The following is my review and represents my opinion. No matter if you agree or disagree, I would like to have a discussion about the film and promote this wonderful art form. All I ask: be nice about it. Art is subjective and no one’s opinion is right.
After helping save the world from Steppenwolf, the half-man, half-Atlantean Aquaman(Jason Momoa) must now find the Trident of Atlan, a legendary weapon forged at the peak of Atlantis, before he can challenge his half-brother Ohm(Patrick Wilson), the current King of Atlantis, for the throne. If Ohm remains King and becomes Oceanmaster: he can fulfil his plan to wage war against the surface world, leading to the decimation of the human race.
Among the modern renaissance of DC movies clamouring to catch up with the ‘infinitely’ more successful Marvel, few have truly succeeded. Discounting the Pre-Snyderverse(meaning from Man of Steel onward), only Wonder Woman has been the definitive commercial and critical success DC craves. Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad luckily made green at the box office but unfortunately also on Rotten Tomatoes, while Justice League only made green in the latter. Aquaman is DC’s latest attempt: and some would say its’ final stand for help. To this extent, it may be an astutely timed S.O.S, inherently being twice as fun and four hundred times more colourful than all that has come before it.
Granted, four hundred times zero is still zero – but James Wan tries nonetheless. First and foremost, Aquaman is a dazzling visual spectacle, starring the magnificent water-wonderland of Atlantis as its’ magnum opus. Atlantis now lives and breathes(through gills of course): using an array of visual effects and artistic design to make a world of legend one of reality. Wan and DP Don Burgess shoot the film with fun in mind, boasting a boisterously bold and bright colour pallet to make the make this aquatic-world radiate. At one point, Wan even returns to his horror roots and delivers a wonderfully creepy sequence, on par with Wonder Woman’s now infamous ‘No Man’s Land’ for how entertaining it is. No matter the tone of a sequence, however, his vision always remains constant.
It is through his vision the film’s charm lies. Although Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon debuted the Aquaman in last year’s Justice League, he only comes into his own under the guise of Wan. Jason Momoa returns as the eponymous hero and is every bit as charming, entertaining and intimidating as he was before – only now he gets to relish in the campness of the character. Also making her return from a small role in Justice League, Amber Heard reprises the character, Mera – using the simple but effective tactic of ‘being awesome’ to sell her performance. The charisma between the pair is thoroughly engaging, and the dynamic they have both as personalities and action stars simply works.
Unfortunately, their characters’ depth ends at action stars, although some level of development is present: just not enough. This extends into the two antagonists – Oceanmaster, played quite well by Patrick Wilson, and Black Manta, played not-so-well by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – who are fighting not just against Aquaman in the movie, but against each other for screen time. Ocean-Master’s inclusion is pivotal to the story, while Black Manta is only pivotal to setting the sequel. Ultimately, too much is the film’s biggest shortcoming – as so much ironically means so little.
If your main concern is getting enough movie, fret no longer: its a lot of movie. It is also, however, too much movie. One, two or three action sequences are fun but once the fifteenth hits, no amount of Krakens, sharks and men-riding-sharks(or men riding Krakens) can overwhelm the tiredness and tedium. The first few sequences are ideal examples of big, fun superhero action sequences – such as an empowered display of strength by Nicole Kidman. But once the last couple sequences arrive and pound away at your consciousness until it is no more, what was once an awesome display of power is met with little more than a tired yawn.
As an additional side effect to fattening this film up, the plot is very uninteresting and flat. The MacGuffin adventure quest is as generic as they come and the tale is easily likened to other prominent movies in this genre, most notably Thor and Black Panther – though claiming it copied Black Panther is an utterly ridiculous notion. Luckily the pace moves very quickly and boredom is a rarity for the vast majority of the runtime. However, it comes at the cost of never truly connecting to the characters, only worsened by Wan’s compulsive need to revisit his horror roots and break any minute moment of peace with an explosion, very reminiscent of a jump scare. Few moments of tranquillity are left un-butchered – which is, like jump scares, initially surprising but swiftly loses its impact, and unfortunately hurts the film when it is used with incessancy.
Wan does deserve credit, though – Aquaman has been a joke character for so long and making a movie that, despite its faults, is sure to engage people is no easy task. This is by far the most colourful DC movie and easily the most crowd-pleasing. It’s big and boisterous, and what it lacks in thematic grace, it more than makes up for in tridents, sharks and giant seahorses: also known as, the epitome of a good time.