Just when you think that a genre is getting a little played out…
As much as I do enjoy them, I’ll admit that superhero movies were getting a little played out (especially in the DC Universe)…that is until this year of course with a bumper crop of strong outings. While Marvel has obviously been dominating the game with their myriad of efforts, DC hadn’t been having a lot of luck but much like with Wonder Woman they’ve struck gold yet again.
Aquaman while admittedly a little too padded in moments is a fast moving origin story with first rate special effects and world building that we just hadn’t seen in the DC Universe canon of films until now.
Aquaman reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and takes him on the journey of his lifetime; one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be…a king.
When you see a story that could have aimed for the middle and been fairly run of the mill, you need a director who can bring the material over the top and a star who fully embraces the character and the material in front of him. Aquaman has that and then some…and in spades. The only thing it strives for is raw entertainment value, for the most part leaving logic comfortably at home.
For this to really work, it had to be a film with a very bold and brash style, which is what makes James Wan a damn near perfect fit. He leans into the technology and the special effects all at his disposal while never letting the human qualities of the characters get left by the way side. The visual effects are flat out stunning as they allow for an over the top other world to exist just beneath the shimmer surface off the ocean water that we are so used to. Wan is savvy enough to make sure that his set pieces never distract from the overall narrative, and actually add to it all from beginning to end.
The one real weakness however exists in the script. With 4 different cooks in the screenwriting kitchen points can get a little muddled from time to time leaving logic by the way side as they try to cram as much story as they can in between set pieces and while it has the right balance of primary characters none of them rarely get a moment to breath as the action takes them from location to location. It’s only real sin is being a little too enthusiastic with the amount of material it wants to throw at us, and some slight trimming could have gone a long way but even then it wouldn’t have detracted from the charismatic performance of its leading man.
This isn’t one of those films where you’re digging for a lot of emotional or psychological pathos as it’s a pretty standard origin story lifted from so many other sources ranging from other comics to the likes of William Shakespeare. It stands apart from the rest so very well because of the unmistakable swagger that Jason Momoa brings to the role. He leans into it pretty hard and lets the chest pumping and flexing speak for itself. He already knows he’s a badass warrior but circumstance has turned him into a lone wolf, who now needs to find the strength within himself to lead a nation that needs him. Even in the moments of prerequisite self doubt on his road to become a true superhero he never once looses the swagger that just makes him so compelling to watch. Momoa turns Arthur Curry into the best that Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr brought to the screen as Thor & Iron Man respectively, but kept the humanistic self doubt just under the surface. We could see it in him, but weren’t necessarily subjected to it which just made us love him even more.
Patrick Wilson did a fine job as King Orm, but Amber Heard and Willem Dafoe as Mera and Vulko respectively just felt under written and only Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta got a genuine chance to chew the scenery opposite Momoa. The ensemble fleshes out well with the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Temura Morrison and Nicole Kidman, but it’s left to Momoa to carry the screen…and he does it easily.
At the end of the day, Aquaman allows us to have fun again and appreciate a hero who isn’t surround by other heroes who take themselves WAY too seriously. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save the day, get the girl and deliver the occasional sarcastic quip along the way. That’s Aquaman and that’s why we need more of him.