6:30 pm EST, December 11, 2018

‘Aquaman’ review roundup: A strange yet joyously fun adventure filled with stunning visuals

The Aquaman reviews are flooding in, and critics are calling it a wild and weird epic fantasy tale that’s a guaranteed good time at the movies.

It’s no secret that Aquaman has long been the butt of many a superhero-related joke. The underwater king of the seven seas has often been thought as too cheesy, too weird, too Tier 3 superhero to ever be a viable big screen property.

That, coupled with WB/DC’s stumbles in the movie-making department, have made many a critic and casual fan alike skeptical of the possibility that an Aquaman movie might actually be good.

Well, breathe easy, my fellow DCEU fans, because it looks like Aquaman is a thrilling, fun-filled joyride of an adventure film that’s sure to stun us with its visuals, excite us with its scope and scale, and — at the very least — leave us smiling from ear to ear.

And while not everyone was impressed with the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach, overall Aquaman swung for the fences and hit more than it missed. The consensus is that even though director James Wan and crew didn’t shatter conventional superhero storytelling tropes, Aquaman is a movie that is balls to the wall bananas and delivers on its world building, its beautiful visuals, and its unapologetic and unabashed approach to delivering a movie about a character named Aquaman.

‘Aquaman’ reviews

Here are some passages from a variety of Aquaman reviews. Hypable will have its own review this weekend, so make sure to check back!

The Nerdist’s Rosie Knight praises James Wan’s direction and the overall sense of fun in the film, saying:

Thanks to Wan’s dextrous direction–keep an eye out for moments in which he flexes his horror chops–Aquaman’s genre straddling sets it apart from its superhero cohort. Wan weaves comedy, sci-fi, high fantasy, and action into something that constantly surprises. Jam-packed with brilliant action, spectacular visuals, and likable characters, Aquaman is never afraid to have fun, which makes it a bright spark in 2018.

IGN’s Jim Vejvoda goes further, calling the movie gleeful to the point of infectious:

The glee that director James Wan clearly has playing in the world of Aquaman is infectious. He’s made a movie for both types of 10-year-olds: literal kids and those who are 10 at heart. Aquaman is one hell of a popcorn movie – a fun time and a big bet for the DC movie universe that pays off in creating an exciting new realm for future installments to hopefully explore further. Wan’s geeky epic is chock-full of ridiculous elements and, on paper, it really shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it’s all so inherently weird and brazenly bonkers that the siren call of this giddy, otherworldly romp is hard to resist.

That sentiment is echoed by io9’s Germain Lussier, who says:

If you’ve ever wondered what pure joy looks like on screen, look no further than the latest film in the DC Universe, Aquaman. It’s littered with moments that marry grand spectacle, rousing music, and dramatic stakes with results sure to elicit ear-to-ear smiles from anyone from ages 8 to 80.

And that even for all its flaws, Aquaman:

is made with such spirit, with such lofty goals when it comes to world-building, somehow those things get pushed aside, the 12-year-old inside you comes out, and you eat it all up like a kid in a candy store. This is grandiose, big-budget entertainment at its most self-aware, and even when it swings and misses, it’s still a sight to behold.

Aquaman Ocean Master

Of course, the movie isn’t for everyone.

Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty was thoroughly unimpressed with the overstuffed world of Aquaman, saying that:

Wan, a director who’s proven himself to be a can’t-miss ace regardless of genre (from the horror formulas of The Conjuring and Insidious to the big-budget tentpole mayhem of Furious 7) seems to finally be out of his depth. He’s conjured an intriguing world, but populated that world with dramatic cotton candy and silly characters, including a hero who’s unsure if he wants to make us laugh or feel — and winds up doing neither.

The movie also won’t win over any diehard DC cynics like IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, who says that:

The considerable effort to improve on a leaden franchise can only float for so long before familiar baggage sinks its potential. Hobbled by a messy screenplay, paper-thin characters, and a hodgepodge of unimaginative showdowns stretched across bloated running time, Aquaman is the latest example of a franchise that keeps chasing its competitor’s tail.

Still, many critics found a lot to love in Aquaman, even if they weren’t too enamored with the film as a whole.

Variety’s Peter Debruge praised Aquaman’s third act, which is often where many superhero movies stumble.

The biggest surprise here is how, after the running time of a standard-length film has elapsed, Aquaman suddenly kicks the movie up a level for the finale. At just the moment this critic’s eyes tend to glaze over in superhero movies — typically the villain goes nuclear and a portal to another dimension opens and threatens to destroy the planet — Wan unleashes a massive underwater battle on par with The Lord of the Rings.

Vulture’s Emily Yoshida agrees, saying that:

The film’s finale, the undersea war that was promised, is the first time I can ever remember looking forward to a giant CGI battle, and I can’t wait until someone recuts it to the B-52s “Rock Lobster,” Fred Schneider announcing each new fighting sea creature as it zooms through the deep.

Polygon’s Karen Han likewise rejoices in Aquaman’s final act:

With each set-piece outdoing the last, Wan neatly zips past the fatigue that most superhero films succumb to in their finales, pulling out every shimmering stop so that the great clash of armies that ends the film — following the unspoken mandate that every new thing we see must be bigger, bigger, bigger than the last — feels like a surprise rather than an inevitability. Crab people, trained sharks, Space Invaders battle formations, the Earth’s core splitting to reveal a giant monster — it’s all a joy to behold.


Even those critics who were less than enthused about Aquaman’s crammed-to-the-gills storytelling or overwhelming spectacle still had praise for Jason Momoa’s on-screen charisma.

Empire’s Helen O’Hara says that:

Momoa takes every inch of space the film gives him and runs a mile on sheer roguish charm, and Wan is a sufficiently gifted action director not just to keep you watching but to regularly dazzle you.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy talks about being grateful for Momoa’s performance:

Unlike some strutters who can’t hide how delighted they are to show off their trainer-honed bods, Momoa wears his superb physique casually and his take-it-or-leave-it, devil-may-care attitude makes the narrative’s long haul much easier to bear. It’s hard to intuit from this sort of film what else the actors in them might be capable of — Henry Cavill has since shown abilities never hinted at in his Superman outings — but Momoa holds center screen easily and has a lightness that counterbalances his size very nicely.

And Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos compares Aquaman to DC’s most popular character, Wonder Woman, saying that:

Just like Wonder Woman was built around Gal Gadot’s buoyant, bright spirit, Aquaman hinges on Momoa’s natural swarthy charisma and charm, and Wan’s willingness to let those things shine makes the movie enjoyable in spite of its rote music cues and some shopworn lines.

Aquaman movie poster

Aquaman is out December 21 in the U.S (and earlier internationally), but Amazon Prime members can see it a week early on December 15 (as I will be doing)!

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