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YMMV / Aquaman (2018)

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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Starring the most infamous Memetic Loser in comics (mostly for people not familiar with certain comics), and coming off the Box Office Bomb of Justice League, many thought Aquaman was doomed going in, although the lack of Troubled Production news, the choice of James Wan to direct and his proactive approach on social media throughout the production time gave fair chunks of hope. It became a box office juggernaut that quickly outgrossed Justice League globally, and now has become the highest grossing film in the entire franchise and the biggest unadjusted DC Comics film grosser period. And its critical reception is warm enough to invoke this as well.
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  • Anvilicious: Polluting the ocean is a very bad thing, and the movie makes sure to remind us of that several times. One of King Orm's main motivations of invading the upper world is to take revenge on the surface-dwellers for ruining the oceans, and none of the characters disagree with him on this. Even Arthur admits that there are some idiots on the surface. Orm's first attack in the form of a gigantic tidal wave that strikes all of the world's coastlines washes up tons of garbage from the ocean back to the land to show us just how bad we have been treating our oceans so far. However, unlike most takes on this Green Aesop, the movie doesn't take the time to show how humans can make the oceans better.
  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: A much-welcomed case of this due to finally displacing Aquaman's embarrassing old Audience-Coloring Adaptation among non-comic fans. Now, Aquaman's popular perception is as a badass warrior king, just like it's always been to those who actually bothered to look at stuff outside of Superfriends.
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  • Author's Saving Throw: The air bubble Mera summons underwater to talk to Arthur in Justice League has been quite divisively received (to Zack Snyder, talking underwater "makes no sense" and he tried implementing a specific Atlantean language made of "clicks and squeaks" but it didn't work out). In Aquaman, characters talk underwater pretty much as well as they do out of it, and the air-pocket trick is used by Mera for practical purposes — as a safety pocket to help Arthur rescue his father amidst the tsunami caused by Orm, as a measure to make it difficult for 'non-high born' Atlanteans (ones who can't breathe out of the water) to know what's being said, and finally as a weapon against Orm in order to distract him as he's forced to briefly cough out the water in his lungs to adjust to being out-of-water.
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  • Award Snub: The news that the film would not be nominated for a Best Visual Effects Oscar caused a minor controversy, especially since even the film's detractors generally admit it had spectacular CGI work.
  • Awesome Music: See here.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal:
    • Queen Atlanna actually being alive all this time becomes incredibly obvious because the characters won't shut up about how she's totally dead, she's shown to be a badass in the movie opening and it seems strange such a competent fighter could be so easily killed off, and thirdly she's played by Nicole Kidman - no way they were A. only going to use her for ten minutes, and B. only use her in scenes that she needed to be digitally de-aged for - you only do that if the actor is going to spend most of their scenes as their real age. Plus the Missing Mom trope is so overdone in superhero movies that audiences are understandably sick of it.
    • Ditto with the reveal of Black Manta still being alive. Not only is it almost as hard to buy they'd so quickly kill off an iconic character as the Joker's supposed death in Suicide Squad (2016), but WB execs were openly discussing for months beforehand how excited they were about their future plans for the character.
  • Cliché Storm: A common criticism from the reviews, even the positive ones, is that while the film has amazing action, charming acting and gorgeous visuals, the plot is very run of the mill and retreads story beats already seen in many other superhero films and The Chosen One narratives.
  • Critical Dissonance: Building from Cliché Storm above, a number of critics ripped the film for being "unoriginal" and for its pacing problems. Its box-office turnout and popular reception, on the other hand, are clearly way more welcoming. It rather falls under Tropes Are Not Bad: while the plot may seem cliché, it follows a commonly understood storyline that most audiences can accept and enjoy. Not to mention the dissonance is actually downplayed considering the movie is currently enjoying a "Fresh" rating at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a big improvement over anything in the franchise that was not Wonder Woman.
  • Cry for the Devil: Superhero movies have gained a reputation for treating villains like plot devices instead of characters, but Aquaman gives both its antagonists some very relatable character arcs.
