Aquaman – Movie Review

Aquaman came out in theaters this week and is the newest addition to the DC Extended Universe. The film follows Arthur Curry as he tries to prevent a war between the surface world and Atlantis. James Wan directs and Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman Patrick Wilson are the movies’ lead actors.

I’m mixed on the DCEU so far. I loved Wonder Woman and liked Man Of Steel but Batman v Superman didn’t work for me and Justice League and Suicide Squad were even worse. I was cautiously optimistic for this movie and it was surprisingly good.

The best part about the movie for me was the CGI. Nearly all the shots looked absolutely fantastic and this movie has the best visuals I’ve seen all year. Furthermore, the cinematography and camera work was incredible. So many of the shots are great and a couple that stood out to me was the light scene when going to the Trench and the final action sequence.

And that brings me on to the action. Absolutely brilliant. The choreography of the action was extremely well done and very intense. I’m a sucker for one take action sequences so I loved the Queen Atlanna fight scene at the start. The Ring of Fire fight was exhilarating and the chase sequence in Italy was just as great as it was in the trailers. Aquaman vs the pirates in the opening act was also incredibly entertaining.

However, the score in the submarine pirate sequence was extremely distracting. In the trailers, the score for the chase sequence also worked a lot better and the same can be said for the “before the Sahara was a desert” scene. Overall, the score was very disappointing for me and ruined the overall experience several times. Thankfully, it got a lot better towards the final act and some of the scenes definitely improved.

Another aspect of the film that I had a mixed feeling about was the acting. Jason Momoa IS Aquaman. He had a ton of charisma in the role and his comedic timing was mostly good. There aren’t a ton of scenes for him to really show his acting chops but he does nail the few emotional scenes that are actually in the movie. Nicole Kidman was also fantastic and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Her character’s background was easily the heart and her story and relationship with Aquaman’s dad was the heart of the movie. Willem Dafoe didn’t have much to do as Vulko but he nailed every scene he was in.

Despite those two really shining, not all of the performances worked well for me. I haven’t seen Amber Heard in anything else and for all I know she may be a wonderful actress but she does a terrible job in this movie. Her action scenes work well but her delivery feels so off and her facial expressions weren’t always great. Moreover, I didn’t ever believe the relationship between Mera and Aquaman and that’s what makes one of the scenes in the final act fall completely flat for me. There is this one montage in Italy that made me want to groan. It didn’t work at all.

In a year where we have gotten great comic book movie villains like Thanos and Kilmonger, it sucks that the villains in this movie aren’t memorable at all. King Orm comes off as extremely generic and the film doesn’t really make any effort to make the audience actually care about the character. But it isn’t half as bad as the entire Black Manta arc. The actor was horrendous in my opinion and none of the character’s scenes worked. For his opening scene, the dialogue is poorly written and delivered and the scene also came off as unintentionally funny. 

The last couple performances that fell flat were teen and kid Aquaman. In concept, these scenes could have come off as exceptionally powerful but the delivery was woeful and ruined the scenes.

Even though I’ve criticised a lot of the performances, majority of the blame does also have to go to the writing. Most of the dialogue was very poor and I don’t know whether many of the actors could have actually pulled these scenes off. Towards the end, a lot of the lines come off as extremely cheesy with an example being Black Manta and Ocean Master having small monologues before saying “call me Black Manta/Ocean master”. It sounded way too goofy. 

The story is also rather plain and basic and is very predictable. A lot of the narrative beats are cliched. However, the story does work for the character and the type of movie it is. That’s why I wasn’t too bothered by this.

I’ve already touched upon this, but the final act of this movie is easily the best part. The action sequence is one of the best I’ve seen all years and seeing a comic accurate Aquaman costume was awesome.

Wan’s direction is mixed. You can feel his horror background with the several jump scares this movie has. It didn’t work for this particular film. However, I do think he did a great job with the visuals though and I would love to see him return for the sequel. I feel like this movie could have gone through another edit though. The movie is a lot longer than it has to be and drags on a lot in the first and second act.

Overall, Aquaman was a fun movie. It has great visuals and action sequences and Jason Momoa is great as the titular character. Unfortunately, it suffers from a weak script and mediocre direction.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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