‘Aquaman’ Review: DC Finally Embraces a Crazy Concept and It Actually Works

Here’s our review for ‘Aquaman’ that opens in theaters nationwide on Friday starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Patrick Wilson…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Believe it or not, DC has really struggled to launch a successful film universe.

As shocking as that might be (hope you picked up on the sarcasm there), DC has managed to put out a couple of decent films most notably ‘Wonder Woman’, which has been by far the most beloved installment out of any of the movies released in the new DC extended universe.

‘Batman V. Superman’ was remarkably bad — not to mention depressingly dark — and ‘Justice League’ was nearly unwatchable outside of a few key moments.

One of the only saving graces to that forgettable team up movie that may have singlehandedly dashed any hope for a shared DC film universe going forward was Jason Momoa getting his first significant screen time as Arthur Curry aka Aquaman.

Now he’s back in his own feature film with ‘Aquaman’ opening in theaters on Friday and after so many dour offerings in the past, DC has finally started to embrace it’s crazy side.

You see there are many characters in the DC Universe who are grounded in reality — most notably Batman — and that’s how you get a film as great at ‘The Dark Knight’ that’s just down right gritty, hard hitting yet still believable.

Then there’s Aquaman — a half-human, son of Atlantis royalty, who can speak to fish, rides around on sea horses and protects an underwater kingdom filled with humanoids as well as sea dwelling creatures that look like something out of ‘Star Trek’.

The fact is there’s no way to do an ‘Aquaman’ movie without just embracing the complete insanity that comes along with that character and thankfully DC let their freak flag fly with the new movie hitting theaters this week.

There’s a lot of CGI — some good, some bad — there are a lot of underwater battle scenes involving mythological creatures and a pair of bad guys called Ocean Master and Black Manta. It’s all rather ridiculous but for all the weird and random ideas that DC has used in the past, this is one time where it all finally works.

‘Aquaman’ isn’t a perfect movie by any means but it’s the best offering from DC since ‘Wonder Woman’ and definitely leaves you wanting more versus some past films like ‘Justice League’ where you’re just waiting for it to end.

The film is one part origin story, another part an ‘Indiana Jones’ style treasure hunt and a third ‘Game of Thrones’ style battle for the crown that involves armies of crabs, sharks and sea horses.

Yes, that all sounds ridiculous and that’s why this movie is worth going to see.

With that said, let’s get to our full review of the new ‘Aquaman’ movie…

Plot

On a stormy night near a lighthouse in Massachusetts, a man named Tom Curry finds a woman washed up on shore clutching onto a trident, unconscious and bleeding on a rock. He nurses her back to health and he later learns her name is Atlanna and she’s just run away from an arranged marriage that would eventually make her queen of Atlantis. While the surface world and the ocean world are never supposed to co-exist, these two end up falling in love and having a son named Arthur but not long after Atlanna’s people track her down and force her to return home.

Years later, Arthur Curry is all grown up and he’s knows by his moniker ‘Aquaman’ after his exploits in the ‘Justice League’ film. Arthur keeps busy in the water but mostly considers himself a human until he receives a visit from Mera (Amber Heard) with a message that he finally has to return home because his younger half-brother Orm is preparing for an attack on the surface dwellers and he might be the only person who can stop him.

Acting

In many ways it feels like Jason Momoa is just playing himself as Arthur Curry/Aquaman — a muscled up, tattooed grown up kid, who hates wearing shirts and would probably say ‘bro’ at the end of every sentence if it were allowed. Now that may sound like a knock but it’s not whatsoever. If anything, Momoa just sounds like the kind of guy you’d want to have as a friend and drinking buddy, which is why this particular iteration of Aquaman is perfect.

Momoa plays him as the reluctant hero who is willing to help save the world but has no desire whatsoever to be king despite his royal blood. Momoa actually has great acting range (check out his work on ‘The Red Road’ or ‘Frontier’ as proof) but in this role he’s just having a good time and the exuberance in his effort shows through in his character.

Amber Heard does a great job as Mera — a princess of Atlantis in a similar role as Arthur’s mother with expectations that she’ll marry the king to become queen — except she’s a force of nature all on her own. She never feels like a damsel in distress, which is such a welcome sight.

Patrick Wilson is solid as King Orm aka Ocean Master, although there’s a lot of CGI whenever he appears on screen and many times he looks more like a cartoon than the guy who stole a lot of scenes during the second season of ‘Fargo’.

The rest of the cast does what it’s there to do including a deliciously villainous performance from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta. Nicole Kidman also pulls off a Nicole Kidman performance, which is to say she shines like always.

Directing and Writing

Best known for his horror films, James Wan was a surprising pick when he was announced as director for ‘Aquaman’ but he really does a great job in his first big budget movie. Wan was likely the person most responsible for embracing the insanity of ‘Aquaman’ and not trying to make this movie something it was not.

Perhaps the best part of Wan’s work in this movie is the constant change of locales as we spend the bulk of our time underwater but still manage to drop by the Sahara desert as well as a quick trip to Sicily where the best action scene of the movie breaks out.

When it comes to the story, ‘Aquaman’ doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel when it comes to the plot, especially when considering this is ultimately an origin tale but this film doesn’t spend 45 minutes with Arthur trying to figure out how to use his powers. Instead, Arthur is a fully realized character and we only get glimpses of his past in a series of flashbacks.

There are a few moments in this film that feel like the writers were trying to pen an 80’s action movie — so get ready for some serious cheese — but once again, ‘Aquaman’ embraces the crazy and this is just another example of that.

What’s Wrong with the Movie?

This isn’t a spoiler whatsoever because a two second Google search will tell you that Arthur Curry and Mera have been a comic book couple for years upon years. When Arthur interacted with Mera ever so briefly in ‘Justice League’, it was rather obvious that these two were going to get together.

‘Aquaman’ spends a little bit too much time clubbing you over the head with their flirtations rather than allowing natural chemistry to build between Momoa and Heard. It doesn’t ruin the film but there are more than a couple of eye rolling moments in this film.

Probably the biggest issue, which has been a recurring theme in DC films, is cutting time developing two villains when only one was really necessary. Ocean Master and Black Manta are probably the two greatest enemies of Aquaman and both play an integral role in this film but it almost feels like we get less time developing one truly great bad guy because this movie spends so much space in an attempt to give us two of them.

There’s also some really questionable CGI in this film, much like ‘Justice League’, and you begin to wonder if DC might want to start looking for some new folks to build these elaborate scenes that involve a lot of computer animation. We all know it’s not real but that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to look like a cartoon.

Final Verdict

Overall, ‘Aquaman’ is fun watch and a good adventure film. It’s one part ‘Indiana Jones’ and another part ‘Game of Thrones’ without all the beheading, blood and guts. Don’t walk into this movie thinking you’re seeing the next ‘Logan’ because it’s not nearly that groundbreaking and it’s not as original as say ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ when it comes to a unique origin story.

‘Aquaman’ is just an enjoyable night at the movies with plenty of ‘are you kidding me?’ moments and a truly ridiculous premise that you almost have to love because for once DC took a chance and it worked.

‘Aquaman’ gets a four out of five on the Skolnick Scale:

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