DC Creates a Cheesy, Oceanic Epic that Brings Imagination to the Universe
It's safe to say that DC has been off to a slow start. While Wonder Woman seemed to provide some life for the DC universe, the failure of Justice League proved that they still had some work to do. I'm sure that the success of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War gave DC further reason to worry. Thankfully, Aquaman is a step in the right direction.
Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa) is a man who is born part human and part Atlantean. A forbidden romance between his mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Queen of Atlantis, and his father, a lighthouse worker (Temuera Morrison) leads to his birth. Raised on the surface by his father, Arthur still uses his powers to protect the sea and the land. Meanwhile, his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), serves as king of Atlantis. A tyrannical leader, Orm plans to launch all out war to destroy the surface world who he believes is a danger to the ocean world. Arthur realizes it is up to him to save and unite both the land and the sea and defeat his brother.
This film is absolutely ridiculous, but is aware of how ridiculous it is and has fun with it. There are people riding horses and crab people, but it still has the epic feel and scope of a film straight out of the Lord of the Rings franchise. James Wan, known for his success in the horror industry, does an amazing job at bringing this world to life. The visuals in this movie are an absolute spectacle. Atlantis is beautiful and full of color and the costuming really help to place the audience in this world. Even when it's not underwater, the colors and shots are just full of life.
The movement of the characters underwater is done pretty well. They move very elegantly throughout the water. For a film with a ton of effects and CGI, it is handled pretty well. It doesn't look realistic, but it fits for the world that is presented and looks fantastic.
Wan also does a great job with the action scenes. They are so inventive and full of energy. I found myself getting lost in the scope and spectacle of the action. It is easy to follow and even the hand to hand combat is choreographed pretty well. The set pieces for the action are also visually pleasing to the eye. The film just never stops. It is a long film, about 2 and a half hours, but I never found myself to be bored because it is constant action.
The characters of the film match the epic tone of this movie. Mamoa is clearly having a blast as Aquaman. He makes Aquaman a badass, but still had some surprising emotional moments in this film. He interacts mostly with Mera, played by Amber Heard. Heard does a good job in this movie, even though her character is a bit one note.
The villains in this film are very over the top, but still match the tone of the film. Wilson brings a lot to Orm, even though Orm is still your classic evil king villain. While I never found him menacing, he chews up the scenery and feels larger than life. He literally calls himself "Ocean Master." That is beyond corny, but still kind of cool. There is even a brief appearance from Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). He is out for revenge against Arthur and is very one note, but you do sort of understand his motivations. His fight against Aquaman is probably my favorite scene in the movie.
Dolph Lundgren has a pretty big role in this movie and I thought he did a good job. Lundgren is perfect casting for a movie like this and he really fit the part.
What Doesn't Work
While I did enjoy the film reveling in its own ludicrousness, sometimes it can be a bit much. The script for this movie isn't great. It is filled with heroic cliches from other king movies and is very heavy with exposition. It can be rewarding to be enriched in the lore of this world, but almost everything has a backstory to it.
Willem Dafoe is good in this film, but he does not do much except for explaining things. It sometimes feels like Dafoe is simply here for the paycheck, but he never comes off like he doesn't care about what he is saying. I just wish there was more to his character besides information guy.
While it is action packed, sometimes the pacing is relentless and doesn't give enough time to develop its characters. Anytime the film slows down, it is often interrupted by an explosion or an attack by a creature. The length of the film also could have been narrowed down.
The narrative is fairly predictable, which makes the run time a little more frustrating. We know exactly where the film is going so when something new pops up and interrupts the narrative, it can make the film feel longer than it needs to be. However, even the things that interrupt the narrative are entertaining, so it isn't boring, it just could have been cut.
The music also can feel intrusive. The score itself is fine and serves the film well, but there are some songs that just feel oddly placed. For example, there is a pretty bad Pitbull that pops up randomly in the film. Luckily, it doesn't go on for too long.
Honestly, I think this might be my favorite movie so far in the DC universe. Wonder Woman is probably a better movie, but Aquaman is just so much fun and it knows it. It can be cheesy at times with some corny dialogue and over the top characters, but the film still had me hooked with its visual style and adrenaline-fueled action sequences. If over the top action blockbusters aren't your thing, then you may not enjoy this film. However, if you want to munch on popcorn while watching amazing underwater battles, than go check this out. I hope DC stays in this direction with fun, upbeat superhero flicks.