Aquaman (2018) Film Review
Matthew - wrote on 12/28/18
Runtime 2h 22m
Much like 2017s Wonder Woman, James Wan’s Aquaman is an entertaining look at another of DC’s titans, demonstrating that even if the team-up films continue to struggle to find their feet, the more personal tales can still highlight why these characters are immortalised in pop culture.
The story is pretty much what we have come to expect of superhero origin films for now. Nolan did it before Marvel and they’ve been killing it for 10 years since, so it would’ve been hard to reinvent that wheel, so i’ll quickly get to the point. Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry who we already saw kick some serious ass in Justice League must go on a quest to become the true king of Atlantis. On the way there are a variety of forces that are trying to stop him, yadda yadda, exposition, exposition, ok lets do some action stuff followed by some more exposition, rinse and repeat. I feared at one point that the sheer amount of characters would cause the film to buckle under its own weight, but surprisingly it held its own. The plot was coherent, even if it did feel like one big fetch-quest at times, but it did manage to blend nicely with some past and present-day moments to show the development not just of Aquaman, but of his parents and some of the Atlanteans also, so you can better understand their motivations towards the surface, which further explains reasons for their actions in Justice League and so on. I do like the feeling within superhero universe films where there is a feeling of shared space, not just one film after another within the property, actually making watching all the different films feel worth it.
Visually this film is pretty damn stunning, as you’d expect. You can really feel the stark contrast between the underwater world and us living on land, from the culture to the dress and the way both people have evolved, all reflected in beautiful pinks, bright Turquoises and silky smooth purples down below, compared with much harsher yellows, browns and greys on the surface. Additionally, each of the 7 regions of Atlantis feels unique, reminding me a lot of places from a Zelda game. There’s the Zora like Fisherman, the Goron like Brine people and humanoid Atlanteans to name a few, all with different types of clothing and approaches to governance, all making a contribution to the ruling of the sea. You could tell that Wan and master comic writer Geoff Johns had worked intricately on detail like this, to ensure they got it right for fans who would appreciate it, and personally it was detail like this which is a core reason that superhero fans should give this film a chance.
I’ve also gotta mention the performances that stood out for me despite the generic plot. Momoa for me is now definitive Aquaman. He has taken a character known for dressing quite campy and being quite soft when compared with someone like Batman or Superman and converted him into a hard-ass that you would not want to mess with. He manages to pair this with a script that gives him enough badass and comedic moments not dissimilar from a typical marvel film, to craft a very likeable protector of the deep. Someone else who impressed me was Princess Mera played by Amber Heard. She was strong, funny and kicked a ton of generic soldiers to the curb in this film, definitely putting her up there with Diana as one of the strongest female characters in the DCEU. The action scenes she is given in this film are really well choreographed, using close-quarter and wide-area fights to great effect. Whilst i’m on that point generally, its not just Mera’s but pretty much all the action scenes in this film are superb, especially those involving Yayha Abdul Mateen II’s Manta. Wan isn’t afraid to push the 12A rating to its limits and I couldn’t be more pleased. Its been one of my biggest criticisms of the MCU that they are too nicey nicey when it comes to killing and death, and this is maybe were DC have the opportunity to take the initiative, as they have always been more willing to test the limits when it comes to the darker side of the comic medium. Other performances of note would have to be Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, she makes for a badass mum to Aquaman, and Patrick Wilson as King Orm.
To sum up, the film is one of the stronger origin films I have seen in the last couple of years. The story might still tread the same water but in its defence there is only so many ways of writing that kind of plot. For me, the fast-paced action, gorgeous visuals, attention to detail and engaging characters make it more than worth taking the plunge and visiting Atlantis. I can’t wait to spend more time with these characters, and now hopefully Billy Batson and Shazam can be as strong.
Rating: 8/10- worth a watch in the cinema