    • Black Manta swore vengeance on Aquaman for leaving his father in a fatal situation that the Atlantean refused to rescue him from Note . Given that moments earlier we'd seen the two men were very close, you can't help but sympathise with Manta.
    • Orm had to deal with losing his mother, his father and the surface-dwellers causing several kinds of damage to his kingdom. While he may have been an extremist, his angst is still understandable. When his father's heirloom weapon is destroyed, you can see he feels like he's failed him. When Atlanna comes back, Orm is so relieved just to see his mother again he loses all of his malice and takes his defeat with grace.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Many fans have felt that Dolph Lundgren, of all people, provides one of the strongest supporting characters in the movie, with his conflicted, dignified portrayal of the noble, badass King Nereus.
    • The Karathen steals the entre movie the moment it shows up, probably because it is simply not possible to upstage a giant sea kaiju played by Julie Andrews.
  • Evil Is Cool: Aquaman's rogues made the transition to the big screen quite well. Ocean Master's battle prowess and style make for an entertaining villain and Patrick Wilson brings good energy and charisma to the role. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II meanwhile gave Black Manta a great balance of ferocity and humanity, and his suit looks amazing in live-action. Even minor villains like Jesse Kane and Murk leave an impression when they go head to head with Arthur.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • While some people have tried to turn it into the usual rivalry, fans excited for this film are also excited for and have gotten along well with fans of Black Panther due to both being the first films in both the MCU and DCEU with both non-white leads and directors, giving the superhero genre some much needed diversity.
    • Likewise, fans of this movie also enjoy Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and vice-versa since both movies offer diverse representation of non-white and female comic book heroes. It also helps that both movies are stylistically different enough that they wouldn't be seen as direct competitors.
  • Foe Yay: Black Manta's obsession over killing Aquaman leans a bit into this, especially as he's crafting his iconic suit to Depeche Mode's "It's No Good" — which is often interpreted as an obsessive love song.
  • Genius Bonus: The Atlantean device in the Sahara bears the symbols of the Zodiac and their accompanying astronomical constellations.
    • The Dunwich Horror being seen early on Thomas' coffee table. The obvious allusion is to the underwater society and giant sleeping monster beneath the waves, but things go much deeper than that. The Dunwich Horror is one of H. P. Lovecraft's few novels, another being The Shadow Over Innsmouth, both dealing with the concept of Half-Human Hybrids made by the things in the deep. Arthur's whole plot is exactly that, and deciding whether to live the "lie" that he's human or embrace the "truth" of being from the ocean (Arthur decides to Take a Third Option). The Trench and its cretures are not unlike The Deep Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos. And Lovecraft was a contemporary, correspondent, and friend of Robert E. Howard, who featured both Atlantis and the idea of men regressing and evolving up and down Evolutionary Levels heavily in his works. If you know your classic pulp literature, seeing that book ties together all the film's assorted major themes and worldbuilding.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • China loves this film; in its opening weekend alone it outgrossed any previous Warner Brothers film, had the largest December opening in Chinese history before surpassing the already ridiculously successful (and also much more warmly received there) Venom as the second most successful superhero movie in the country after Avengers: Infinity War — and it got an extension for its screenings there until February 2019 on top of this, which is a rare thing for foreign movies playing in the country. It ended up grossing $292 million there, which made it the fifth most popular foreign film and the nineteenth most popular movie period in the country's history. It also got very positive reviews, with Douban (China's equivalent to Rotten Tomatoes) giving it an 8.1/10, with hundreds of thousands of viewers giving it an average rating of 4/5 stars.
    • The movie is also surprisingly popular in Romania. In that country, it is the highest-grossing film of the past decade, outgrossing even the likes Avengers: Infinity War and The Fate of the Furious.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The scene where King Orm launches his first attack on the surface world by flooding the coastlines with large tidal waves is harder to watch now in light of the tsunami strike in Indonesia that came after its release, killing hundreds.
    • Among humanity's crimes against the oceans, Orm mentions whaling. Japan was confirmed to be continuing its controversial whaling practices right when Aquaman came out.
