‘Aquaman’ makes a big splash in theaters
While a fun spectacle to watch, the film still exhibits common superhero movie flaws
Directed by James Wan
Screenplay by David Leslie, Johnson-McGoldrick, and Will Beall
Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren
Rated PG-13, Now Playing
Aquaman follows Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) on his journey to settle his relationship with Atlantis. Through flashbacks that explain his origins, as well as many other side plots, he aims to stop his misguided brother from using his power to wage war.
While watching Aquaman, one gets the sense that the writers imagined 20 cool-looking set pieces and did their best to include as many of them as they could. In fairness, there were a lot of spectacular action sequences, from a submarine infiltration to the fight scene in Sicily that’s shown in the trailers. These scenes do a great job of focusing attention on the action without overwhelming distractions. In other moments, there were gratuitous shots of ocean life, including dolphins, brightly lit jellyfish, and even a drum-playing octopus. Shots of Atlantis, for example, don’t shy away from packing in excessive amounts of marine life in the background.
Yet, the movie came across as lazily written given some overused tropes and inconsistencies. For example, while the female lead, Mera (Amber Heard), is a great character, at a couple points she trips and falls into Arthur’s arms to progress their love story. They even appear to meet for the first time in Aquaman, as if the writers forgot about their encounter in Justice League.
While the DCEU (Detective Comics Extended Universe) seems to be addressing some flaws of previous movies, it suffers from a few of the same ones as well. For example, many DC movies (e.g. Suicide Squad) have tonality issues, generally struggling to merge their larger dark feelings with being an enjoyable watch. Aquaman does a much better job in this respect, including more funny quips that make sense given the characters’ depictions instead of feeling forced. That being said, many of these movies have protagonists that seem physically invincible, and Aquaman is no exception. In many of the fights where Arthur is battling a worthy opponent, he hardly gets a scratch whenever he’s knocked down.
Overall, Aquaman is a spectacle of a movie. It crams in a lot that it fails to fully utilize, such as the origin of the villain Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), but as a result, the film is thoroughly entertaining. Despite some well-shot scenes in the beginning, it does take a little while to get really invested in the characters, and thus the movie. The screenplay tries a lot to develop characters, but this takes a while to set in given all the other elements of the movie to process.