*JAWS Theme Plays* “Duh nuh.” “Duh nuh.” “Duh nuh, duh nuh, duh nuh, dun nuh, dun nuhhhhhh!”
There’s something lurking deep under the sea and it isn’t Jaws.
His name is Jason Momoa: a.k.a Khal Drogo, a.k.a. Polynesian Jesus, Hunk of the Sea— the list of names goes on and on.
In addition to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, casting Jason Momoa as Aquaman was a definite step in the right direction.
Since its theater debut, Aquaman has now made a billion dollars at the box office, hailing it as one of DC’s highest grossing superhero film made to date. This is big news considering that Aquaman was sort of the step child to the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman).
Well, we’ll certainly count him out no longer, because Jason Momoa’s the new and improved Aquaman, ready to take charge on and off the sea, and his movie proves he is the man for the job.
The movie begins like the comic book does – on a dark and stormy night. Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) is breached on the rocks of the sea, and is saved by Tom Curry, Keeper of Lighthouse (pun intended). After a tussle in which a wounded Queen Atlanna spear heads a TV, Tom simmers her down with tea, and cue the romantic montage. After a few months, baby Arthur Curry is born, and we immediately learn of his importance: he is living proof that two worlds—Atlantis(the sea) and Earth (the land)—can coexist. And with the tensions that have been simmering between the two realms, Arthur’s birth signifies that whomever takes the mantle as King of Atlantis and unite the broken realms, will truly have to be a unique someone indeed.
But alas, the family bliss wasn’t meant to last, because an explosive blast bursts through the couple’s home to reveal the current King’s guards from Atlanta. Their charge is to bring Queen Atlanna back home—but she does not go without a fight. After completely decimating the Atlantic guards, Atlanna stands on the dock where she professes her promise to return to her family, and ensure that their son Arthur Curry doesn’t forget her.
In regards to Aquaman, the internal conflict within Arthur Curry stems from the idea that he comes from two worlds: land and sea. In a realistic sense, this alludes to the very real internal conflicts of one who is of two races/ethnicities. Children who are the products of interracial marriages or blended families often deal with a brunt of harmful taunts or derogatory terms, such as “half-breed.” Sometimes, they may feel excluded from both communities, and struggle with finding an identity when it seems as if they are being pulled in two directions that will never meet.
In the film, this allusion is repeatedly brought up as Arthur goes on his heroe’s quest to become King of Atlantis. Throughout each arc, we are brought flashbacks of interval versions of Arthur training with Vuko—the King’s advisor—as he is Arthur’s only connection to Atlanis. Throughout each scene of them training, it is no secret that there is a constant emotional turmoil burning inside Arthur, and his sense of identity. This only intensifies when Vulko reveals that Atlantis sacrificed his mother to the Trench (a diabolical place of death and ruin) after she gave birth to Arthur’s half brother: Orm.
Arthur reluctantly ventures back to Atlanis after Orm declares war on the land— and after being convinced by a pretty redhead who lives in the sea (no, it’s not Ariel). Once Arthur and Mera (Amber Heard) arrive at Atlanis, literally an entire new world opens up to Arthur—and us as an audience. James Wan pulled off an incredible feat with the amount of detail he put into bringing Atlanis to life— from the use of sea animals, to the sunken statues— you truly felt you were in the fabled Lost City.
Mera works feverishly to stop Orm’s plan of becoming Ocean Master, which includes wrestling Arthur out of his sullen skepticism, and aiding him in finding the Lost Trident of King Atlan (the first king of united Atlantis). If found, the Trident would restore the throne of the seas to the rightful ruler of the Kingdom.
On the way to finding this Trident, Arthur must combat some heavy emotions as he contemplates his self-worth and sense of obligation to the people of Atlantis. Why would he even want to save the people that so easily cast both he and his mother aside? It takes many trials and tribulations until Arthur finally finds his answer.
Another interesting plot line revolves around the ramifications—and dangers— of revenge, and how anger can truly blind and poison you inside and out.