    • Seeing Amber Heard play Aquaman's loving consort (at the end of the movie) can be a lot harder to watch after a tape emerged where Heard admitted that she physically and verbally abused her husband at the time, Johnny Depp.
  • He Really Can Act: Jason Momoa's performance won over many who doubted that he can carry an entire movie. Momoa was praised for imbuing his character with charisma and humanity while also carrying several comedic and heart-wrenching moments with genuine authenticity.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Jason Momoa previously played Conan, a Cimmerian, descendant of Atlantean colonists. Now he plays Aquaman, a.k.a. the prince/king of Atlantis. And he also had a role in Stargate Atlantis. Not to mention the chief of a race that fears the ocean. And his first acting role was in Baywatch.
    • Once again, Willem Dafoe plays the experienced mentor to an underwater character. Or just him going underwater.
    • Speaking of Dafoe as Vulko, it seems that the DCEU has become a haven of actors from the Spider-Man Trilogy with also J. K. Simmons (Da Editor J. Jonah Jameson) as Commissioner Gordon, Joe Manganiello (Jerk Jock Eugene "Flash" Thompson) as Deathstroke and now Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn / the Green Goblin). This film is also shot by cinematographer Don Burgess, who worked on the 2002 film.
    • Aquaman being released in the same year as Black Panther counts as this, considering that in Marvel Comics Wakanda and Atlantis have a rivalry.
      • Mera's full name is Y'mera-Xebella-(T')Challa!
      • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II playing Black Manta, one of the first black supervillains,note  is amusing given that he auditioned for a role in Black Panther prior to being cast here.
    • The voice of Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins herself, as a sea creature becomes this since the film opened against Mary Poppins Returns, in which Andrews declined to appear.
    • Years ago, Entourage famously did a storyline about Vinnie appearing in a live-action Aquaman movie, which immediately became a massive worldwide hit. The idea was clearly tongue-in-cheek, and was meant to poke fun at the notion of a "lame" superhero like Aquaman (who, at the time, was still mostly remembered for Super Friends) actually becoming a box office draw. With the 2018 Aquaman movie smashing international box office records, that storyline now seems less derisive and more clairvoyant.
      • The storyline's joke about James Cameron directing said movie becomes even more amusing after Cameron became one of the film's most vocal critics (he's infamously criticized its lack of realism while also apparently plugging his Avatar sequels).
    • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar fans regard the Atlantean beast-units with no small amusement, because there is a definite visual similarity between them and an Age of Sigmar faction called the Idoneth Deepkin, who are Atlantis-inspired undersea elves who hunt mortals for souls with the aid of dominated sea monsters. Notably, both have shark cavalry, and turtle-based aquatic tanks. The Xebellian seahorses from this movie even look rather similar to Idoneth "deepmares", although deepmares have clawed forelimbs and no hindlimbs, whilst the seahorses lack forelimbs but do have webbed hindlimbs that aid them in swimming.
    • The Brazilian dub has a few:
    • Laurence Fishburne appearing in an MCU movie after getting a regular role in the DCEU caught quite a few people by surprise - imagine their shock when Randall Park went in the exact opposite direction (going from the very movie Fishburne appeared in to a DCEU movie and according to The Stinger, he'll be back). Likewise for Djimon Hounsou (who played Korath in Guardians of the Galaxy)
    • Nicole Kidman isn't the first actress from a Batman movie to play an absent mother who is initially believed to have died years ago but is actually alive albeit trapped in a nightmare world.
    • The trope page for Heart Is an Awesome Power shows Aquaman summoning and controlling Cthulu. Aquaman proves himself worthy of the trident by talking to an Eldritch Abomination sea creature.
    • Over a decade before this film's release, John Rhys-Davies guest starred as Black Manta expy Man-Ray in SpongeBob SquarePants. Now Rhys-Davies plays a character in a film featuring the real Manta.
    • Jason Momoa's Real Life stepdaughter would later become part of DC when she was cast as Catwoman for Matt Reeves's Batman reboot.
