Aquaman, the sixth offering from the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), sets a very different tone from all who have come before… and it works… kinda.
Jason Momoa takes on the titular role as Aquaman/Arthur Curry, the son of lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) and future Queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman).
Set one year after Steppenwolf’s invasion in Justice League, Arthur finds himself gaining popularity among humans as he continues to answer distress calls between Happy Hours – which quickly puts him in the path of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and just a fast away on another ebb of the plot where he’s all that stands between the armies of Atlantis led by his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) in his quest to be Ocean Master, and then destroy those troublesome land-dwellers… and their straws.
Jason Momoa portrays a gruffer, rougher version of Arthur Curry that most comic book fans will recognize – which mostly works. As Aquaman, you feel that he really thinks he’s invincible and ready to take any challenge head-on.
While recognized as a founding member of the Justice League, Aquaman’s never been one of the most popular of heroes – especially when compared to the big 3 – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. He was just the dorky hero that ‘talks to fish’. It’s fair to say that not being like the rest has allowed director, James Wan the freedom to try something ambitious and outrageous. He just manages to pull it off.
Aquaman’s ambition is in a way it’s greatest asset and flaw. Visually, Wan fully captures the grandeur of Atlantis and the underwater kingdoms. The effects and use of dimensions makes for a trippy ride and totally worth shelling out the extra bucks for the 3D or IMAX experience. The fact that a good portion of the movie is set ‘underwater’ allows Wan to do a lot more with action sequences and sharks, dolphins, crabs and a musically-inclined octopus.
However at times, you feel Wan’s over-reached. With a run-time of almost 2 and a half hours, Aquaman swims in multiple directions and seems to be at the mercy of the current of its own ideas. It’s as if Wan walked into a writers room and took the first idea for any given situation… and then took everything else that was said as well to give you essentially two movies (at least) in one.
One of the bigger issues with the earlier DCEU movies were on how insistent they were on being darker, more serious affairs than their Marvel counterparts. Aquaman is definitely a visual buffet, but its attempts on humour (I think that’s what it was) fall flat.
Aquaman is DCEU’s attempt at Thor. It is hard not to make the comparison. Both movies feature brawny leads that punch first, think later, and have sibling issues. As imposing as Momoa looks as Aquaman, bolstered by his natural charisma, he lacks the ability to deliver a one-liner – an ability that Chris Hemsworth is able to call upon with almost carefree abandon.
Wilson’s Orm isn’t much better (and is definitely no Loki). You know what his motivations are (maybe), but never do you feel for him. He’s not the worst of the lot though. That honour goes to Aquaman’s love interest Mera.
Recently, women are making their mark in Hollywood. The women of Wakanda showed strength, courage and a ferociousness that outshone the leads. Hailee Steinfeld delivers a strong and memorable performance in Bumblebee – the latest Transformers movie. Amber Heard, as Princess Mera, on the other hand fails to deliver on any level. Which is a shame considering that she and Nicole Kidman are the only female characters of note. Even Kidman manages to kick ass with the little screen time she has – even if one of her scenes look suspiciously similar to Cate Blanchett’s ‘Valka’ in ‘How to train Your Dragon 2’.
In the end, you still feel like the DCEU projects are playing catch-up. Aquaman would have been a much better movie if it was… well, two movies. However, it is a popcorn movie worth the watch and set on the right course.