Aquaman – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman
In cinemas December 12th
Although this is Aquaman’s first standalone movie it is actually leading man Jason Momoa’s third outing as the aquatic superhero. He has previously appeared in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017). Now fans finally get to see his origin story on the big screen.
Bringing this story to life was always going to be something of a big ask as – just like the title suggests – much of the action is set underwater in the land of Atlantis. Perhaps that is why it has taken till now for it to get the cinematic treatment as CGI and effects are at such a sophisticated level that it can be done convincingly rather than cheesily.
If you’re not familiar with Aquaman aka Arthur Curry, he’s the son of the Queen of Atlantis and a human father which means he walks between both worlds. Although he has had variations on his mythology in the comic, books this is the widely accepted canon and the one they stick to here. Upon learning that his half-brother Orm (Wilson), who is the current reigning King of Atlantis, is planning to wage war on the surface world, Arthur is forced to confront the Atlantean side of his personality and fight to save both worlds.
This is the sort of film that needs to be seen on a big screen. Wan and his team have done a great job creating so many underwater worlds that it would be a shame to dilute the details by waiting to watch this on Blu Ray at home. It is visually stunning with wonderful cinematography.
Momoa is a hoot as Arthur/Aquaman and really plays the comedy in the role well. He has some hilarious one liners that he delivers almost with a knowing wink to the audience and by the end you really couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. At times the dialogue is cheesy- but that’s superhero movies for you – but the fine calibre of actors that Wan has assembled manage to give it a gravitas that it might otherwise lack. There are also some brilliant action scenes and it’s great to see both Kidman and Heard get their chance to kick ass rather than it all being left to the guys.
On the negative side there is something of a subplot about Black Manta (considered Aquaman’s nemesis in the comic books) that seems rather redundant. The story could be made to work without it and it serves no real purpose other than to set up a sequel. This plotline could easily have been trimmed back and contributes to a huge chunk of the films 2 hours 22 minutes running time which does feel excessive. It is as if they threw it in because they felt fans expected it but it just feels shoehorned in here. Although the pacing never slows – and indeed they completely up the ante for the finale – it really feels like 20-25 minutes could have been shaved off this without affecting the flow of the movie. Also, at times it gets a bit preachy about man’s destruction of the oceans, but I suppose it would be a shame to waste an opportunity like this to get that message out there.
This is a superhero movie that is all about the spectacle and it is constantly trying to outdo itself. Its focus is on pure entertainment and in that it succeeds. At times it feels as if it doesn’t know if it wants to be silly or serious but overall it strikes the right balance. Yes it is somewhat ludicrous in parts but what superhero movie isn’t. Suspend your disbelief, sit back and you’ll really enjoy the ride, flaws and all.