The newest entry into the DCEU is pretty shiny, but all that glitters is certainly not gold. One of the most imaginative and visually stunning movies of 2018. Aquaman is a ton of fun, but the movie lacks a solid foundation.
Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.
So, Arthur Curry, I hear you can talk to fish? For as long as I can remember, Aquaman has kind of been treated as a joke in the comic book world. People mostly thought he was a punchline and wasn’t really capable of doing much other than talking to fish. When Geoff Johns reinvented the character with his spectacular New 52 run in the comics, he managed to do something that really had done before him, he made Aquaman cool. In fact, it’s one of the best New 52 runs that you can read, and I highly recommend it, if you’re a fan of comic books. I say this because the new Aquaman movie is very much influenced by this run. When we first met Aquaman back in Justice League, Jason Momoa certainly was a scene stealer and people certainly wanted to see more of his character and especially Atlantis. We dive right into the sea and the lost city of Atlantis, but at the end of the day, I felt Aquaman lacked a solid foundation and at times felt like a big old mess.
When you go through the Rolodex of Hollywood stars, you will come across certain actors and actresses that people just want to see. No matter the movie, good or bad, audiences will come out in herds to watch them. Jason Momoa is now one of those stars. He has so much charisma, and he’s so likable, that it really makes disliking Aquaman a difficult task. James Wan’s Aquaman is so colorful, at times it reminds me of Avatar underwater, mixed with a little bit of Star Wars. This is a large scale movie, with incredible action-packed sequences. But when all of this stuff isn’t going on, it was hard for me to stay invested in Aquaman. It has one of the worst scripts for a super-hero movie that I can remember. There’s a clear difference between being a cheesy film and flat out having a piss-poor script. I understand what James Wan was going for, making this an over-the-top cheese-fest, but sometimes if you want to be taken seriously, especially after your title character has been a running joke, maybe that wasn’t the best way to go. For all the stuff I disliked, there was also a ton of good and a lot of building blocks for future installments.
Much like her co-star, Amber Heard is perfectly cast as Mera. She might not have the best material to work with at times, but she’s giving it her best, and her character is one of the coolest in all of the DCEU so far. In a movie about water, being able to control water is a unique thing to watch. Her chemistry with Momoa is great, and it’s what carries the whole movie. If these two were the stars of the show, this could have been something truly awful. But when your two stars are so damn likable and they fantastic on screen together, it will be the driving force behind your film. When you toss in two kick-ass villains with Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen), who I couldn’t finally wait to see on the big screen and King Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is always a treat to watch. Both of these baddies are top-tier DCEU villains, and I’m glad we got to see them on the big screen. It’s a shame we don’t get to see them share the screen together, but that will come in due time. My only complaint is the lack of actual Black Manta in the film. I thought his character design was damn near perfect, although I thought he needed a bigger helmet! In a world where comic-book villains can lack motive and in all honesty backstory, King Orm was a nice change of pace. I would almost say he is an anti-hero. His world, the oceans have been getting abused for over a century by the land, and well he’s sick of it. It’s not difficult to understand where he is coming from and why he would be so upset. Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna was again one of the best aspects of the film. Watching her kick so much ass was a surprise to see and at times pretty shocking. That is not the Kidman I know, so seeing her in this role and her execution was flawless.
When you decide to get out of the shallow end and dive deep into the vast oceans, you might have wished you brought a life-jacket. The entire story feels rushed and muddled and held together with wet tape. Even someone as talented as William DaFoe and the almighty Dolph Lundgren can’t save this film. I will say that Dolph Lundgren was so enjoyable to watch, and the scenes he was part of, were what I wanted the whole movie to be. Tonally, the film flip-flops so much, where it doesn’t know what it wants to be. One minute we have a tense and emotional action set piece, which is followed by Pit Bull singing Toto’s Africa. When a large movie like Aquaman can’t decide what it wants to be, the moviegoer will have a hard time figuring out how to react. At least that’s how I felt.
The DCEU has been a bumpy ride, to begin with, all sorts of missteps and shortcomings and now Aquaman, which will end up being the highest-grossing DCEU movie ever, says a lot about where we are within the DC Universe. Visually, this is what I wanted from Aquaman, I just wanted a little more meat on the bones. James Wan does hit a home run with all the visual spectacle going on, but I wish there was a little more detail to the plot and the story he was telling, then making things so bright and colorful. Because I’m getting to the point, where as much as I want something so beautiful to look at, I also want a great story to be told. That’s what separates the great comic-book movies to well the duds. This is not a dud, and I did have fun with it, but is it so hard to ask for a little bit more and more polished script? I still remain hopeful for the future DCEU movies, and I know they will take what worked with Aquaman and improve on what didn’t for the sequel. Jason Momoa shines as its star and we can all thank Zack Snyder for casting him in this role because it simply doesn’t work without him.
Check ya later.
Nate’s Movie Tour Reviews – Aquaman = 66/100