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Movie Review: “Aquaman”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 12/21/2018

Theatrical Release: 12/21/2018

Synopsis

His father was a lighthouse keeper who once upon a time discovered a woman who had washed up on shore. She was certainly peculiar, and she turned out to be the Queen of the underwater city of Atlantis. The two quickly fell in love, and they had a son named Arthur Curry. They were an unlikely family, but they loved each other deeply. However, Atlantis would not so easily forget about their Queen, so Arthur’s mother decided to return to Atlantis before any harm came to the lighthouse keeper or their son. Arthur (Jason Momoa) grew up on land as an outcast, but his abilities and his heroic actions turned him into the legend known as Aquaman.

King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is Arthur’s half-brother and the current King of Atlantis, and he has declared war on the surface world. He is tired of humanity’s continued pollution of the world’s oceans. Ecosystems have died, many sea creatures have been poisoned, many others have been poached, and King Orm decides that it is time for humanity to learn their place. In order to stop the war before it begins, Princess Mera (Amber Heard) sets out to find the legend known as Aquaman. She hopes to persuade Arthur—despite his reluctance—to overthrow his younger brother, and take his rightful place as the King of Atlantis. However, Arthur does not view Atlantis fondly, so he will not be so easily recruited.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Aquaman & Jason Momoa (+10pts)

Exposition (-4pts)

Atlantis & The Action (+6pts)

Black Manta (-3pts)

Mera & Vulko (+6pts)

The Colors & The Cheese (-2pts)

movie-review-aquaman

Pro: Aquaman & Jason Momoa (+10pts)

Making Aquaman as cool as he is now is no small thing. I remember him as the member of the Justice League that could talk to fish. He has been, arguably, the most lame member of the Justice League until recent years. Jason Momoa was a key player in turning this character around. He was a great casting choice, but he needed to do a great job of bringing this new version of character to life. Fortunately, I thought he hit the ball out of the park with this character—at least in this movie.

Aquaman’s story was an easy one to get behind. He was an outcast on land, and he was an outcast in the sea. He had a grudge toward Atlantis due to the fate of his mother, but he was still a hero at his core. His story was effective and relatable, but Jason Momoa made the character into a heroic badass that was pretty entertaining to watch. If you had told me, ten or fifteen years ago, that Aquaman would be the coolest and most interesting member of the DC Cinematic Universe in 2019, I would have laughed in your face. That being said, I think the filmmakers of this movie managed to achieve exactly that.

movie-review-aquaman

Con: Exposition (-4pts)

The writers wanted to give the audience a lot of information in this movie. They wanted to tell the audience how Arthur’s parents met, they wanted to tell the audience why King Orm hated the surface world, they wanted to tell the audience about a sacred trident, and they wanted to tell the audience about the history of Atlantis. How were the filmmakers to give the audience all of this information? Through a lot of exposition, of course!

Exposition is when a character narrates or explains information that the writers want the audience to know. On one hand, this worked for this story because Arthur was as unfamiliar with Atlantis as we were. On the other hand, the quantity of the exposition was what I had a problem with. There were simply too many scenes where characters dumped a ton of information onto the audience. Sometimes, this information was important, but not always. There was a lot of information that was given to us that did not need to be explained. This slowed the movie down in a few areas, and made the movie feel long and drawn out.

movie-review-aquaman

Pro: Atlantis & The Action (+6pts)

I definitely enjoyed the time that was spent in Atlantis. It was cool to see what the culture was like in Atlantis, as well as the different underwater civilizations. I liked seeing what these civilizations were like. The visual effects were great, and everything felt so unique by being set underwater. The way characters’ hair and capes floated was cool, and I thought the way characters’ voices echoed underwater was a nice touch. Then there was all of the action, which provided plenty of excitement, and the filmmakers were able to do a lot of unique things because a lot of it was underwater.

During the ring of fire fight especially, the filmmakers really played into the idea that characters would not have an accurate sense of which direction was up or down. Gravity was still somewhat present, but the way these characters fought while floating underwater—with what was considered up and down being thrown out the window—gave the fight scene some really unique flavor that few movies could replicate. That all being said, it was not only the underwater action sequences that were cool. The land action sequence between Aquaman, Mera, Black Manta, and the Atlanteans was a creatively shot action sequence that felt very unique as well. I do not want to ramble on, so I will not mention every action sequence here, but I hope this was enough to convey to you that, while some might see this as “just another superhero movie”, the action in this movie was something special.

movie-review-aquaman

Con: Manta (-3pts)

There were two major antagonists in this movie. One was King Orm, who definitely got more focus. The other was Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who I thought was pretty underutilized. Manta was set up in the beginning of the movie, and it was a strong setup, but then the filmmakers seemed to drop the character like a hot potato. Manta popped up a few times, but he really just ended up being a throw away character for Aquaman to fight a couple times. I definitely agree with having King Orm get the focus in this movie, but using Manta in this way—rather than save him for a future movie—only made him feel less threatening than he should have felt. The result was an iconic enemy of Aquaman being used as nothing more than a moderate obstacle for Aquaman to have to overcome before having to face the real antagonist of the story—King Orm.

movie-review-aquaman

Pro: Mera & Vulko (+6pts)

I liked these two characters, but I felt that the filmmakers only scratched the surface with both of them. They only scratched the surface with their stories and they only scratched the surface with what these characters were capable of. We definitely saw a lot more of Mera than we saw of Vulko (Willem Dafoe), and that was how it should have been. However, I still thought we should have seen at least a little more of this character, to better understand who he was and what he could do.

We saw plenty of Mera, but I was still left wanting more. She had the ability to control water in extremely powerful ways. We got a pretty decent taste of this, but I got the impression that this was only the tip of the figurative iceberg. The filmmakers did not focus on her people or her family a whole lot, and it would have been good to see more of both of those things, as well as seeing more of her powers. At the end of the day, what was important was her character’s dynamic with Aquaman. I thought Amber Heard and Jason Momoa had decent chemistry, and I liked that Mera held her own in all the action sequences. This princess had power, she had an interesting story, and it was refreshing to see the filmmakers make her more than a damsel in distress or a generic love-interest.

movie-review-aquaman

Con: The Colors & The Cheese (-2pts)

I respect the attempt to make this movie standout visually, but I thought the colors were a bit too cartoon-ish. Everything above ground was realistic, but felt extremely dull compared to the colors shown during the underwater scenes. It just made all of the underwater sets and costumes look fake. Then there was the cheese. It did not happen all the time, but there were a few scenes in which the filmmakers laid the cheese on thick—such as the “permission to come aboard” line from the trailers. The colors and the cheese were not major issues by any stretch of the imagination, but they were enough to take me out of the movie a few times.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-aquaman

Grade: B+ (88pts)

Warner Brothers have been a hit or a miss with their DC movies, so I did not know exactly what to expect from this one. I liked the casting of Jason Momoa after having seen Justice League. Beyond that, I did not know what else to expect, so I did not want to get my hopes up. Fortunately, I ended up enjoying Aquaman quite a bit. Manta was underutilized, the colors were a bit too bright for my visual taste, and the characters delivered a ton of exposition, but the movie was still fun.

Jason Momoa turned this once lame character into a badass that was entertaining to watch. Amber Heard had good chemistry with Jason Momoa, and her character was so much more interesting than your typical love interest—it does not hurt that she was also extremely powerful whenever she was near a little water. On top of all that, the action was solid and the underwater setting made the whole movie feel really unique. Yes, DC movies have been a hit or a miss, but Aquaman was one of the hits.

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