Aquaman Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
When the kingdom of Atlantis prepares to attack the land, Aquaman must try set things right with his misguided half-brother. A fun schlocky adventure ensues!
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Director: James Wan
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Beach, Temuera Morrison & Nicole Kidman.
Run Time: 143 min.
US Release: 21 December 2018
UK Release: 12 December 2018
German Release: 20 December 2018
It was hard to wrap my head around the premise of an Aquaman flick; I saw Entourage, remembering how silly the end product was in that series. After watching Justice League, I needed to reevaluate my thoughts about the character, since Jason Momoa repaired the hero's foolish reputation. He gave the son of Atlantis, a brooding, angrier personality, as well as being somewhat of a recluse, reminiscent of the 90s reinvention of the character. With James Wan set as director, I started looking forward to the release of DC’s next solo superhero picture. Now out in cinemas, the last question remaining is: How good is it?
Born on the shores of the surface world, Arthur Curry, the human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, needs to foil his misguided half-brother’s scheme, of uniting the seven underwater kingdoms to wage war against the surface. Aided by Vulko and the beautiful Mera, Arthur must discover his true destiny and become Aquaman to save millions of lives.
James Wan plus the writing team created an incredibly self-aware superhero movie that is, at the same time, having fun with the premise. Borrowing from other entities, the finished narrative presented on the silver screen, feels like an amalgamation of Avatar meets The Little Mermaid, meets the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man, which surprisingly works. This is pure old-school popcorn blockbuster and I had a total blast watching Aquaman in theatres!
Much like the island of Themyscira in Wonder Woman, Atlantis is a hidden city in the deepest trenches of the Atlantic Ocean. The underwater people have enough of the surface dwellers' toxic habits to pollute the seas, however, deciding to attack the nations of the lands. At least that is what is told to the populace of the underwater city because the true intent of King Orm is more Shakespearian than one might have thought. Honestly, this is a messy screenplay that should have never worked on paper, yet here we are.
Inconsistencies arise when looking back at the 2017 Justice League, probably due to some rewrites. Arthur, who back then couldn’t have cared less about his mother, is suddenly obsessed with avenging her death. It also sounds like he never met Mera before, even though he saved her life during Steppenwolf's attack. Then there is the cringe-worthy romance, between him and the red-headed Atlantean. Disappointing was also the half-baked message about the pollution of the oceans. There is much that should have been refined, before releasing it in theatres.
The dialogue is also somewhat of a mixed bag. While I do love the tongue-in-cheek approach of Momoa’s lines, especially in reference to pop culture, some of the Atlantean dialogues were rather emotionlessly wooden, specifically that of Mera. Then there was the over-the-top delivery from Black Manta, although that reminded more of Willem Dafoe’s fun Green Goblin.
Jason Momoa is the perfect cast for the character! Not only does he have Hawaiian blood, which makes him a son of the seas, but he also brings to the character a “John McClane” likeability. By that I mean, that he is kind of an ass, yet you can’t but root for him due to his charisma! Arthur is depicted similarly to the comic's run of the 90s, giving him an edgier personality, though, never at the expense of his funny side. His backstory is also surprisingly sad, giving the audience an understanding of why he decided to shield himself from both worlds.
Amber Heard, who plays Mera, is rather boring. Her whole personality is based on the fact that she is disgusted by the surface life. The look might be modelled a little after Disney’s Ariel, with that deep red hair colour, other than that Mera has little in common with the character. Sitting on a high horse, constantly talking down to our lead, she becomes tedious.
Patrick Wilson as King Orm - the Ocean Master, gave a good rendition but is sadly, once again, portrayed as a one-dimensional villain. On the other hand, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s performance as David Kane, a.k.a. Black Manta, has more depth yet doesn’t obtain enough screentime.
Rounding off the cast is Willem Dafoe, who returns as Vulko, giving a marvellous performance as always. Having been snubbed of his screentime in Justice League, we finally get to see what Vulko is like, as the vizier to Orm, whose true allegiance lies with Arthur.
This is a beautiful-looking flick hands-down, and a lot of it is due to the fantastic cinematography. Yes, this is filmed digitally, feeling very much like it, with a crystal clear picture and sharp renderings. However, the colour saturation in this movie is out of this world, looking unbelievably stunning. Then there are the underwater battles that while created on a computer, were mostly captured in full frame!
This is a CGI-heavy blockbuster and as such, it comes with a lot of effects that look amazing, though it also had its fair share of terrible computer imagery. While the underwater creatures, as well as the renditions of the actors underwater, were handled brilliantly, some of the floating hair textures did look weird. All of that is nothing, compared to some of the worst green-screen backgrounds I have seen in a superhero blockbuster!
The musical score, composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, is off-the-charts! A blend between fantasy adventure and cyberpunk, it perfectly captured the mix of underwater fable, with science-fiction.
Verdict: To sum it all up, James Wan’s directed DC movie is not perfect. However, it is a call back to early superhero films, never taking itself seriously, just like being absolutely self-aware! The adventure angle, similar to Romancing the Stone, gives the genre a fresh feel, as does the whole underwater fantasy. Visually, it looks like Wakanda has been dropped into the setting of The Little Mermaid. Issues arise with the forced romance, as well as the surface-level message about water pollution. Jason Moma is fantastic as the lead Aquaman, though the main baddie should have been exchanged for Abdul-Mateen’s secondary villain. The cinematography and colour palette are beautiful, but some of the effects look unfinished. This is a good enough solo entry for the character into the DC cinematic universe. I will give Aquaman a 7.0 out of 10.
Are you going to go watch Aquaman in cinemas this weekend? If so, let me know what you thought. Thank you for reading & please subscribe!