With the rise of comic book movies over the past ten years, it’s become pretty easy to dismiss them. Unfortunately, over the past seven years, this has more often than not applied to films made by DC Entertainment. With the exception of 2017’s Wonder Woman, it’s more or less true – almost every single DC film has opened to middling (at best) reviews.
Many of the films share common criticisms – the movies are too dark, too gritty, there’s too much brooding, they’re trying to do too much, and the complaints go on. In that sense, the best thing about Aquaman is that it seems to have (finally) heeded those complaints, and actually made a change – a step in the right direction.
Aquaman is, without a doubt, the most fun of the DC movies. Director James Wan (The Conjuring) delivers a fast-paced adventure flick, pulling the audience from one grand set piece to another as quickly as he can manage, only to one-up himself five minutes later. The visuals are truly bonkers – whether you’re watching Aquaman enter Atlantis for the first time, romp across the rooftops of Italy, or battle an underwater maelstrom, it’s all spectacular to behold. It all has vibrant, stunning colour to it as well, which is a nice visual change from the drab tones of previous DC outings. Even Justice League, which was a battle with an alien army, was strikingly boring to watch – so it’s nice to switch it up somewhat.
Given all the incredible sights the audience is treated to, it’s almost comical that there are other CGI-fueled moments that look as though they’re being brought to you by 1995. For example, Temuera Morrison (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Moana), is featured near the beginning of the movie in a flashback to the late 80s, and the de-aging technology makes him look like a smoothed Ken doll. Simply, the rest of the film looks so amazing that it just makes moments like that feel lazy by comparison.
Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones’ Khal Drogo) stars as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, fulfilling the brawny action hero stereotype as ably as anyone truly can. The film embraces Arthur’s intelligence (or perhaps lack thereof) by constantly poking fun at it, and while it may be a stereotype, it also somehow makes the man-who-would-be-king that much more relatable. The rest of the film’s cast – Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Willem Dafoe – fill out the rotation serviceably.
Wilson and Abdul-Mateen stand out as the film’s two antagonists, providing ample entertainment throughout the proceedings. They chew the scenery pretty well, but look like they’re having fun most of the time, which makes up for the absolutely atrocious dialogue. At times, I seriously wondered if the writers had ever actually heard two human beings have a real conversation, as the major characters mostly just deliver one-liners in succession at one another, as opposed to talking with someone. It can maybe be overlooked if Arthur was the only one doing it, given the emphasis on his lack of smarts, but when every character does it multiple times, it’s hard to ignore.
Despite the flaws, Aquaman is truly an entertaining movie, because it manages to tell Arthur Curry’s origin story with some flair. One of the overarching problems with DC’s storytelling is that it was all somewhat rote – perhaps one flaw of entrusting most of the previous several movies to a single version. With Patty Jenkins helming Wonder Woman, and now Wan driving Aquaman, it’s fair to say that if this keeps up, the future looks bright for DC, indeed.
Aquaman is now playing in theatres.
You can find Sho on Twitter at @SNSAlli. He loves to chat about movies and sports so if you have thoughts on Aquaman then I’m sure he’d love to hear them.