Movie Review: Aquaman (2018)

Directed by James Wan, Aquaman is a 2018 superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Following the defeat of Steppenwolf with the rest of the Justice League, half-Atlantean, half-Human Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) polices the seas, but feel more comfortable living a life of seclusion on land. When his half brother and ruler of Atlantis Orm (Wan favourite Patrick Wilson) begins to attack the surface world, Atlantean Mera (Amber Heard) tracks down Arthur and implores him to regain his throne. Dolph Lundgren, Willem Dafoe and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II also star, as Orm’s ally King Nereus, adviser to Orm, Vulko and the dangerous Black Manta, respectively.

+ Momoa and Heard were both really good as Arthur Curry and Mera, respectively, and had good comedic timing and back and forth banter. Both are very clearly in great physical condition, so there’s something for everyone to look at it. Mera’s Atlantis costume was difficult to take my eyes off, and the costume with her red hair made her really remind me of Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2
+ Wilson as Orm was an effective villain, toeing the line between unhinged crazy and pathetic little brother. His comic accurate costume and desire for the title of “Ocean Master” really worked as a bit of a nudge-nudge to just how lame and over the top it is, but it worked for the character they were creating – in fact, all of the costumes in the movie were comic accurate, and could have been cheesy, but for some reason they all worked really well
+ I love, love, love Black Manta as a character in the comics, but I wish he was given a bit more of a spotlight in this movie. Abdul-Mateen II was menacing and intense in the role, but if he is to become the career rival and archenemy of Aquaman he probably should have had a bit more of an impact. I did enjoy his backstory here, sort of a mixture between the vague history given in the comics
+ great action scenes (on land), with satisfying one-on-one battles between various people. Tridents (and/or spears, polearms and halberds) are really the best weapons for visually appealing combat. Prove me wrong

– large scale ‘war’ scenes were too reminiscent of the battles from the Star Wars prequels; too much CGI with guns and cannons shooting ‘beams’ of different colours for good guys and bad guys. In fact, everything about Atlantis, it’s “vehicles”, the weaponry and the like all reminded me of the Gungans in The Phantom Menance
– there were many moments where the CGI was quite iffy. One particular effect was the attempt to make the underwater scenes (that is, most of the movie) appear as if they were genuinely underwater, which instead just made the characters looks wobbly and strange. The ‘anti-ageing’ shtick used on Robert Downey Jr. in Civil War was used here, as well, and it just made Willem Dafoe fall into that uncanny valley
– it’s a small complaint, but the music was just not good. Orm’s incredibly cheesy “DUN DUN DUN” motif (because he’s the bad guy, get it?) made me physically cringe every time, and Aquaman never really got that kick-ass backing track to really define him, as Wonder Woman did in Batman v Superman. Of all the soundtrack music, only “The Black Manta”  was anything special I was surprised they didn’t use Icky Thump or the Come Together Junkie XL cover again, after them being almost the best thing in Justice League

> I have a quite severe phobia of the deep sea and sea monsters, so I was very uncomfortable watching much of this movie. Even the friendly “cavalry” seahorses were creepy af

Should you see this film: I enjoyed this, far more than I thought it would. It is hardly the best movie you’ll ever see, but a well cast team of characters, solid action set pieces and well planned mix of comedy and drama, this was one of the better superhero origins stories, and definitely top two in the DC movie universe.

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