Movie Review: “Aquaman”
His father was a lighthouse keeper who, one day, discovered a woman who washed up on shore. She was certainly peculiar, but she was the Queen of the underwater city of Atlantis. The two quickly fell in love, and 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 decides to return to Atlantis before any harm comes to him. 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), Arthur’s half-brother and the current King of Atlantis, has declared war on the surface world. He is tired of humanity’s continued pollution of the world’s oceans. Ecosystems have died, sea creatures have been poisoned, 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 easy to recruit.
The Pros & Cons
Aquaman & Jason Momoa (+10pts)
Atlantis & The Action (+6pts)
Black Manta (-3pts)
Mera & Vulko (+6pts)
The Colors & The Cheese (-2pts)
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 can talk to fish. He has been, arguably, the most lame member of the Justice League until recent years. Jason Momoa was a key 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, he has hit the ball out of the park with this character.
Aquaman’s story is an easy one to get behind. He is an outcast on the surface, and he is an outcast in the sea. He has a grudge towards Atlantis due to the fate of his mother, but he is (at his core) a hero. His story is effective and relatable, but Jason Momoa made the character into a heroic badass that was really 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 pulled off just that.
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 hates 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 do the filmmakers decide 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 works for this story because Arthur is as unfamiliar with Atlantis as we are. On the other hand, the quantity of the exposition is what I had a problem with. There are too many scenes where characters explain a ton of information. Sometimes, this information is important, but that is not always the case. There is a lot of unnecessary information that is given to us as exposition. The downside of this, is that it slows the movie down (unnecessarily) in a few areas, and makes the movie feel long.
Pro: Atlantis & The Action (+6pts)
Did I need all of the exposition? No, but I did enjoy the time that was spent in Atlantis. It was cool to see what the culture was like, between 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 the way characters’ voices echoed was cool, but the coolest thing (by far) was the underwater action.
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. Gravity was still somewhat present, but the way these characters fought while floating underwater made the fight sequence feel special. 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, 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.
Con: Black Manta (-3pts)
There were two major antagonists in this movie. One was King Orm, who definitely got more focus. The other was Black Manta, who was very underutilized in this movie. Black Manta is set up in the beginning of the movie, and it was a strong setup, but then the filmmakers dropped the ball with the character from there.
Black Manta pops up a few times, but really just ends 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 Black Manta in this way (rather than save him for a future movie) only makes him feel less threatening. The filmmakers had a story that utilized King Orm, but clearly just forced Black Manta into the story for the sake of having him in the story. The result is 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).
Pro: Mera & Vulko (+6pts)
I liked these two characters, but 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 see a lot more of Mera than we do of Vulko (Willem Dafoe), and that is how it should have been. I would like to see more of Vulko, but that is not saying much, because (unlike Mera) we did not see much of him in the movie.
We see plenty of Mera, and the filmmakers still left me wanting more. She has the ability to control water in extremely powerful ways. We get a pretty decent taste of this, but I got the impression that this was only the tip of the figurative iceberg. The filmmakers do not focus on her people or her family a whole lot, and I would like to see more of both of those things in addition to seeing more of her power. At the end of the day, what is important is her character’s dynamic with Aquaman. I felt that her and Jason Momoa had decent chemistry, and I liked that Mera held her own in all the action sequences. This princess has a lot of power, has an interesting story, and it was cool to see that the filmmakers made her much more than a typical love interest.
Con: The Colors & The Cheese (-2pts)
I respect the attempt to make this movie standout, visually, but I thought the colors were too cartoonish. 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 feel fake. Then there was the cheese. It does not happen all the time, but there were a few scenes where 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 (figuratively) a few times.
Grade: B+ (88pts)
Warner Brothers have been a hit or a miss lately with their DC movies, so I did not know exactly what to expect. I liked the casting of Jason Momoa after having seen Justice League. I did not know what else to expect, so I did not want to get my hopes up, but I actually ended up enjoying Aquaman quite a bit. Black Manta was underutilized, the colors were a bit too bright for my visual taste, and the characters deliver a ton of exposition, but the movie was a lot of fun.
Jason Momoa turned this once lame character into a badass that is entertaining to watch. Amber Heard has good chemistry with Jason Momoa, and her character was so much more interesting than your typical love interest (it does not hurt that she is extremely powerful whenever she is near some 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 lately, but Aquaman was one that I ended up enjoying quite a bit.