Aquaman movie review Jason Momoa Amber Heard

Year: 2018
Director(s): James Wan
Writer(s): David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: PG-13
Color, 143 mins

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. (Source)

Aquaman continues to reinvent the DCEU following the buoyant Wonder Woman and a slew of overly serious, boring films. Like Wonder Woman, Aquaman is vibrant and exciting, delivering a massive undersea opera literally bursting at the seams. This is director James Wan’s big swing. After building an inventive career off of low to mid-budget films, this is Wan unhinged. Armed with his biggest palette to date, he’s delivered one of the wildest comic-book epics ever. Make no mistake, this film is aggressively cheesy, silly and unwieldy, but also unabashedly sincere and fun. It wears its heart on its sleeve, boasting dense family drama and relentless spectacle without a single ounce of cynicism. Bottom line, there’s no way I could be dislike something this crazy. I pretty much watched the entire thing with a giant grin on my face, and I got nothing but respect for its willingness to go 200% big from start to finish.

Unbeknownst to the human race, there’s an entire civilization that thrives deep below the sea. One day, Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) of the lost Atlantis flees her world and is washed up ashore. She’s found by a lighthouse keeper named Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison). Running from an insidious fate, Atlanna quickly takes to land life and falls in love with Thomas. Eventually, the pair have a baby named Arthur, whom Atlanna hopes can one day unite land and sea. After a coup, Atlanna is forced back to the ocean and never seen again. Years later, an adult Arthur struggles with his heritage. He’s a half-breed of human and Atlantean blood torn between two worlds. Gifted with the superhuman powers of a god, he lives a nomadic existence, with ties only to his human father. After his Atlantean half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), decides that it’s time to wage war against the surface world, Arthur is thrust into a conflict that forces him to confront his royal birthright amidst the denizens of the deep.

In every aspect, Wan’s created a refreshing throwback to the fantasy films of the 80s. It’s got the action-packed plot, an endless supply of creatures, and even that innocently shoehorned romance. Imagine Game of Thrones spliced with an underwater Star Wars and a pinch of Indiana Jones. From start to finish, the film is a gradual descent into its unforeseen, aquatic world. It’s a treacherous, but beautiful place lined with a deep mythology and dazzling spectacle that never lets up. Almost every single frame of this film is littered with visual overload. It’s as brazenly beautiful as it is insanely silly – and I’m not complaining. Whether its jellyfish that light up oceanic highways, an octopus that plays drums, or a vicious trident duel playing out in a giant undersea stadium, there’s a lot going on. There’s honestly probably too much story here for one movie, but Wan keeps it all straight, even if it does prevent the film from being really substantive. Still, the tradeoff is Wan’s trademark eye for fluid, inventive action. This thing flies from one set piece to another. Each is continually one-upping the one before, with monumental battles defying the logics of physics in the name of all-out blockbuster fun.

Aquaman review Jason Momoa Patrick Wilson

The cast seems well suited to the material and characters but slightly inhibited. As the titular Aquaman, Momoa has an intrinsic charm. Watching interviews with the guy, it’s clear that he’s a lot of fun to be around. This quality seeps into the film, giving the superhero an endearing slant. Unfortunately, the film’s pace and speed don’t give him the best chance to flourish. He doesn’t necessarily nail the emotion, and since none of the scenes or ideas ever stay up for too long. Momoa’s mostly buried beneath rapid-fire plot theatrics. Amber Heard’s Queen Mera works great alongside Momoa, and to the film’s credit, she’s given an almost equal amount of agency. Heard shares almost equal screen time, and gets multiple moments to shine. On the backing side of things, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II do their best with limited roles, again leaning on their innate charisma to prop up the over-plotting. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty great to see Lundgren on a giant sea horse. Lastly, Patrick Wilson gives Orm the seriousness to offset the film’s absurdity, putting conviction into a thankless role. 

Say what you will about Aquaman, but Wan brings it. It’s hard not to fully admire Wan’s ambition and the resulting slice of cinematic lunacy, even if its style is its substance. This is a film that knows exactly what it wants to be, and we’re attracted to it because it forces us to appreciate it on its own terms. For a film about a man that talks to fish, this feels like a big accomplishment. Ultimately, this thing is probably too long, overstuffed and overbearingly cheesy, but it’s also defiant and bold in a way that’s near-impossible to look away from.