Aquaman - 2018
Director(s): James Wan
Writer(s): David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall (screenplay) / Geoff Johns, James Wan and Will Beall (story) / Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris (characters)
Cinematography by: Don Burgess
Editor(s): Kirk M. Morri
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
I have not been shy when it comes to my feelings towards the films that DC has produced over the last few years. The last being 2017's Justice League, something I did not hate, but it did not age well upon second viewing. So, my excitement for Aqua-bro could be described as lukewarm at best, in part due to James Wan's talents as a director, and their vocal support for change after the divide their entries had created. After watching with my brothers on a rare night out for us, and I cannot help to feel we could've done far better with our time. Let's talk about it.
The story centers around Aqua-bro, Arthur Curry (Momoa), half-human/half-Atlantean, and heir to the Atlantean Throne. Curry is sought out by Mera (Heard), as she fears his half-brother, King Orm (Wilson) will unite the underwater kingdoms by force and rise against the surface. Curry most rectify his hate towards the world that shun him and the love for the surface he wants to protect. Leading to an all-out war between Orm and Aqua-bro. If you venture to the writer's credit I placed above, you will notice a few names. This led to tonal shifts throughout the entire runtime, as the movie swung heavily from telling the audience, "This is serious, feel emotions.". To, "Get it? This is ridicules. Come laugh with us.". Tonal shifts are not inherently wrong when handled well it can lead to compelling storytelling, here it felt like three to five undercurrents forcing you to move left or right. As for the actual story, it seemed like the team asked DC to deliver every single comic book that featured Aquaman. Once they had it, they threw it in a shredder and taped them all together into these two and a half hours of stuff. And there is so much stuff, some that work and most that made me laugh at it, not with it.
Quick note: I've called him Aqua-bro multiple times already, as this version of Aquaman is dead set on being cool. The script forces it down your throat how cool he is, as every single line is designed to drive that point across. The forced coolness ends up being not cool.
While I am a bit harsh, I will not go as far to say I did not have a single moment of enjoyment. The mother and son angel was terrific, Kidman being the ever professional, and brought heart and warmth to her role. Some jokes landed, and the entire spectacle of the deep-sea monsters, while underused, was fun. There is a good movie buried in here; it is just tough to find under all the... stuff. So much stuff.
Wan did a good job as a director in his first big action film, but I was ultimately let down by the structure, flow, and tonal shifts. Maybe I can hang my hat on the visuals and the epic scale of the spectacle, but again it left a lot to be desired. I understand that when your film is comprised of 99% CGI, it is impossible for all of the sequences to look perfect. However, the green screen, CGI flowing hair, CGI costumes, CGI waters, and everything else starts to add up to the point that you want to rub your eyes or stare at your hands looking for something real. Not to say some of the action sequences were executed well, my favorite being Aqua-bro versus Black Manta in the island.
Quick note: cannot decide what moment made me laugh the most, when the Pitbull song appeared, or when Mera was randomly playing flute on the boat.
Aqua-bro will probably won't change the minds of people that gave up on the DC Universe, and it will probably be what their fans have come to expect. The visuals, the world building, and the humor does set it apart from its predecessors, but they have a lot to go from creating a compelling, cohesive story. The cast does a solid job at pretending to be underwater, and that they are riding whales, but they are let down by a script that cannot decide what type of film it wants to be. You probably already saw this film, as it has made over $400 million worldwide, but if you haven't, go find the biggest loudest screen and go on a cheap screening, you will enjoy some parts. Flute playing is why I love movies.
Aquaman is currently playing in theaters. Eh.
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