Aquaman 4K Blu-ray Review
Dir: James Wan | Cast: Amber Heard, Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe | Writers: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (screenplay by), Geoff Johns (story by), James Wan (story by), Mort Weisinger (Aquaman created by), Paul Norris (Aquaman created by), Will Beall (screenplay by), Will Beall (story by)
The DC spin-offs have been consistently more impressive than the central films in the series. Wonder Woman was the first truly excellent film in the current DC universe, and while criticism of Justice League has been harsh, it's clear that the Zack Snyder's vision for the overall DC EU has not capture fans imagination.
James Wan's Aquaman is certainly more Wonder Woman than Batman vs Superman. It's a surprisingly fun, well realised adaptation of a comic character that has, to date, not been very well served on film. The Fast and the Furious director doesn't attempt to do any massive world building outside of creating an enjoyable experience that is both memorable and remarkably intelligent.
Aquaman is a prequel AND sequel to the events in Justice League- in that film Arthur Curry (Momoa) has already rejected his role and position in Atlantean society, here we get to see his origin story and how he was born from the relationship between his father, Thomas (Temuera Morrison) and mother, Atlantean Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman). The film them jumps forward to the aftermath of the events of the Snyder/Whedon film. Princess Mera (Heard) tracks down Curry to attempt to convince him to return to Atlantis and take up his role at the head of Atlantean society.
Aquaman is a broad adventure that doesn't stop to allow the viewer to take a breath - and despite the lengthy runtime (143 minutes) it doesn't feel that it overstays its welcome. Jason Momoa is perfectly cast - he has the charisma, screen presence and physique to make him a believable superhero; and it's clear he is more comfortable in the role than he was the last time we saw him in it. Likewise Amber Heard brings a solid performance; albeit one that gives her a little less to do than we might have liked.
James Wan is well suited to directing the film, his frenetic style is kept somewhat in touch and this allows him to give the viewer a well rounded view of the characters and their motivations. He has a surprisingly light touch at times but when action is needed, he delivers exactly what we want. Well choreographed battle sequences don't suffer from the confusion that Snyder's DC films were afflicted by.
4K Blu-ray Review
There's no doubt that this is a reference quality disc - one that is set to a demo disc for anyone wanting to show off their system. Warner have pulled out all of the stops to bring us both Dolby Vision and HDR10 support and the end result is stunning. Aquaman is a film of extremes and it pushes the full range of the colour spectrum offered by these top end formats, and if you've got the kit to take advantage then you can't help but be impressed.
With so much of the film set underwater, it's easy to forget there was a time when video formats struggled to give the full depth to such intricate cinematography. With 4K coupled with the benefits that HDR brings these limitations can be consigned to history.
The film makes use of two aspect ratios to cater for the large screen IMAX footage - and the switch over after about 30 minutes is well handled and allows more breathing space and delivers an even more impressive and immersive experience.
What is truly surprising is that Aquaman isn't natively 4K - indeed this is an upscale, but one that we genuinely feel isn't negatively affected despite being based on a slightly lower resolution master than we'd expect for such a modern film.
Audio is equally impressive - even from the opening moments with the deep, bass heavy pulse making way for a soundtrack that is truly outstanding. There's no subtlety and that gives Warner the chance to throw everything they can at your audio system.
The aquatic scenes in particular offer a huge amount of atmosphere and depth making for a audio presentation that is surprisingly dynamic and adventurous.
Aquaman doesn't go all out with additional material - we've no commentary and just a selection of reasonably lightweight behind the scenes features.
Becoming Aquaman focusses on Jason Momoa and how he tackled the character while Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman takes a slightly more in-depth look at the film focusing on pre-production through to the actual filming.
The film's effects, and James Wan's involvement in the creation of the world that Aquaman takes place in are the focus of James Wan: World Builder. Characters and motivations make up a number of other features, as does the filming locations.
It's all pretty perfunctory stuff and the feeling is that there's probably enough material here to put together a decent making of documentary, but the piecemeal aspect of the presentation makes it feel less impressive than it could be.
Reference quality presentation coupled with a solid, exciting film make for a disc that feels as bombastic as the material on offer. Disappointing extras don't detract from what will almost certainly be a jewel in any blockbuster collection.