I…………………………….fell asleep watching this one. But I still liked it. Hear me out.
Aquaman is a 2018 American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is the sixth installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Directed by James Wan, with a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, from a story by Geoff Johns, Wan and Beall, it stars Jason Momoa as the title character, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nicole Kidman in supporting roles. It is the third live-action theatrical film featuring Aquaman, following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017), and the first full-length feature film centered around the character. In Aquaman, Arthur Curry, the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, must step forward to lead his people against his half-brother, Orm, who seeks to unite the seven underwater kingdoms against the surface world.
Wonder Woman is the reason this one exists
With the release of Wonder woman and the following critical and financial success, people thought DCEU could be saved. And I agree. Granted owing to the largely negative reviews, I have steered away from DCEU movies after Nolan’s Batman. I know. Shame on me. I should give them all a chance and not solely rely on other peoples’ reviews. But the first half of Man of Steel was enough to turn me away from the franchise. Yet Wonder Woman came out and gave DC fans hope again. I mean I like DC superheroes. I never liked Superman but I love Batman and the Justice League. I grew up watching the 90s cartoons more than I read the comics. So I was a little sad when they made Man of Steel the way they did. The theme and style continued through Batman V Superman : Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
So maybe its not a bad thing getting different creators in.
While it was a huge risk handing an entire franchise and bascially the whole movie universe to one person, it ensures a consistency in the series. You know, a la Feige. Zack Snyder might not have a style thats mainstream but fans of DCEU had come to expect the movies in a certain way. I respect that. Though the movies were not purely his vision either, they all felt part of one world. Sadly a family tragedy made him pull back from the projects. The aftermath was the mess that Justice League was. So, bringing in other creators for different IPs from the beginning of production seemed like a good move. Wonder Woman proved it. James Wan did too, well at least commercially.
Aquaman is its own movie, yet its not.
James Wan is famous for making the first Saw and his Insidious/Conjuring movie universe. I honestly would not have thought of his as being the guy to handle this movie. At least based on what I have seen from his work so far. Aquaman has no trace of horror. Its not a Batman movie. This a guy who is half Atlantean, half human, and has powers relating to sea life and water. He knows what he is, tries to use them for good and has a bit of fun using them too. He knows he is awesome. There is no bigger mystery in the story. Sadly in the vein of making Aquaman a fun yet grand movie, the ham handed comedy just feels misplaced. The jokes in all the scenes feel jarring and awkward. Almost like they were added later because they realized this is what is popular in superhero movies these days. Really the only time the jokes seemed funny was in the trailers and I think they already showed the best they could come up with.
I think Jason Momoa and Amber Heard are partly to blame for this. While their relationship is built to be a fun back and forth type, neither their chemistry nor their dialogue is enough to establish that. Even their longing silent looks at each other fall flat. They have no chemistry together.
But while on one hand Aquaman’s slightly childish disposition makes him a bad pair to Mara, it actually works really well for his scenes with his half brother Orm. His reluctance to be a part of the underwater world is in interesting contrast with Orm, who feels he needs to fight for the kingdoms. But then again, those two share maybe 3 scenes in the whole movie together. Would have been more fun to see them interacting with each other than the romantic couple. None of the other characters are compelling enough to discuss. Not to mention the movie is chock full of action scenes with little to no payoff.
For a movie on Atlantis, its quite shallow.
We are polluting the earth. All our waste goes into our oceans. We are endangering numerous plants and animals by creating and dumping non biodegradable waste. The movie talks about that. Twice. Movies with a preachy message can often feel heavy and bloated. Yeah, we get it, we are killing mother earth, can we get to the main story already.
But in this movie, I actually liked that it was the central conflict and actually a good motivation for the antagonist. While it does not establish Orm as a complex character, it still gives him a justified aim. But no morals to back it up. He kills his own people easily. Is totally ok with taking over other water kingdoms. Kinda hard to root for a guy who is defending ocean life but killing his own subjects to prove a point. You dont ever root for Orm, but neither do you for Arthur Curry.
Jason Momoa is a good Aquaman
Momoa is a huge guy. He is also charismatic, at least in my opinion. I do feel though, that for the majority of the movie, he didnt quite fit in. Emotionally at least. Physically, I think he sells himself as a super hero pretty quick. Though his character Arthur Curry is alluded to having an identity crisis, unlike other stories of the sort, the crisis has absolutely no affect on his powers or abilities. He seems to be reeling with the loss of his mother but it has never been a focal point of his existence as Aquaman. He is pretty good at using his powers and was trained by one his mother’s supporters. I know its unfair that I keep bringing up Wonder Woman, but I will anyway.(I dont want to draw comparisons from Marvel movies).
In WW, Diana was conflicted about what she wanted to do in life, whether to save humans or let them be consumed by war. She starts out as seeking Ares, blaming him for all the bloodshed. Things are black and white at first but then all muddle into gray as the movie goes on.
There is no higher conflict in Aquaman. And there is this whole story about a weapon that makes no difference even after he gets it. I think its called a MacGuffin. I mean, sure he becomes more powerful, but a dick measuring contest without substance is, well, boring. No matter how many explosions you add to your finale. The imbalance of power is not established well enough in the beginning for the weapon to matter in the end.
The Good, the Bad, the meh
The movie looks great. Of course the water isnt realistic like something Disney would do (The Good Dinosaur). But its looks great for what it is. The underwater world is extremely colorful and engaging to look at. I got major Avatar vibes from it, but it was its own world too. The underwater monsters looked believable for the movie. The bubbles during the action scenes were a little distracting but makes sense for the universe. The movie was very weak story wise. It felt more like moving from action piece to the next without much gravitas. Which is fine really. Not all superhero movies need to be deep and emotional. I couldnt hear most of the dialogue sadly. Even for scenes above water. Everyone seemed like they were mumbling through their lines. For every single scene. It was worse underwater since they had the added bubble effect to the sound as well. The dialogue is, just, silly. There are one liners tacked on here and there but none felt earned. Maybe I was missing out by not having seen Justice League. but Aquaman did not have an arc in the movie for me and it felt apparent in his dialogues too. The acting was ok. Again, since the focus seemed to be the underwater scenes, the acting felt lacking despite having a great cast. The leads had absolutely no chemistry, which made watching the romance really tedious. Its not enough to have two good looking people, they kinda have to match. But despite all that, I still had fun watching it. Atlantis looks really great. It also goes the How to Train Your Dragon route for certain things, without the same emotional beats. But it doesnt seem like a movie I would be going back to any time soon.
Its a lesser movie than Wonder Woman, but I am glad it exists.
If anything but just for showing the studios that tone shift is not entirely a bad thing. And maybe inspiring them to create different movies on solo heroes first and then bringing them together for a movie like Justice League. But of course DC started in reverse and now we dont have Batfleck anymore. Dang it, I quite liked Ben Affleck as Batman. Either way, Aquaman is adequate as a stand alone movie. There is a throw away line about Justice League but thats it. It does not affect the story much. The filmmakers definitely did not restrict themselves when it came to spectacle and monsters. The movie may be lacking in places, its still a decent time at the cinema. The characters or the plot were not very compelling, but I still look forward to visiting the different underwater worlds in The Trench, the horror spinoff movie.