Aquaman is the next wave in the DC cinematic universe’s course correction after the erratic messes that could barely be called films after the studios were finished with them.
Does Aquaman redeem the path that Batman V Superman, Justice League and Suicide Squad had set? Lets take a deep dive and find out.
Jason Momoa is Arthur Curry the Aquaman. His story arc is to overcome his inner aqua-dude-bro, sure hes likable enough but they dialed back his jockishness since his introduction in Justice League. Remember this is the guy that was threatening to give the Flash a wedgie and being more of a jerk than Batman usually is.
Amber Heard as Mera an Atlantian royal and more than a little subversive. This is the first movie she has actually stood out in to me despite me having seen over a half dozen movies throughout her career. With her shock of fire red hair and bright green bodysuit you can’t really miss her in Aquaman. Thankfully she was actually one of the strongest parts of the movie and did that fish out of water relationship much better than Gal Gaddot did in Wonder Woman.
Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko, advisor to the throne who trained Arthur in secret and plays a supporting role in the story. Willem is usually great in everything he’s in and Aquaman is no exception. However I did keep expecting him to turn into the Green Goblin, it’s just that fantastic creepy smile of his.
Patrick Wilson as Orm / Ocean Master Arthurs half brother and heir apparent to the throne. Orm is mostly in asshole mode for the entirety of the film and if they were clever they could have written his character to be a lot more sympathetic and making hard choices out of a sense of doing what he thinks is right. No such depth is brought to the script here, Orm just does evil stuff because: reasons.
Dolph Lundgren as Nereu an Atlantean lord and Mera’s father. This has been a strong year for Lundgren also appearing in Creed 2, it’s good to see him on screen and he brings a presence to the scenes hes in no matter how silly.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane / Black Manta: Starts out as a good villain for Aquaman to face off against but then is sidelined halfway through the movie and is just lost in the mess of action later on. Sadly under-utilized.
Temuera Morrison shows up early on in the movie as Thomas Curry, Aquaman’s human dad, a lighthouse keeper who finds Queen Atlanna ( Nicole Kidman) and falls in love with with her. His “can I cook you some eggs” line was a dose of unexpected hilarity.
There are no surprises in Aquaman you have the very well worn exiled prince wins back the kingdom plot line. Black Manta isn’t the primary villain in this film which is a shame as you get his motivations and his back story is built up along the way coming from a long line of pirates dating back to his grandfather who was a special forces diver turned mercenary. Willem Defoe steps into the wise mentor archetype and fits the role well. Amber Heard’s rebellious Mera manages to be a strong female character without feeling like it isn’t earned although it is a bit weird she is Aquaman’s love interest but also betrothed to his half brother and heir to the throne Orm.
Aquaman is pure cheese, I was actively laughing at the movie not because it was genuinely funny but because how cringe-worthy some of the scenes were. For those saying the film is intentionally cheesy and I don’t get the joke, ponder this if you shit your pants at a party it doesn’t matter if it was on purpose or not you still have pants full of shit.
The CGI in DC movies has always been shaky but here it sinks to new lows. If you thought Superman’s rubber lips from Justice League was bad, now we have de-aged Temuera Morrison to haunt our dreams. I watched him on Shortland street when he actually was that age and he didn’t bloody look like that! Nicole Kidman and Willem Defoe get the same wax museum rendering from hell treatment.
It’s not just Plasticine people, the graphics are just as big, dumb and overwhelming. It’s like the worst transformers has to offer except underwater and rendered with the realism of a sponge-bob episode on your old XBox 360.
Jason Momoa is okay as physical effect but as Aquaman he doesn’t really develop much as a character and from start to end you don’t for a moment think there is going to be anything but the predictable outcome.
The Good Stuff
Amber Herd and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II really carried this film, both owned their roles and managed to sell the silliness they were in. I would have to say this is the first film Amber Herd is a stand out in for me.
The action sequence in Sicily was the highpoint of the film before the cluttered cgi messes that come later.
The soundtrack (apart from Pit Bulls cover of Toto’s Africa which should count as a warcrime) was fantastic reminding me a lot of the outstanding Tron Legacy soundtrack by DaftPunk. The vibrant Synthwave music matched the neon Tron like visuals setting the tone and setting itself apart from the standard superhero orchestral score.
Aquaman’s sound design is also fantastic and very punchy, especially on a huge IMAX system.
After the oppressive darkness DC have gone the exact opposite direction and then a bit further. Maybe it’s for the best that DC has decided on making comic-book films for 8-10 and 30-45 year old children instead of wallowing in it’s angsty teenage years.
It is apologetically dumb fun, but its far from great film-making, average, if I’m being kind. Set your expectations low and you’ll enjoy it but it is a very low bar to exceed.
Aquaman wants to be Thor Ragnarok but ends up Empires of the Deep (no, seriously, this could be the same film)
You’ll like it if you enjoy:
Saturday morning cartoon Superheroes.
Vibrant visuals and world building.
A DC film you can take the kids to.
Skip it if you:
Prefer your Hero’s Grim, Dark and Serious.
Don’t enjoy obnoxiously visual action scenes.
Want a movie that holds up in both visuals and storytelling.
Opens Boxing Day