it indulges its technical wizardry, the film is most rooted in its scenes of scenes of greeting, farewell and the clashes of titans in the ancient sense.

Jim Vejvoda, IGN

This James Wan-directed DC film declares to the world that this is a giant B-movie where krakens are voiced by screen legends and characters ride seahorses into battle, and it’s not going to pause to let you dwell on any of that. It’s precisely because it’s so damn zany, unafraid to embrace its comic bookiness, and is just plain out there that Aquaman is a blast.

Jason Momoa in the classic Aquaman costume
Jason Momoa in Aquaman

All in all, it sounds like critics are mixed-to-positive on Aquaman. The film is at 78% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after 46 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. Assuming other critics feel the same way, those numbers shouldn't change too much from hereon out. While its rating isn't on the same level as Wonder Woman (93% Fresh after 410 reviews), it's still a good deal higher than every other DCEU movie released to date. That's no doubt welcome news for Warner Bros., which has positioned Wan's film as being something of a fresh start for the franchise (though also one that's very much built on the foundation of the DCEU films before it).

Aquaman is currently expected to top the U.S. box office when it opens next week, and these reviews should only help the film to fly higher when it does. Meanwhile, the film is already off to a great start at the international box office, ahead of its domestic bow. Aquaman actually broke records with its China box office opening and will only add more to its global total over the week ahead. It might be DC's weirdest superhero movie yet but, by the sound of it, Aquaman is also one of its most purely entertaining - and should be all the more commercially viable for it.

MORE: Every Aquaman Update You Need to Know

Source: Various [see the above links]

Key Release Dates
  • Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
  • Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
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