Need to fix the DCEU, just add water.
Synopsis: Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world. (IMDB)
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe
Writers: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall
Director: James Wan
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 143mins
With all the current friction in the DCEU, Aquaman serves as a nice distraction. After quick cameo in Batman v Superman and a supporting role in Justice League, he now has his own solo film to strut his stuff. Smartly, no other DC superheroes were in sight. Perhaps not the most widely known hero of the DC universe, this film gives him an arguably familiar story and executes it better than most. While the premise behind the superhero is a somewhat ridiculous one, it thankfully doesn’t take itself overly seriously. Despite this, it was still incredibly cheesy at times though this was easy to overlook as the film was a blast to watch.
The film was still an origin story of sorts for Aquaman a.k.a. Arthur Curry (Momoa) but didn’t dwell on it too long. Lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) by chance met Queen Atlanna of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) and the rest was history, troubled history as would be revealed as the film went on. Living in relative obscurity from what would be, unbeknownst to him, his destiny. Inevitably, his destiny would come calling as he would have to claim his birthright from his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) who was out of control and threatened to destroy both the sea and the land.
Since his exploits in Justice League, Aquaman became stuff of legend. To stop Orm, a reluctant Curry must team up with another Atlantean named Mera (Heard). What of course started as a journey by a pair of opposites became much more. The scenes between Curry and Mera were so fun to watch thanks to some hilarious exchanges between the two. Now we already knew about Curry but Mera wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill female sidekick which was nice to see. We saw a glimpse of what she could do in Justice League and she continued here and held her own. Their goal was to scour the globe to find an ancient trident that would be the key to everything and inevitably encountering plenty of opposition along the way.
Most of the film’s cheesiness can be attributed to the mediocre script but it’d be tough for a film with an unbelievable world like this one’s to not be even a little cheesy. What an unbelievable world it was. The special effects behind bringing Atlantis and under the sea to life were quite often a sight to behold though they could have gone even further with its world (although the budget can be a constraint). However, many of the underwater scenes felt too much like characters on a stage and/or in front of a green screen.
The film was also beautifully shot with a few action sequences in particular that will stand out (especially in IMAX if you have access to it). The action, despite being more on the standard side, was better because of it. However, there were far too many instances of blatant CGI but despite that, it was still exciting to watch. Though it was used in a cheesy way, the film’s score was also very cinematic. Although the film was also on the long side, clocking it at nearly 2.5 hours, it certainly won’t feel that long.
The acting was great for the most part with Momoa as Curry was the standout. Suffice it to say that the film would not have worked if not for him and he definitely did not disappoint here. His calm and cool charisma goes a long way. He may not have sold the film’s more dramatic moments but he was still extremely compelling to watch. His chemistry with Heard, who was just as strong in her own right as Mera, was maybe the best part of the film. Wilson was severely miscast as Orm, a severely underdeveloped character, hamming up some truly cringe-worthy dialog. Kidman, in a departure of a role, impressed as Atlanna.
Overall, this was a good film that took a fairly pedestrian story and elevated it thanks to James Wan’s masterful vision. It might be incredibly cheesy at times but it never takes itself overly seriously and was still a blast to watch and beautifully shot with some amazing action set pieces that should be seen in IMAX if you can. Jason Momoa infectious charisma is a delight and he is well worth the watch. The DCEU may be in shambles but at least Aquaman is in the right hands.
*Aquaman opens in theatres on December 21st*