Aquaman - Review
My experience with the DCU is not great. The Arrowverse over on The CW is the DC Universe that I love. The movies have been hit and miss since Man Of Steel. Aquaman is the latest chapter, and it is relatively pleasing for the most part.
Just getting this dorky character to work in any form is a small miracle. But James Wan and Co. cracked that code quite quickly. This version of the character works. He works much better here than he did in the jumbled mess that was Justice League. He wasn't the problem in it, but Aquaman did a slight retcon with Arthur Curry it seems.
Don't get me wrong, they still made him helping defeat Steppenwolf "canon", but they seem to do what they wanted elsewhere. Justice League gave me the notion that Arthur and Mera knew each other from that scene that they shared. But Mera introduces herself to him in this movie. It was never explicitly stated that they knew each other, but that was what I implied. Wan wanted to do his own thing, and it is great that DC let him do it, and wasn't tied down by the events of Justice League.
The visuals are an absolute highlight. Atlantis and the rest of the underwater world that the team created is absolutely breathtaking. The way Wan had people move and interact underwater was something we had never seen before. Any time we were out of the ocean (especially in that weird National Treasure-esque 2nd act), I wanted to go back in. There is one particular sequence, when Arthur and Mera are being attacked on a boat, and have to escape them, that is ripped straight out of Wan's horror roots, and it is the image in the film that stuck with me the most.
The cast is great. Momoa is so much fun to watch, even when he turns into "Aquabro" every now and then. He plays off of everyone he interacts with well, and I hope he has a long and fruitful relationship with DC as Aquaman.
Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, and Nicole Kidman all filled out the supporting cast superbly. They elevated the clunky dialogue, and being the pros that they are, didn't let that stop them from injecting emotion into the role.
The two villains were sufficient too. Both Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Manta and Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master gave solid performances. They had uphill battles though. The film handles the balancing of two villains quite well though. But the dialogue they had to endure hurt their roles.
The story is very uneven. The movie is a series of really fun action scenes loosely strung together. You will know when a fight scene is about to happen because there is an explosion first. A big, Hollywood, Michael-Bay-esque explosion proceeds every single fight scene in the movie. You could make it a drinking game - if you want to die of alcohol poisoning an hour into the flick.
The movie is exposition crazy. They obviously have to build the world and set up a lot of things but the story comes to a grinding halt every time they need to inject exposition into the movie. The movie also doesn't trust audiences to gain any nuance from anything. Every single thing is laid out on front street for you. The most cringeworthy of which is Arthur on a boat with Mera, telling her why he is on this heroes journey, since he let Manta's father die, instead of saving him. 99% of the audience could have implied that. We're pretty good at movies. But instead we had to lose all the momentum we had gained for him to lay that out.
The most egregious thing for me though, was the music theme behind King Orm/Ocean Master. It was literally "dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun!" To make it even worse, he would say something (this is not an exact quote): I am the ruler of these seas! You can call me.....Ocean Master!" *dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun*.... like this was a high school production. It happens like 4 or 5 times in the movie. I couldn't get over it, and apparently, after reading back the last paragraph, I still can't.
Aquaman has a ton of little problems. No big ones really. Those little ones add up though. But if you can get over it, there is a lot of fun to be had in the movie.
The costumes are some of the best ever seen in a superhero movie. I am still in shock Manta's is as accurate as his comic book counterpart. And I never thought they'd be able to pull off Aquaman's signature orange suit the way they did. It truly looks great, and I hope it sticks around for future projects.
Overall, this is the second best movie in this DCU. It is better than Man Of Steel, Suicide Squad, BvS, and Justice League. But is second to Wonder Woman. As problematic as it is, DC definitely has something here. Things can definitely be tweaked enough to have an even better sequel. Aquaman has a lot of heart. If they just tighten up the screws, the franchise will be good to go.
Aquaman is *dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun*... in theaters December 21st.