Review: Aquaman

Review: Aquaman

19th March 2019 Off By Ryan Easby

Right off the bat, I just wanna thank Aquaman.

Not for how good it is as a film per se (indeed it’s a middle of the road jaunt, nothing offensively bad but nothing particularly special either), but for the fact it’s the first DCEU film I’ve mildly enjoyed and, in some aspects, loved.

Man Of Steel made me want to cry with how badly it represented the symbol of truth, justice and the American way. Batman V Superman made me want to gouge my eyes out with how ceaselessly dull it was. Suicide Squad had me in fits of laughter throughout, not with its own merit, but by how abysmally poor it was. I felt nothing throughout Wonder Woman, completely and utterly bored by the main character and most of the side cast. And the less said about whatever the hell they were trying with Justice League, the better.

So when I say I kinda liked some aspects of Aquaman, that’s the highest level of praise I’ve ever given to a DCEU film.

Aquaman is yet another superhero origin story, to an extent. The ten millionth origin story of its kind, Aquaman shows how its hero came to be through flashbacks, all while having these be in sharp contrast to its modern day elements. The flashbacks of Aquaman are about making us understand who Arthur Curry (Aquaman himself) is whereas the story in the current day is all about showing us Aquaman accepting himself for who he is, a king.

It’s nothing special, and the story plays out like a reverse Black Panther, but the plot does what it needs to do. What I take more issue with is how generic the motivations of the main villains are. The big reason that Black Manta wants to get Aquaman and kill him is because he let his father die, through inaction. It’s supremely generic as a character motivation and sadly, that’s quite literally the only depth his character really gets throughout the whole film. The other villain is Aquaman’s half-brother, King Orm. His full motivation is that he wants power, there’s nothing else to it.

Plot aside, how is the acting in the film? Well, would you believe me if I told you it’s pretty alright? Sure, Jason Momoa is still nothing more than a ‘dude-bro’ but he’s at least got charm and wit this time around. He also actually has character and nuance in this film, especially when compared to his appearance in Justice League. It’s almost like he’s an entirely different character. Amber Heard’s turn as Princess Mera is pretty good too, this is the best film she’s been in since 2015’s Magic Mike XXL.

Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lundgren, however, don’t seem to be giving this film their all. It’s a downright shame, considering we’ve seen better from Dafoe in a film of the same genre (2002’s Spider-Man). Finally, we have Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta. While his character is considerably lacking depth, Yahya manages to work with what he is given and give us the best possible portrayal of Manta given the material.

Oh, and Nicole Kidman is in this briefly. She’s great.

Aquaman is also visually stunning. Director James Wan has brought Atlantis to life through his use of vivid colours and wonderful setpieces. His action directing in particular deserve special praise. Not only are the fight themselves fun and actually visible (a rarity in these DCEU films), Wan has a way of making his fight scenes look like long tracking shots, even when they’re definitely not. I’ve not yet seen anything else Wan has directed, but after seeing his work in this I’ll definitely be taking a look through his filmography.

Aquaman is a flawed, yet fun, piece of Superhero media. Sure, the dialogue is clunky at times and the effects occasionally dire, but it balances it out with some amazing fight scenes and choreography, great acting and a good time. It’s nothing special, but it’s nothing particularly awful either.