Growing up with superheroes, my friends and I would always label the weakest hero to be Aquaman because, let’s face it, talking to fish and being strong only in your element does scream insecurity issues even at our premature age.
Now, after years of reading through proper stories of all these characters, our perception of Aquaman has most definitely changed and what better way for everyone else to see it than have a movie glorify his strength to the max!
But does it hold up to the hype? Or is this just another way of you dealing with your girlfriend/wife’s secret crush for Jason Momoa?
The Aquaman movie comes as Warner Bros’ and DC Comics’ third proper solo film under its new continuity, linking up with the events of Man of Steel, Wonder Woman and the polarising Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Though we get a buffer of Aquaman already in last year’s Justice League movie, the King of Atlantis surprised everyone to be one of the few members of the league to have his own solo outing – considering that more popular characters like Batman and the Flash have yet to have their time to shine. Some say internal conflict among the studio while others say cancellation but whatever the facts may be, Aquaman made it to the surface.
The film plays on Arthur Curry’s origin story, father being an ordinary human and mother being an Atlantean, and his destiny to rule the seven seas as the King of Atlantis. Most comic readers would recognise this story from DC’s New 52 origin of Aquaman written by legend Geoff Johns who not only managed to modernise the character for current age readers but also deliver on the regal edge needed to glorify Arthur’s prowess and stake as one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe.
Director James Wan was able to capture a fraction of Johns’ magic by adapting not just one, but THREE of his story arcs in this movie – The Trench, Throne of Atlantis and Death of a King.
To address the elephant in the room, Jason Momoa has been a big no-no for me since the beginning. Yes, I understand how people see him as the “Thor of the DCEU” and that he’s big enough for the role but if you have read the early New 52 stories of Aquaman, you would understand where I’m coming from.
Aquaman is reserved, often temperamental but mostly conflicted with his place in both worlds. To top it off, his character is royalty and that really dictates how well the he needs to be presented among others. Having this surfer dude, wisecracking, humour relief not only does a disservice to the character but also ANY quality Jason Momoa has as an actor who is already slandered for his lack of diversity in performance.
Most of the movies merits come from its supporting roles – Nicole Kidman brought the heart in her portrayal as Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, though not entirely accurate to the source material, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the menacing Black Manta.
However, what makes this movie struggle is ultimately its muster of qualities to the point of saturation – losing every bit of what makes the story and even Aquaman himself truly stand out. The scenes of the movie are definitely a spectacle to admire in all its awe but having seen it multiple times just brings it to a bore which is also repeated with the fight scenes – dragged to an end where the stakes don’t even matter anymore.
Orm, Aquaman’s half brother played by Patrick Wilson, goes from a majestic monarch to a megalomaniac in seconds despite actually having a strong conviction, destroying that illusion of him being a threat to Aquaman as well as a force to be reckoned with.
Ultimately, Ocean Master falls flat as any other villain in these superhero movies as opposed to even rival the relationship we’ve already seen between Thor and Loki – though different in approach yet similar in principle.
For me, much of this movie falls flat on relying too much of the visuals and not even focusing on the title character who needs to carry the burden of actually being the bridge of both worlds – us as the audience and the world which is HIS story.
I failed to even comprehend Arthur’s attachment to the surface world in the two hours this movie had or even his sense of justice which leaves me to question, “how does this guy even get his own movie?”
The tone of the movie shifts from rightful heir to buddy comedy to path of the warrior so much that it really has no focus on what it actually wants to be.
We get that DC is trying to lighten up its movies for a general appeal but having this schizophrenic atmosphere really left me facepalming my way through Momoa’s poor attempts of being suave and humourous.
Verdict – 6/10
PS: Do have a look at Geoff Johns’ New 52 Aquaman, namely issues 1 to 25, and you’ll understand how expansive the character’s world really is and would actually take a few movies to properly explore more in depth.