Film Review – Aquaman


DIRECTED BY: James Wan

STARRING: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Graham McTavish, Ludi Lin, Temuera Morrison, Randall Park and Michael Beach

 

SYNOPSIS

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.

Aquaman reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime–one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.

Aquaman is the latest DC Films release from Warner Bros. and the first big screen solo outing for the character. The story shows us how his father, lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry, and his mother Atlanna, the princess of Atlantis, came to meet and grows up being trained by her loyal advisor Nuidis Vulko to become a skilled warrior. In the present, Arthur Curry is approached by Mera to return with her to Atlantis to prevent his half-brother Orm from creating an army that will wipe out the surface world.

 

Visually, Aquaman could be one of the most impressive of the year in how not only how Atlantis is represented, but the other worlds below water, how it presents how people talk and move around and how the fight choreography works within that environment. It’s different from that standpoint to anything we’ve seen before and the climatic battle was a personal highlight for me in terms of spectacle. There’s some gorgeous cinematography work from Don Burgess here as we move from the Sahara to Sicily as well as coastlines and underwater. It works at its best in a fight/chase sequence in Sicily and it also helps that Wan’s direction works well within these less-CGI moments. I enjoyed Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman here. We all know the character has a history of being, well, goofy, and while he’s presented as being somewhat of a dim-witted bro when it comes to relying on using his smarts, Momoa brings that certain swagger to the whole that’s fun to watch on screen. Amber Heard really impressed me here as Mera, providing some added charm that’s need in the second act and her and Momoa bounce off each other well on screen. Patrick Wilson is solid with the material given as the villain Orm, I also liked how he had the classic Aquaman from the comics look rocking and the supporting cast such as Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison. Kidman in particular just brings that gravitas to the role of Atlanna and with her limited screentime, she makes a memorable impression. Rupert Gregson-Williams comes off Wonder Woman and provides the score here and I thoroughly enjoyed what he brought here, from Arthur’s synth-heavy theme to Black Manta’s theme, it just works really well within the world created here.

 

The film has a few issues though, some small and one that follows through the entire runtime. There’s a few musical cues outside of Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score, primarily that Pitbull song that samples Toto’s Africa, that just feels cheesily placed in the way it’s used to highlight that ‘Hey, the character’s are in Africa now’….it also doesn’t help that the song is bloody awful though. A few jokes don’t quite land that well here and there, but the main letdown is the screenplay. In particular we have characters having conversations, mapping out what needs to be done and next location to go to and then explosion, get knocked down, set-up battle for next scene and this happens at about four or five times in the film, making it rather repetitive. Highlighting the surface dwellers polluting the ocean, hunting whales etc. and not use that material for Orm’s motivations beyond mentioning it in one scene, very briefly, feels somewhat of a missed opportunity to add extra depth to the character other than coming across as lusting for power. As much as I enjoy the character from watching him in the animated series/films, Black Manta does feel pointless to be brought into the fold here as Orm gets the most screen time and understandably so. The look of the character could go one or two ways, I think those that know the character will like the live-action look while those that don’t will think the helmet in particular to be too silly. There was enough from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s performance however that makes me want to see more of him as Black Manta in the future. The film is very ambitious and goes all out in presenting the scale of Atlantis and the climatic oceanic battle that, since the film comes in at almost two and a half hours, it can be understandably exhausting.

 

VERDICT

Imagine if Flash Gordon and Avatar had a lovechild, Aquaman would somewhat be the closest representation I could give it. The scale of Atlantis and the underwater worlds is ambitious, the scope could almost be overwhelming but thanks to Wan’s direction in a number of the action set pieces, the score from Rupert Gregson-Williams, and the performances from Jason Momoa and Amber Heard, I had a blast watching this absolutely bonkers blockbuster. Exhausted by it, but I enjoyed it.   7/10

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