It’s a shame that we never got the chance to see Vince Chase’s version of Aquaman from Entourage. That was probably the closest to a cinematic experience of the DC comics hero. As we approach the end of the year, Aquaman is the last comic book of 2018, and it’s in a crowd where there have been some pretty good ones. Now, let’s see if this doesn’t make me wanna dive head first in the ocean.
What’s the Story: Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a man of two worlds: his home on land where his lighthouse keeper father, Thomas (Temuera Morrison), is from, and of the city of Atlantis where his mother, Queen Altanna (Nicole Kidman), is from. It isn’t until years later when Mera (A mber Heard) is trying to convince him to return home to reclaim the throne before his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) from ruling the Atlantean kingdom and starting a war against the surface.
James Wan’s name attached to helm the sixth entry in the DC Extended Universe was giving me a little bit of hope. Known for his horror background with The Conjuring and Insidious films and stepping into the action genre with Furious 7, he seemed like the right man to show that this superhero isn’t just the guy who communicates with fishes. The DCEU stills have bumps in its road when it comes to their movies. Aquaman was one of the movies I was looking forward, but my anticipation level has been at a medium five. I haven’t been impressed by the trailers since they were all underwhelming, but I still sensed some promise. And yeah, Aquaman was indeed underwhelming, but there are some takeaways to why it almost works.
What I appreciated about Wan’s approach for adapting this big blockbuster based on Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris’ creation is knowing that an Aquaman movie shouldn’t be dark; it’s supposed to be fun and adventitious at almost every minute to what Geoff John’s New 52 tried to do. Does it work all the time? Not so much. But he surprised me with how pulled off a steady tone and making the viewers feel like the characters are in this underwater environment.
Momoa impressed me a lot this time as the titular hero. His first appearance in last year’s letdown Justice League (I’m not counting BvS) was a little glimpse of what’s the come for his solo movie. Because Aquaman, before Momoa played him, was always a joke and is usually the campiest out of everyone else. And you know what? Momoa pulled it off as the perfect Arthur Curry/ Aquaman in my eyes. He’s this surfer, tatted-up dude that’s essentially flawed. He brought so much into this character, and you can tell he’s having a great time throughout.
The action sequences, for the most part, were good, but nothing holy spectacular. They were handled almost perfectly with a lot of them are filmed with some energy and Wan’s style that fits. There were two set pieces, in particular, that stood out from the rest. The first being in this small town in Italy that was really exciting and the climactic battle where everything is going down.
And I actually thought Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) was a decent secondary villain. His look is pretty accurate to the comics and the scenes he’s in weren’t too bad. The problem is that I wanted more of him. Even though his reason for wanting vengeance against Aquaman doesn’t work, it was overshadowed by the rest of the story.
Now we venture into the middle ground where there were some things that I was pretty mixed about. Momoa and Heard’s Mera chemistry is hit-or-miss. And maybe it’s because I don’t view Heard as a good actress, but it wasn’t until later on where they worked together well enough to give them a brief pass. The romance that was probably gonna spark somewhere wasn’t working. The score by Rupert Gregson-Williams, who also composed the brilliant music for Wonder Woman, was fine but nothing that’s gonna be stuck in my head when it’s over.
As for the visual effects, that was the thing that I wasn’t so sure about from watching the trailers. Indicating that there was gonna be CGI heavy throughout, sometimes it’s beautiful with the underwater look of Atlantis, while most of the CGI is clearly fake and almost takes me out completely.
But there are problems with Aquaman to show why this didn’t play out great. Wilson’s Orm was a weak, one-dimensional villain. Which is a shame since he’s a talented actor working with Wan times before, but there was nothing that made him menacing or even memorable. He didn’t have one scene that was on a Loki level of evil. The conflict was there between him and Arthur, but not much else. I also thought the humor was unbearable and I was just awkward or just terribly written.
This script, written by David Leslie Johnson-Godrick and Will Beall, is pretty much a mess all over. The narrative comes off as very predictable and most of the material isn’t that interesting to follow. It kind of takes a long time to get to the meat of the story. The moments where it tries to invoke some emotions didn’t make me feel anything. Some scenes are exposition dumps that don’t feel needed unless it was at the very beginning. And tends to drag on for an overlong 142 minutes.
Chessy? Duh. Whether it’s the cringe-worthy dialogue or a few action scenes that feel like you’re watching a Saturday morning cartoon, this is what’s to be expected when you go into an Aquaman movie. There’s an octopus playing the drums and Julie Andrews voicing a giant sea creature. You kind of have to accept it with a grain of salt. And there’s a cover of Toto’s “Africa” by Pitbull (never want to hear the rest).
What the DCEU have a decent job at doing is their stand-alone movie when it doesn’t have to connect to anything from previous or future movies. And while it lends itself to having a sequel later on down the road, it felt warranted. Even so, Aquaman should’ve been a lot better, but I somewhat had an enjoyable time. Some will enjoy it, while the other half won’t, and I won’t have a problem. Though it’s probably another superhero movie that I’m not gonna care about after it’s over. Who knows what this universe goes forward after this.
- Wonder Woman
- Man of Steel
- Justice League
- Batman v. Superman
- Suicide Squad
Aquaman is definitely cheesy and does suffer from a messy story, but it has its moments of fun from James Wan’s direction and Jason Momoa’s leading performance.