"Aquaman" is directed by James Wan and stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry. In this film, he discovers that he is the rightful heir to the underwater kingdom called Atlantis. He must also fight his half-brother King Orm, also known as the "Ocean Master", played by Patrick Wilson. Because he also wants the throne and the kingdom under his rule to declare war on the surface world.
I have been following James Wan's career for a really long time, ever since the first "Saw" movie back in 2004. I've enjoyed his modern horror work with "Insidious" and "The Conjuring". I think he is one of the most talented directors working today. I've always been so excited to see him bigger and better directorial gigs. So, I was really curious to see how he would bring Aquaman to the big screen. Because this superhero doesn't necessarily have the same reputation as some of the more iconic ones that we know today. For a while, he was really a joke and it's been more recent comics that have made the character a lot more badass and entertaining.
This is a very self-aware film that is knowingly silly and purposely over the top that throws everything at the screen in a gigantic explosion of underwater festivities with so much color, pure enjoyment, and fun that I couldn't help but smile through most of "Aquaman". I think this is a really entertaining movie and I am very surprised to say that because the trailers didn't really impress me. They looked like a bit of a mess, and I was concerned about the overuse of CGI. However, I must say to all the visual effects designers that worked on this film, pat yourselves on the back. Because the work that is on display here is so incredibly impressive.
It is a beautiful movie, much of it is CG, but you can't make this movie without CG. Point being, there were times where it reminded me of Avatar with just how colorful and beautiful everything was. The ocean creatures and the costume designs just leap off the screen. It is such a bright and vivid looking movie.
Jason Momoa is also perfect casting here and I really can't imagine anyone else as this character having seen him as Arthur Curry. He is clearly relishing every minute he has on screen and brings so much physicality to the action scenes. Which, James Wan has taken a very unique approach to.
All of the hand-to-hand combat scenes and the underwater battles were surprisingly unique looking. All the fight scenes are in great wide shots where you can see everything that is going on and I think this is some of my favorite action I've seen in the DC Universe so far. James Wan did a great job helming these action scenes. Honestly, for a film that I really wasn't anticipating all that much from. I found myself really enjoying how purposely silly this movie was. It almost feels like an anime that would air Saturday Morning on Toonami alongside Dragon Ball Z. It is really loud and big with no holding back, people flexing their muscles and scream declarations of Valor, shouting their names with over-the-top poses.
It is very out there and some people will look at that as cringe-worthy and dumb. They might compare it to other films that tried to be over-the-top and state, "well, they didn't really understand what those films need'. And I can understand that with this film. It could polarize some moviegoers who aren't prepared for that level of silliness that this film has. My retort to that though is that the craftsmanship that is on display with the action sequences, visual effects, the beautiful color palette, and the score. Everything here is really well done, and I can't help but think that James Wan was trying to make a cheesy 80's cartoon. He cast Dolph Lundgren in the film for god's sake as Nereus, one of the kings of the underwater kingdoms. He knows what he is doing.
He is purposefully making a film that is so self-aware that embraces its' inner "ThunderCats" or "Sailor Moon" or those really cheesy cartoons that so many people actually really love. If you can accept and appreciate that, and understand that is really what they are going for. Because James Wan has stated in interviews that he wanted to make a very fun movie that knew exactly what it was and put everything on the screen on purpose. For example, there is an octopus that plays the drums in this movie. When you see something like that on screen, you know they are doing this on purpose. It is all the better for it, I was laughing when I saw that, and not laughing at it, more laughing along with it.
However, there will be people who won't look at scenes like that. They're not gonna see that and think it is really poorly done. But if you're the type of person who loves cheesy 80's cartoons or very shown-in anime like "Ronin Warrior". There is a lot of yelling and testosterone in this movie. If these characters weren't underwater, they would all be covered in baby oil like they are in an 80's Stallone movie. That is the type of movie that James Wan has made here and I really appreciated that.
Unfortunately, sometimes the narrative and pacing suffer as a result. It is never a slow film and when I say "pacing", I don't always mean its' boring, slow or too fast. It just means that scenes aren't structured as properly as they could be. It is a film that sometimes feels like, "we going here to get this item, okay. Let's go here to get this item, okay. We have these items, now let's go here". There is a very Indiana Jones type feel to it. You feel sometimes you aren't really watching a story play out so much as a really entertaining series of scenes. There is also some de-aging makeup early on with a character that was so noticeable that it really took me out of almost every scene this person was in and it really bugged me. Because there are so many emotional scenes early on that are supposed to really hook you into the heartfelt part of this film and I was just looking at a Play-doh guy.
There is also a major attempt to get into the backstory of Arthur when he was a younger kid and it feels so quick, incredibly rushed, and pushed to the side. I just think that the first act of the movie was a bit rough. It starts to pick up its pace and get a lot more entertaining once the main mission starts. Towards the end, everything is just flying left and right.
This is the fifth time that Patrick Wilson has worked with James Wan after the two Conjuring and Insidious films. They obviously have a great working relationship together and he does a pretty good job in the movie. His character could have been a lot more fleshed out though, he is a very cliched villain. He wants the throne, Aquaman is the rightful heir, and they're also half-brothers. So they're going to clash with one another throughout the film. I'll say this though, the conclusion for those characters actually did surprise me. However, his character's motivation is something we've seen a thousand times before. As a physical presence though, he was great. I actually felt that he could kick the shit out of Aquaman if he wanted to and there are sequences where he does. I also liked how Aquaman wasn't perfect in this movie, he loses many battles in this film and has to figure out how to get himself back up again.
Again, some people are going to hate how this movie turned out. They are going to zero in on the really cheesy aspects of it and think it should have been a more serious film. Although, some people who don't care about Aquaman will look at and think it's really silly and dumb. I have to disagree purely because I feel like that's exactly what they're trying to make and I love that. I love that a very talented crew can get together and purposefully make a Saturday Morning cartoon with this insane budget and several talented actors who are going for it on screen.
The visual effects are just absolutely stunning. It does, however, have a lot of narrative and pacing issues. It feels very rushed at times and sometimes it is a bit too slow in regards to what it does. There are backstories that don't always come to a full arc and sometimes they feel like they were forgotten or thrown away. There is some really noticeable de-aging CGI that takes you out of the movie early on, and the first act definitely had some narrative and structure issues. In conclusion, though, the movie saves itself continuously from these flaws with insanely good action sequences and a really fun performance by Jason Momoa. I'm going to give "Aquaman" a 7 out of 10.