  • Incest Yay Shipping: Arthur/Orm is disturbingly popular on Archive on Our Own. They're even the Fan-Preferred Couple on that site, having 130 stories while the official couple, Arthur/Mera only has 41.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • There's quite a big subset who want to watch the movie because it's the live-action debut of Black Manta, considered one of the coolest villains in DC. His really badass look definitely sold it.
    • The announcement that Julie Andrews would be voicing a sea creature got a lot of attention from just how unexpected it was, especially with the film opening against Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Magnificent Bastard: King Orm Marius of Atlantis is the younger half-brother of Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. Bitter at the supposed death of his mother and blaming Arthur and the Surface for the ills of the ocean, Orm arranges for the pirate Black Manta to attack a meeting to make it appear as if there is a threat so he may launch a campaign to unite the kingdoms of the sea, by negotiation or by force, so he may take the title of Ocean Master. Manipulating Arthur into challenging him, even as he admits he would rather not kill him, Orm defeats him and while adhering to a promise not to kill his fiancee Mera, he sends Manta after Arthur and Mera when Mera helps Arthur escape. A skilled fighter, Orm even faces Arthur in direct combat out of the water, willing to offer his own life for his cause until he sees his mother has survived, handling his defeat with grace in the end.
  • Memetic Bystander: Getty Shark.Explanation 
  • Memetic Mutation: Now has its own page.
  • Moral Event Horizon: If Orm hadn't crossed it by ordering a tsunami, then he either crosses it when he sent Manta to assassinate Mera and Arthur or when he murdered King Ricou in cold blood.
  • Narm: Here.
  • Narm Charm:
    • Aquaman, Ocean Master and Black Manta's costumes may look silly to some, bringing Superfriends to mind (for people not familiar with the comics, again), or Power Rangers, particularly for the villains — despite originating much earlier, in the comics. But to others, these are pushing the boundaries of comics-to-movies accuracy further than ever before and instead look epic, and since Power Rangers is well-known for its unabashed cheese, comparisons to it are taken as complimentary. Heck, this could also count for the film embracing their superhero/villain titles.
    • The soundtrack choices (including the aforementioned Pitbull song) are this for some. A lot of them are cheesy and don't sound like something you'd expect from a superhero movie, but somehow, Wan makes them work.
    • The octopus drummer. Sounds silly when you say it out loud, but its exotic design and softly-pedalled execution keep it from feeling out of place.
    • There's a particularly corny exchange during Atlanna's goodbye to Arthur and Thomas where she muses about how her tears would be washed away or unnoticed underwater. But it works to highlight how much she's come to appreciate the surface world outside of starting a family there.
  • Older Than They Think: The plot similarities with Black Panther (an outsider and an established king who happen to be blood relatives fighting over the throne of the Hidden Elf Village) are more due to Aquaman borrowing from the comics storyline Throne of Atlantis (which predates Black Panther's release) than anything else.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Michael Beach as Jesse Kane, Black Manta's father only appears briefly, but he plays an awesome pirate bad guy who's getting along in years but still goes on mercenary missions with his son, and his accidental death at Arthur's hands is remarkably sad and provides an emotionally compelling reason for his son to become Arthur's eventual nemesis.
    • Seriously, how many times do we have to mention that "Dame Julie Andrews voices a giant Lovecraftian sea monster" for you people to get the hint?
    • John Rhys-Davies has only about thirty seconds of screen time as the Brine King, but he still leaves an impression for being a badass Frontline General crab-person who speaks every one of his lines at practically max volume.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Both Aquaman and to a lesser extent Black Manta were thought of as jokes for decades by people who are not familiar with the comics. The film takes great effort in showing both at the top of their games.
  • Shocking Moments: Julie Andrews voicing a sea kaiju was the last thing on anyone's mind.
  • Signature Scene: The shot of Aquaman with thousands of aquatic animals at his command, including the Karathen, an underwater Kaiju.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: The movie bizarrely has quite a few parallels to Devil May Cry 3, with the central conflict focusing on the rivalry between two color-coordinated brothers of diametric temperaments, whose respective outlooks are motivated by the supposed death of their mother, with one learning to embrace his heritage while the other is driven to villainy by his desire for power.
