Tasteful world building and colorful grandeur give Aquaman a desperately needed win for Warner Bros' DC Comics cinematic universe.
In a previous post, I mentioned having plans to see Aquaman in IMAX 3D. Those plans changed upon stepping foot into the designated theatre, as the seating looked like it was out of the 90's and was packed tighter than flying coach on a budget airline.
Swapping my movie tickets for a later, non-3D showing with leather recliners was definitely the right call. But I wanted to mention this switch to make any reader of this review aware of my cinematic choices, as the IMAX 3-D version may have been quite a bit more visually appealing, given Aquaman's Avatar-esque vibe.
I have been suffering for years from a case of bad DC Comics films. Suicide Squad fared a bit better for me personally than it did with most, and Wonder Woman wasn't the restitution I was looking for from Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment. (And we won't even bother addressing in detail how prematurely Justice League was executed.)
Myself and fandom alike have been subjected to year after year of laughably poor superhero films based on the DC Comics extended universe.
Then we heard of shake-ups in the WB boardroom, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. After all, how many times can you make the same mistake before it finally dawns on you that...You're Doing It Wrong!
After several flops and let downs, it looks like Warner Bros may have finally pulled their heads out of their you know whats, as far as Aquaman and their DCEU film library is concerned.
Hail the halfbreed! The half human, half Atlantian prince who's here not only to unite the people of land and sea, but also, to save Warner Bros from themselves.
Aquaman takes what we like about comic book-based movies, leaves out what we don't, peppers in some pretty awesome fight scenes and epic world building, and ditches most of the corporate cluster fuck to bring movie lovers a much needed and deserved DCEU win.
The film's run time did raise an eyebrow or two for me at first, but had circumstances been different (i.e. I wasn't catching a day after Christmas late night showing in an auditorium full of yappers and cell phoners) I probably would have had a more patient approach to Aquaman's 2 hours and 22 minutes.
All Images: Warner Bros
But when I write these film reviews, I try my damned best to take external factors out of the equation (hunger, thirst, noise and light pollution, obnoxious movie goers, etc.) and bring you the raw facts about the movie, as if you were viewing the film from the comfort of your own personal home theatre.
I wanted to hate Aquaman. The odds were stacked against it. I even went into it all expecting the worst, but the film's production quality had its way with me, and I left the theatre slow-clapping my happy ass back to where I had parked my car.
At times, Arthur Curry (Aquaman) is being chased into the depths of oceanic canyons by hundreds, if not thousands of deep sea dwelling monsters. At other moments of the movie, warriors from dueling factions are engaging in large-scale battles while riding various sea creatures like horses.
A few of the seven Atlantian Kingdoms are comprised of sea creatures themselves. And a few are something in between human and crustacean. In short, the teams behind character design, animal design, vehicle design, costume design, weapon design, they all get two thumbs up. (With one, tiny exception: Black Manta's helmet, which looked stupid AF.)
A few of Aquaman's fight scenes had interesting vantage points, and felt like you were playing a 3rd person shooter video game. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. It was different than the norm, and quite engaging.
A lot of the acting was decent and the few parts that weren't, I felt, had more to do with roots in comic books than missteps on the part of the cast.
Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe made for great supporting cast members, and my wife made a funny observation, stating, "I feel like Jason Momoa was playing himself in that movie." Which doesn't sound too far from the truth. That said, he makes for a great Aquaman, no doubt.
Could Aquaman have been better? Absolutely. But let's be real, a grade of B coming from a D-average student is cause for serious celebration. Don't go into this movie expecting riveting, heart-wrenching drama. After all, it's a comic book movie.
The stain of Batman vs Superman and other WB/DCEU flops like it won't be lifted anytime soon, but at least Aquaman doubles as a PR rep for DC Comics films, shedding some light on what was previously a dark, disheveled situation.
On a final note, I'm a bit surprised to discover Aquaman had a production budget of $160-200M. It feels like a more expensive movie than that, and that's all the more reason to try to catch this one on the big screen.