Quick Hit: SO MANY FISH PEOPLE.
I was extremely wary of this film. Despite loving the majority of James Wan’s work, taking Aquaman and making him BA and also making him “Bro-man” was a bit of a risk. I wasn’t sure that all of it would pay off, but as Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe and others continued to get involved, I couldn’t help but be a bit anxious that it had a chance to actually…be… good. And you know what? It was! Aquaman was wildly entertaining, led first and foremost by Jason Momoa. But it’s Wan’s strong directing that brings it forward as we ping-pong throughout the film and the stakes and the set-pieces get larger and larger and larger.
And I’m absolutely not kidding. There’s so much going on. Fish people (literally, not just humans that breath underwater), crab people, giant mythological creatures, and a sequence that could literally be out of one of Wan’s horror films that features creatures that remind me a bit of something I would see in The Upside down in Stranger Things. The design of these creatures is fantastic and is at times gives feelings reminiscent of watching Lord of the Rings for the first time when you got to see the Orcs and the Uruk Hai. And of course, there are people riding freaking sharks and seahorses and other things.
That’s one of the first points that I want to make about Aquaman. If it’s not clear, this movie is a bit like a fantasy epic. There’s a quest for a mythical item that will help the hero succeed in his quest, but throughout the whole film, he is learning that he is good enough despite being a child of two races. He has a strained relationship with his brother due to his half-blood nature, and he is eventually confronted by a beast that is straight out of mythology in the Kraken. If you dive into the film and look at what’s in it, it could essentially be a retelling of a Tolkien story or a Greek or Roman myth. To do that in a modern blockbuster and still make it feel new is impressive.
I’m also totally in and sold on Bromoa and the whole surrounding cast. I thought the weakest part (as in most films about super-powered beings) was the villain development. I think the development of Manta was a bit slow (I understand he was being set-up primarily for sequels, but why have him be such a big part in this one then?), and Orm/Ocean Master is one of those that without Patrick Wilson’s ALL-IN dedication, he would have just been a cliché. As it is, Wilson totally sells it, and if you haven’t watched a clip of him yelling repeatedly, I’d highly recommend it.
I also thought they did a great job at selling the slow reluctant love story between Mera (Amber Heard) and Arthur. Amber Heard is enough that she totally put Bromoa in her place several times, and the whole thing definitely reminding me of Khaleesi in Game of Thrones. She’s a strong woman, and Wan gives her plenty to do – she’s not just a red-headed arm piece. Indeed, without her, Arthur never would have been able to complete his quest. The chemistry between Heard and Momoa wavers at times, but never gets distracting. As the film goes, they get stronger, but they never approach the easy going chemistry that Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison manage to have from the get-go. Their love story is truly one of the best, even if it is also very reminiscent of something you’d see in, say Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
Speaking of Kidman – she’s a boss in this as well – and she gets to have a freaking Center of the Earth type sequence. She doesn’t get quite enough to do in the latter half of the film, but she’s great anytime she’s there.
I could type on this film however long I want – if anyone wants more information on my thoughts, let me know. Until then, I’m going to end it with this – Aquaman is fiercely entertaining in all the best ways. I’m going to give this absolutely bonkers fest a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"