This revenge (and anger) has a name, and it’s Black Manta. He and his team of pirates (including his father) first encounter Aquaman in the beginning of the film, after pillaging a submarine and killing its crew. After a brutal fight between the two, Arthur condemns Black Manta’s father to a cruel death, and Black Manta subsequently pairs with Orm in the hopes to destroy Arthur and avenge his father.
Using a tracker unknowingly placed on Mera, Black Manta tracks her and Arthur down as the pair close in on Atlan’s Trident’s whearabouts—and another epic combat scene ensues.
One of the strengths of the action scenes in Aquaman are the fact that they’re able to propel the story along in as equal manner as the dialogue and plot. James Wan was intentional in his stylistic choices, and created a multitude of impressive fighting scenes filled with Asian and Polynesian influences. As an audiences, we’re able to see the full extent of not only our hero Arthur’s powers, but the might of Atlanteans themselves. In one scene, Mera shape bends enough liquid to sharpen the particles into spears that impale the Kings Guards that are pursuing her. In another scene, Arthur goes against Black Manta in a tense fight where it becomes clear the two are equally matched…until Arthur’s super strength eventually takes Manta down.
For the moment, at least.
It becomes clear after this latest run in with Black Manta however, that Arthur and Mera are running out of time, and must find Atlan’s Trident before Orm finally catches up to them and steals away Arthur’s chance of taking the throne as the rightful King of Atlantis.
Sensing his struggles, Mera continues to try to uplift Arthur and get him to see his true potential— but it is evident that until Arthur himself believes he is worthy of saving Atlantis and see past his vengeance, he would be unable to be the king that Atlantis so desperately needed. The pressing issue with Arthur was that he blamed himself for his mother’s death, and figured that Atlantis’ backwards value of being intolerant to mercy would mean that ultimately, they would be intolerant to him.
It isn’t until he and Mera fight their way through the dreaded Trench with Atlantis’ most horrific creatures, that he reaches his breaking point, and finally accepts his destiny. That, and having an unexpected reunion with his mother.
That’s right! It turns out that Queen Atlanna survived her execution by braving through the dangerous Trench, and surviving off the grid. With his mother and Mera by his side, there’s only one thing left for Arthur Curry to do: retrieve Atlan’s Trident.
Technically, it is standing only a few feet away from him after he walks through the waterfall where it rests with its dead King. But, in true superhero fashion, Arthur has one final obstacle to overcome before he can complete his destiny. As Arthur goes to retrieve the Trident, the dreaded Karathean—a massive Leviathan creature of Atlantean myth—attacks him, insulting him with phrases such as “mongrel” and “half-breed”. Despite the taunts, Arthur takes a final stand. He communicates with the Leviathan—something that hasn’t been possible in a long time—and admits that while he may be deemed unworthy, he has decided that he will do whatever it takes to save his home regardless.
With Atlan’s Trident in hand, and adorned in the orange and green royal armor, Arthur curry emerges as Aquaman: The True King of Atlanis.
As the final epic battle between Aquaman and Orm takes place, it becomes obvious that this time, Arthur will win. But instead of adopting Atlantean’s ideals, and striking a lethal blow to his half-brother, Arthur falls back, and bestows upon him the one thing he didn’t give to Black Manta’s father: mercy.
Queen Atlanna then emerges, placating Orm and speaking the truth, which is that Atlantis’ way of thinking has been toxic and wrong. Mercy and acceptance is the only way a kingdom can evolve forward. Orm is taken into custody, shell-shocked at his brother’s actions and seeing his mother alive again…but there is a feeling that he—and Black Manta— will be seen again.
So, Aquaman’s film is truly an epic in its run time, but it is well worth its grain and weight. The new Aquaman rules over Atlantis not with an iron fist, but with the understanding of the importance and necessity of accepting two different worlds. Alluding back to our own society, this message can mean accepting all creeds, races, lifestyles, etc. Seems like a certain country can learn from this lesson—but we’ll save that for 2020.
Jason’s Momoa immense pride in his culture as a Polynesian man shines in this film, and the amount of representation both he and the rest of the cast bring create a brand new Atlantis and Aquaman that you’d be hard-pressed to see in other superheroes.
So, if you still haven’t dived in and watched Aquaman, then strap in, because the legend of the deep is here, and in his own words: ‘This is gonna be fun!”