  • Spoiled by the Format: Warner Brothers execs actively discussed how they had big future plans for Black Manta, making it impossible to buy the character's supposed death.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Poor Djimon Honsou gets only seconds of screentime as King Ricou, wise philosopher-king of the Fishermen before being speared by Orm.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Sticking to James Wan's expressed deliberate Genre Throwback to old-school adventure films where Arthur and Mera are on a treasure hunt against Black Manta instead of having the movie be about a fairly generic The Chosen One plot would've most likely made it stand out among other superhero films.
  • Unexpected Character: The octopus playing drums is a nod to Topo, Aquaman's faithful octopus friend, as a homage to the goofier parts of the Silver Age. And not even his more modern form of a giant Kraken-like beast — he's just a normal size octopus playing the drums.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • Atlantis looks amazing.
    • We see Aquaman don the classic green and orange suit and it looks spectacular.
    • The final battle between Orm's alliance and the Brine army is magnificent. It's like an epic Star Wars space battle in an underwater setting, and it looks grand.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: A hero of mixed heritage and played by an actor of Polynesian and Native American descent being discriminated by a society whose members are played by (mostly) white actors, in a story whose major theme is about how the two heritages are part of the same world, not two separate ones, and should play nice with each other. At this point, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the movie is an immigration allegory.
  • Win the Crowd:
    • Momoa as Aquaman is viewed as utterly inspired casting, combined with James Wan as an exciting directorial choice and an impressive supporting cast that seem genuinely enthusiastic about the film, so there is a lot of hope for the movie, despite (or especially after) the Justice League debacle. It helps too that it hasn't been under the same amount of scrutiny (and constant reports of Troubled Production) as the other DCEU films.
    • Add to that the fact that James Wan and new DC Films producers Walter Hamada and Peter Safran know each other very well and worked well in the past on the Conjuring Universe films, meaning there probably won't be behind-the-scenes shenanigans, the very kind of things that caused most of the Troubled Production in previous DCEU films.
    • Rupert Gregson-Williams composing the score. His scoring of Wonder Woman (2017) was much appreciated, building on what Hans Zimmer established in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Especially when compared to the divisive scoring of Justice League by Danny Elfman.
    • Judging from reactions, test screen audiences think the movie is just as good, if not better, than Wonder Woman. And this was even with their complaints about the movie's pacing.
    • Early reactions to the first trailer praised it for having humor and a much lighter and more colorful visual palette, which has excited people who didn't like the Darker and Edgier look and feel of previous DCEU films, particularly those directed by Zack Snyder. The previous movies that attempted to be lighter (Suicide Squad and Justice League) were done through hasty reshoots and post-production editing to less-than-stellar results. Aquaman's tone seems like it has been built from the ground up and in a more thought-out and relevant way than what was done to the two aforementioned movies. Just like Wonder Woman, again.
    • Black Manta's design has won over a lot of fans for evoking the classic look with a tactical modernization similar to Young Justice. It just feels right, as proper balance between cinematic and comic-accurate. Yahya Abdul-Mateen's performance coupled with his three-dimensional characterisation also helped.
    • Like SHAZAM!, the trailer has been received very positively with praise being given to the tone, visuals and Aquaman himself.
    • Just as the Comic-Con trailer won a lot of people over, the extended NYCC trailer has been very warmly received with praise for the action scenes and visuals, Arthur and Mera's banter and a shot where Arthur dons the classic outfit. It looks amazing.
    • General reactions praised the film as being a rip-roaringly good time.
  • The Woobie:
    • The princess of the Fisher Kingdom. Her father is murdered right in front of her because he refused to bend to Orm's will. Orm then forces her to not only take his place, but to fight alongside him. She doesn't look even look like she's older than 14, so this is no doubt a lot for her to deal with.
    • Thomas Curry. He rescues Atlanna after she has washed up on shore, and they begin to develop a relationship that results in the birth of Arthur. However realizing that her betrothed Orvax would send an army if she doesn't return forces her to return to the ocean for their safety. Thomas spends every morning to his pier to see if she has returned, to which Arthur states it's been going on for years. He finally reunites with her when Arthur arranges for her to see him again.


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