Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson
Director: James Wan
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime–one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.
In the great battle between the MCU and the DCEU, to say it has been a one-sided battle is an understatement. When you look at the financial gain and critical acclaim the MCU films have received over the DCEU films, it looks much more like a game between the New England Patriots and your local high school team rather than two teams playing on an equal playing field. Though after last year’s Wonder Woman, I had hope that DC would start turning towards the right direction. With Aquaman, DC has shown us that they can make a flawed but fun film to compete with Marvel. A movie that is well-acted and visually stunning, Aquaman shows us that DC knows how to make a fun movie, which is all we can really ask for.
The film follows Arthur Curry (Momoa), a half-human/half-Atlantean who spends his time stopping human criminals doing aquatic criminal activity under the superhero alias, “Aquaman.” When Mera (Heard), comes up from Atlantis to warn Arthur that his half-brother Orm (Wilson), is attempting to unite all of the undersea kingdoms to wage war on the surface world, it is up to Arthur to go down to Atlantis and take his rightful spot as king. The things that make this movie so enjoyable stem from the way the film looks and the way the film is acted. Starting off with the special effects, we get to see some of the best produced visual effects of the year. The colors contrast nicely with one another, the scenes that use green screen do so in a nearly unrecognizable way, and the action sequences are smooth and organized. The cinematography of Don Burgess is on full display here as none of the action sequences are clunky or disorienting when they very likely could have been with a less experienced director or cinematographer. That experience comes into full display in the final battle scene, which has a ton of complicated actions going on simultaneously and at no point did it ever feel like too much. Moving on to the acting, Momoa does a great job having fun in the lead role. He handles his action sequences like the seasoned actor that he is and his one-liners are always some of the best of the movie. In the lesser roles, Dafoe, Wilson, and Nicole Kidman all make the most of their screen time and show us how important they are to the movie. Whether it is a menacing villain like Wilson, a near-omniscient teacher in Dafoe, or an estranged mother who wants the best for her son, it is hard to picture anyone better in these roles and their presence is a pleasure for the entire 143 minute runtime. Speaking of the 143 minute runtime, that seems to be one of the biggest issues that the film faces. This is very big film, both in scale and in length, and as a result, there is a lot packed into this movie that already runs well over the trusted two-hour mark. As a result, the pacing is all over the place, with the movie feeling rushed at some points and dragging at others, which can be tough to watch at times. I believe this issue could have been resolved with a reworking of the Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) character to maybe a post-credit scene after his first encounter with Aquaman. While Abdul-Mateen is great in the role, it felt like the movie was trying to do too much and his part felt the least necessary. Combine this with some of the jokes being too cheesy for my comfort and you have a promising and enjoyable movie that just happens to be on the flawed side.
Overall, Aquaman is what DC needed if it ever wants to step up and compete with Marvel. Having Momoa as the lead role may have been the best casting choice for DC to date and will help them rise to the level that they need to be. DC is not quite there yet, but if they keep making movies like this, they will be there soon.
Overall Score: 6/10