Film Review – Aquaman (2018)

With Marvel Entertainment dominating the superhero subgenre, DC had to do something to make sure their rivals didn’t get it all their way. Having two of the most iconic characters in the genre in Batman and Superman you wonder why they haven’t got close to them. It’s been a long time since Richard Donner‘s Superman and Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight Films. Ironically one of them ended as MCU Phase One kicked off, so what went wrong?

In the beginning, MCU started, the individual films were like pieces to a larger jigsaw puzzle. D.C also went for individuality which was fine at the start, however, as the years went past their greatest rivals went onto to grow a universe that still grows in stature today. This left them so far behind they have to take drastic action.

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice was a dark, very flawed attempt, not an ideal start. Wonder Womangave D.C hope before Justice League their premiere supergroup, an absolute disaster. In between, we had the Suicide Squad, an ambitious but a damn mess.

Now ten years after the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, D.C’s own universe nowhere to be seen, what next? Step forward Arthur Curry or should we say step out of the underworld Kingdom of Atlantis, Aquaman.

Can James Wan continue the momentum of Wonder Woman’s success, a success D.C desperately need? Yes.

Life is hard for D.C’s finest heroes, more vulnerable than their two mainstay icons Man of Steel and Caped Crusader seem to be out of the equation. Critically they need this one to succeed, making Arthur Curry as interesting and engaging as possible. Rather than another Sub-Mariner wannabe.

So what’s Aquaman all about?

The story begins with a lighthouse keeper Tom (Temuera Morrison) who finds a woman (Nicole Kidman) washed up on the shores of his home. The pair slowly fall in love and over the years they have a child together, Arthur. Over time Tom learns Atlanna (Kidman) is no ordinary woman, she is the Queen of the secret Underwater kingdom of Atlantis.

Life was looking good for the three of them until the arrival of Atlantis soldiers who force Atlanna to abandon her new family and return to her true home. Fast forward several years Arthur is now an adult (Jason Momoa) who spends more time drinking her days away at his local watering hole and occasionally helping Russian sailors from Pirates. Meanwhile, Arthur’s half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), the current king of Atlantis is slowly building an army ready to go to war with humanity who are polluting the waters.

When Orm seizes control of the four kingdoms of Atlantis, Princess Mera (Amber Heard) daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) escapes. To search for Arthur and convince him of his destiny, his birthright to become the true king of Atlantis and to challenge his brother.

First impressions of Aquaman is that James Wan has created his very Flash Gordon, a throwback to the 1980s. You can assume When Warner Bros hire James Wan, they hired him after watching Fast & Furious 7. A film that gave Wan a license to be silly, ridiculous, all-out camp and a cast endearing the tone. Aquaman is a love letter to Donner’s Superman.

Wan really knows how to build a scene, something other D.C films failed to do. Each scene setting up the next scene nicely, his world building isn’t bad either. On land from exotic lands of the Sahara desert to the Italian island of Sciliy. Atlantis itself is a neon-lit metropolis that could easily be from the classic anime Akira. Visually impressive, even more in 3D and IMAX. The one downside the CGI gets a bit too overpowering for the eye.

The one weak spot that appears in Marvel and DC films is weak villains and this film has two of them. Yahya Abdul-Mateen III plays Black Mantra who looks like a reject from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Your left wondering why he’s in the film as his involvement adds nothing to the storyline. Patrick Wilson‘s Orm is better however, he threatens at times to overdo what goodness he delivered.

The film does have a predictable generic script and tonally Aquaman is that bad, it’s so good. Shame many of the characters don’t get enough development are they keeping them for future films? If you were to compare this one to an MCU film, Thor: Ragnarok is the closet.

This may not be the best film in the world, it is a step in the right direction for D.C. Aquaman doesn’t take itself seriously and thanks to that we get a fun, silly over the top entertaining film. Everything is thrown at you and at no time do you feel bored. How can you feel bored when you have Julie Andrews making an unexpected cameo, what part you ask? You’ll just have to go see this yourself!

Paul Devine | ★★★

 

Action, Fantasy | USA, 2018 | 12A | Out Now | Warner Bros Pictures | Dir.James Wan | Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Dolph Lundgren, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Temeura Morrison

Originally posted at The Peoples Movies | 9th January 2019

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