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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Aquaman Movie Review


I'll just go out and say it: Aquaman is the beginning of the DCEU renaissance. Leave it to DC Comics' perennial butt of jokes to save the DCEU and transform into the rising star of its new era.

Fresh off the events of Justice League, Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is still trying to find his place in the surface world. But beneath the waves danger stirs in the form of Arthur's half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is rallying an Atlantean army to wage war on the surface world, and only the true king of Atlantis will be powerful enough to stop him.


Director James Wan (of Saw and Fast and Furious fame) trades souped-up Ford Mustangs for killer sharks and mer-men, and in Aquaman he proves he's just as comfortable under the sea as he is on the asphalt. His flair for spectacular visuals rival Zack Snyder's, but thankfully Wan knows how to not just make it coherent, but also drive the narrative. Under his direction Aquaman is straight-up neon eye candy, where quiet introspective moments are given the same love and care as thrilling undersea chases through a graphic artist's fever dream. I daresay Aquaman is one of the best-looking films of the year.


I've always said that DC Films always felt like they're constantly apologizing for making superhero movies. They dull down the bright colors, take away what makes comic books fun, all in an attempt to be taken seriously as Serious Cinema. Thankfully, Aquaman bucks that trend, opting not just for bright colors but also to give us some really neat live-action translations of comic book designs. They didn't need to give Ocean Master his mask with ridiculous side-fins, or Black Manta his bug-eyed helmet, or even Aquaman his sea-horse steed. But James Wan knew he's got something fun in his hands and rolls with it in the best way. Believe me when I say the third and final act of the film will leave you breathless and grinning ear to ear if you're a comic book fan. I know it did with me!


Inhabiting this sea of spectacle are some of the more colorful characters of the DC Universe. We've seen Amber Heard's Mera in Justice League, but in Aquaman she's given a bigger role and even bigger chances to shine. A badass in her own right, Mera is no Little Mermaid (don't let the red locks fool you), and oftentimes outshines Arthur with her mastery of the water. Patrick Wilson gives a multi-layered performance as Orm/Ocean Master, a character whose heinous acts of warmongering with the surface world belie a deep concern for the well-being of Atlantis due to mankind's penchant for destruction and pollution (Don't be surprised if you find yourself rooting for this guy. Humans are disgusting sometimes). And yeah, Nicole Kidman is in this and she's amazing even with what little screentime she got.


But then there's Jason Momoa. The man straight up absorbed the Aquaman character and made it his own, turning a walking punchline of a character into a complete badass. Momoa displays some surprising range in this film, whether it's going tsundere for Mera in Italy or giving stone-cold death stares at fools who think they can take Aquaman on, and you can't help but root for him in his journey from rough-edged renegade to Atlantean royalty.

If there's any fault I could find, is that the writing is just functional, often pedestrian. Clunky dialogue often takes the air out of scenes that should make us feel something, and the budding romance between Mera and Arthur look forced because of it. But then Wan hits us with a battle between walking lobsters and sharks with lasers on their heads, and all is forgiven.

I admit I was skeptical when they announced Aquaman as DC's next superhero movie, and I doubted that James Wan would have what it takes to make sense of the material in the wake of DC's internal struggles following the mess that was Justice League. But this movie will silence the haters, me included. Aquaman is flashy packed to the gills with thrills, so get ready to dive into the most fun you'll have in cinemas this year.
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