TL;DR – Bombastic, silly, overly long, but still by far some of the best fun DC has made so far.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
To say that the DC Expanded Universe has had a rough launch up to this point would be a bit of an understatement. Indeed, of all the past films, only Wonder Woman (see review) felt like a coherent film in any great sense. So, more than ever, the first film after Justice League had to hit the ground running, even more so after background conversations that the expanded universe was losing a lot of its big-name talent. Now while Aquaman is not a perfect film, it is a film with a lot of style, and more than most of the films that have come before it was just fun.
So to set the scene, one evening a lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) was battening down the hatches from an oncoming storm when he sees a lady washed up against the rocks. Quickly he races down to rescue her and finds Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) with a wound on her side and out cold in the crashing waves. He saves her and they grow close, but Atlanna was on the run from an arranged marriage, and soon Atlantis comes calling. She fends off this attack but knows that she must return to the deep to keep Thomas and their new child Arthur safe. Years later, Arthur is now Aquaman (Jason Momoa) a meta-human who goes around fixing the wrongs of the sea, when he takes down a group of pirates led by David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) trying to capture a Russian submarine. But while he wants nothing to do with Atlantis and his birthright, soon Atlantis comes for him in the form of Mera (Amber Heard) who wants him to avert a war between the sea and the surface, but Orm (Patrick Wilson), his half-brother, wants him out of the way because it is time to rule, and it is not just the seas that he is after.
first thing you see is the sheer ridiculous of this cast, I mean this film has Julie
Andrews voicing a giant sea creature, and that is not even the start. However,
the more important thing is that each cast member has a chance to shine, and
are written with agency. You understand
why Orm hates Arthur/Aquaman, and why Aquaman does not want to take the throne.
One of my issues with Justice League
review) was they made one of the most
energetic characters in the DC universe to be dull, and here they let Momoa
have a sense of personality and humour and you get more of that in the first
scene in the submarine than the last film combined. Patrick Wilson is giving
his best dramatic performance as the ‘would be king’, with the almost Shakespearian
dramatics of one spurned, and trying to stop a usurper to his crown. Amber
Heard also shines as the diplomat trying to stop the war when everyone even her father Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) is
pushing for blood, and it was great to see Nicole Kidman take her turn as an action star, and she is really good
As well as the cast, I have to say there is a real spectacle when it comes to the digitally created world that they have built. There is this bonkers moment where we have a Mosasaurs, Great White Sharks, weaponised giant Sea Horse confrontation, and that is just the start. Yes, you are always clear that you are looking at computer-generated creations, but as they pan past the cities with all their lights, details, whales, ships, I have to admit that it is really impressive. I mean when you get ILM, Weta, and many more major effects studios working on your film, it is going to look good. You see it in these moments where they capture these almost painting quality set pieces. This also extends to the action, which works much better than a lot of recent action films, including many from DC. There is a flow to the fights, which while you know it is being helped by effects/stunt teams, still looks impressive. It helps that they take moment to slow everything down for these set-piece moments, which given the director’s James Wan past experience is to be expected.
I have been glowing here, there are still a lot of issues with the film, many
of them with the story. The film is at times bloated in exposition, but then
often times completely lacking in context. So while there is a lot of time
taken into exploring Aquaman’s life up until this point, they don’t spend enough
time setting up the world. As well as this, you can’t help but see the gears
working in the background. It reached the point where I was picking the plot
points coming and sure enough, yep the bad guy was about to attack at that moment, or indeed where instead of plot foreshadowing they shine a spotlight on
something and go ‘this will be important’. Add to this, it is also longer, than
it really needed to be, and some parts of the film really start to drag. However,
unlike a lot of other DC films, while this impacts the film, it does not ruin
it, because the acting, humour, and effects help plaster over some of the more
showing cracks in the narrative.
In the end, do we recommend Aquaman? Yes, yes we do. It is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun film. It is a film where Great White Sharks run through the battle lines eating people off their submarines, and from that statement alone, you should probably know if this is the film for you. I really do hope that DC can pull this all back together, and this is a good first step in the right direction, but I really hope it continues on from here.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Aquaman
Directed by – James Wan
Story by – Geoff Johns, James Wan & Will Beall
Screenplay by – David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick & Will Beall
Based on – Aquaman by Mort Weisinger & Paul Norris
Music by – Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography by – Don Burgess
Edited by – Kirk Morri
Starring – Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Graham McTavish, Ludi Lin, Randall Park, Michael Beach, Djimon Hounsou, Natalia Safran, Sophia Forrest, Leigh Whannell, John Rhys-Davies & Julie Andrews with Tainui Kirkwood, Tamor Kirkwood, Kaan Guldur, Otis Dhanji & Kekoa Kekumano
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13