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  • Damien Francis

Aquaman Film Review

Directed: James Wan

M: Fantasy Violence

In 2016 we were given our first glimpse of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman in the DC Universe film, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Then just a year and a half later, we were shown more of the oceanic themed hero in Justice League. And finally in 2018, for the first time, we were able to witness Aquaman’s first full length feature film.

Having already witnessed 2 live action outings (if you count the 5 seconds in BvS: DoJ) it was interesting to

see Aquaman get to experience his own adventure. And what an adventure it was!

First, on to the good. Aquaman is fun, plain, pure, get your heart beat racing, fun. If you enjoy watching movies to have a good time, then Aquaman is for you. It was a wild ride from start to finish and while not wholly original or innovative in the superhero genre, it takes us on a wildly exciting good time. If you enjoy your superhero films with a bit more depth, or nuance, then I’m afraid you might have to go after other options, because Aquaman is loud, brash and colourful.

The action is a particular stand out for me. With almost 90% of the film shot in underwater style scenes, the fight under the water is brilliant, with a lot of really cool moments to enjoy.

James Wan’s direction, vision and the vivid images are also a huge highlight. Its very clear that he is telling us exactly what he wants us to see in Aquaman’s first outing. Almost as if he pitched every idea under the sun at the DC executives and they said “Go for it”. In a strange way the film also switches between various genres, going from an almost Indiana Jones adventure, to action, to horror, to epic drama, to Lovecraftian horror. But, each time it does, somehow it still feels right. It might not be done to the best and for some the genre shifts can be frustrating, but here I thought that they worked quite well.

Atlantis is also a sight to behold as it does look and feel like Black Panther’s Wakanda, but underwater. However, I feel that does disservice to both. I think that the underwater city is a beauty to behold and I would have liked them to slow down just a bit to show us what this strange underwater world looks like.

The acting is strong as Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Amber Heard (Mera), Patrick Wilson (Orm, Ocean Master) and Nicole Kidman (Atlanna) all pull out some solid performances despite their immensely ridiculous setting. It is clear that the movie decided to embrace every ridiculous notion about Aquaman and the cast went along with it, enjoying it at every moment. My personal highlight is Dolph Lundgren (Nereus) who rules an oceanic kingdom, has vivid pink hair and rides a giant armoured seahorse.

A favourite of mine is also the live action introduction of my favourite Aquaman villain, Black Manta. They gave him his own subplot, which while is quite rushed and clearly a set up for a future conflict, is still a delight to see him with his enormous helmet and high-powered red laser beam eyes.

The third act or finale is by far my favourite thing about this film, combining elements of Lovecraftian horror, Lord of the Rings style fight and Sharknado x1,000,000 it took the film to a new level.

I came out of the cinema knowing that I had just had a good time, even though I also knew it wasn’t perfect.

Now onto the poorer parts of the film. I don’t think bad is useful because it’s a subjective aspect when it comes to film, but these are the things I think didn’t hold up quite as well as it could have.

The dialogue is quite clunky. There are a lot of stupid sentences that fall flat, hold no weight or are just incredibly odd for the scene. This does then give the whole film this sense of a bit of dopiness as they maybe embrace the ridiculousness a little bit too far. It begins to stray into the territory of stupidity and loses some of that fun shine.

The plot is also quite convoluted, and the story is hard to follow. Without some knowledge of Aquaman lore, some of the characters and story elements might be a little bit hard to follow. The movie tries to be smarter than what it is, but it doesn’t quite work and you are left a little lost at times.

The CGI can also be lacking slightly in certain scenes. It quickly relies on a lot of CGI and this shows as you can almost always tell who is on a practical set or not. It doesn’t really detract from the film, but it is a shame that such a big film still feels like a few extra weeks of final CGI touch ups might have improved some things.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Aquaman is an exciting improvement in the overall direction of the DC Universe film direction, looking to focus on individual characters and their stories. Much brighter, more adventurous and even funny and scary at times.

7 out of 10 stars.

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