Aquaman (2018)

aquaman.jpgAquaman is a 2018 superhero film directed by James Wan and based on the DC comics character created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger. The all-star cast includes Jason Momoa as the titular character as well as Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Willem Dafoe, Temura Morrison, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman.

In order to seize the throne from his maniacal half-brother (Wilson), Arthur (Momoa) must go on a quest to reclaim a magic Trident that only the rightful King can wield. With assistance from a rebellious Princess (Heard), Arthur must also uncover the secret of his mother’s (Kidman) disappearance whilst evading a vengeful murderous pirate (Abdul-Mateen).

There are a lot of good things in Aquaman and there are a lot of bad things. There are a lot things in general. So so many things.

For a movie that over 2 hours long, Aquaman feels stuffed to the brim. I counted at least 3 different movie’s worth of storylines crammed into a remarkably convoluted take on the Arthurian legends.

For starters, there is an astonishing amount of backstory and world building that has to take place before the story can even start and even then, more is scattered throughout the entire run time. A lot of the information is unneeded and some crucial details, like what happens between the initial sinking of Atlantis and the population becoming near-invulnerable technologically advanced mermaid super-race, goes unexplained.

Despite feeling like the first DCEU movie to portray a director’s complete vision (without producer mandates), the influences are undeniably clear. Aquaman has been greatly influenced by the MCU, Indiana Jones, HP Lovecraft, Jules Verne and the Arthurian Legends with the visual aesthetic of Star Wars and Avatar.

To name a few of the MCU influences: Arthur is a cross between Loki (Thor), Erik Kilmonger (Black Panther) and Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy); Atlantis is a cross between Wakanda (Black Panther) and Asgard (Thor), complete with ritualistic combat and a rainbow bridge respectively; Black Manta is basically evil Iron Man, complete with a suit building montage.

Whilst this all works to make Aquaman consistently entertaining, it leads to a lack of cohesion or clear identity.

James Wan knows how to direct the hell out of an action scene (with the exception of a disastrous CGI-laden early gladiatorial fight) but the lack of budgetary restraints hinders his story-telling. I’ve always found that Wan is most effective in the horror genre, working with small casts on tight budgets as Aquaman suffers from a lot of the same problems as Fast & Furious 7. With far too many characters, nobody gets any real development and every time the plot grinds to a halt for Arthur to have a character moment, it feels forced and unearned.

Arthur is portrayed as a semi-invincible super-powered swash-buckling badass happy to jump head-first into adventure, so when he turns around 2 hours in and suggests that they quit because Mera (also portrayed as a semi-invincible super-powered swash-buckling badass happy to jump head-first into adventure) might get hurt, it just doesn’t work.

But what does work is seeing Momoa finally suit up in the traditional gold and green outfit to take on Wilson adorned in silver and purple armour and a fabulous purple cape. The final battle warmed my superhero loving heart and the soundtrack’s occasional dip into synth and psychedelia was invigorating.

There is so much more to dissect and analyse with Aquaman but it’s hard to justify that level of detail for such an average experience.

Loud enough and colourful enough to distract audiences of all ages, Aquaman is ultimately a forgettable and unsatisfying experience. Despite embracing a more fun and vibrant personality than its DC Universe brethren, the solo adventures of Arthur Curry cannot fully escape the trappings of the Universe’s signature convoluted plots, over-reliance on spectacle and bloated runtime. Momoa tries his best with the limited material but Aquaman is just not as much fun to watch as it clearly was to make.

Aquaman is in cinemas now.

Aquaman Cup Rating: 35%
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