Aquaman, Aquaman, does whatever an Aqua does? Yeah, doesn’t have the same ring to it. Unfortunately for DC’s latest live-action instalment, it also doesn’t know what film it wants to be either. Jason Momoa and Amber Heard star as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Princess Mera of Xebel in the action-packed underwater ‘epic’ directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring). Arthur has to prove he’s the rightful ruler of Atlantis as his half-brother plans an all-out assault on the rest of the planet. What follows is a globe-hopping mess of CGI, elements of other movies and Jason Momoa at his Jason Momo-ist.
IT’S NOT QUITE AS BAD AS JUSTICE LEAGUE, BUT IT ISN’T FAR OFF EITHER.
How do you solve a problem like Arthur Curry? Aquaman has been the butt of many jokes over the years, and the DC Universe has made an attempt at making him a swashbuckling hero. Sure, it works, he’s no longer the weird guy who talks to fish, he’s now synonymous with Jason Momoa’s surfer bro persona. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a genuinely decent character reinvention. It’s just a shame that the film feels so two dimensional. Arthur manages to have fun amongst throwing the occasional strop about Atlantis, but the plot doesn’t push the audience into any new territory whatsoever. It’s as if the production team simply pulled strands from Indiana Jones‘ treasure hunting, Black Panther‘s tale of two brothers fighting for a throne, Star Wars‘ sprawling battles and Wonder Woman‘s lost civilisation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make a lasting impression. Every single character speaks in Hollywood generics throughout the entire film. Whether it’s finding a lost treasure, or reuniting with a family member – none of the dialogue sounds like something a person would really say.
Mera, played by Amber Heard, has absolutely nothing of substance to her across the film. She’s relegated to being Arthur’s guide and love interest, which is a huge disappointment given that her skill-set easily rivals his. Do we even need to mention that she’s a hero in her own right in the comics and not simply a sidekick? Her role is essentially to look good and provide blatant plot details for Arthur and the audience to follow. Make Mera the focus of the inevitable sequel, or hell, give her a solo film – she’s got plenty of potential. Don’t even say the audience isn’t there, just look at Wonder Woman. Great. Plus, Nicole Kidman is criminally underused as Queen Atlanna. Sure, she gets an entertaining one-take-style fight scene at the very beginning, but that’s about it.
Patrick Wilson provides a painfully generic villain in Orm/Ocean Master/Sir Screamalot. We’re not joking here, there are several scenes in which he just screams into the water, it’s meant to be some kind of rabble-rousing war cry to his people, but it falls completely flat. And although his final costume does look great – his comic accurate helmet is genuinely atrocious. Who knew a CGI chin strap would look awful… He’s also boring to watch. Could this be Patrick Wilson’s worst role, ever? And on the other villain front, we were all led to believe that Black Manta was going to play a vital role within Aquaman thanks to the trailers. He doesn’t. Manta is built up in the beginning of the film to service one genuinely entertaining fight sequence in the middle of the film, and then he disappears. Presumably so he can show up in a future DC movie.
Don’t get us wrong, the special effects here are great, aside from the occasional scene where it’s obvious the actors are stood in front of a green/blue screen. They at least manage to make Atlantis look stunning. It’s just a shame that they didn’t spend enough time in Atlantis for the audience to really see the wonders of it. The effort that’s gone into designing all the sea-creatures is impressive too. Yes, the final battle manages to be a little more entertaining thanks to the sea creatures and the huge Star Wars-like ships and weapons, but it gets boring quickly. It’s not quite as bad as Justice League, but it isn’t far off either. If you’re looking for a simple blockbuster that doesn’t take too much effort to watch and has no real substance, then sure – Aquaman is fine. But if you prefer your comic book movies with a well thought out plot and heroes that have actual character to them, prepare to be disappointed.
Looking for a good Aquaman story that involves Black Manta and doesn’t treat Arthur like a joke? You should read 2016 Rebirth run, it’s brilliant and is a great jumping off point for new readers. We interviewed writer Dan Abnett about how he brought a new vision to the Atlantean, and he’s a lovely chap.
What did you think of Aquaman? Let us know on Twitter @HeroesDirect!
With a two-dimensional plot and equally thin character development, Aquaman doesn't bring anything new to the table. Sure, the action is fine and Jason Momoa is mildly amusing, but it's not enough to redeem the film.
- Character development