Final Score: 3.5 / 5
Anyone that knows me personally will know that I very much dislike Aquaman. I find him to be boring and overall useless. This is why it somewhat pains me, and more than a little confuses me, to admit that DC’s big-screen adaptation Aquaman was actually good. Not great, but good.
The movie begins with a brief introduction about how Aquaman’s (aka Arthur Curry played by certified man-hunk Jason Momoa) parents met and how little baby Arthur came into this world. It then jumps ahead to after the events of Justice League (yes, sorry, you still need to remember some events from that movie) where we find Arthur returning to a life of seclusion but with a lot more fans around the world thanks to the whole stopping Steppenwolf thing. Mera (Amber Heard) shows up one day with her bright neon red hair to tell Arthur of turmoil down in the aquatic kingdom of Atlantis and that his step-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) plans to unite the kingdoms of the sea, become the Ocean Master, and rise up against the people of the land. The plan seems menacing until you realize that all of the Atlanteans and other fish-people (some of which are literal fish-people) have to walk around in fish tanks above land just to survive, but that’s neither here nor there. Mera eventually convinces Arthur to return to Atlantis at which point he is promptly arrested. After a fight-to-the-death scene between Arthur and Orm, Arthur and Mera go on the run and are hunted down by Atlanteans and Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who was hired by Orm and has a personal grudge against Arthur. This takes Arthur on a globe-trotting adventure to discover his identity and reclaim the throne of Atlantis.
Despite the glibness of the previous paragraph, I actually did enjoy this movie. Especially compared to most previous DCEU movies (or whatever the hell they’re calling this disaster now [Editor’s Note: **whispers** Worlds - MC]), Aquaman was visually amazing. The movie had so many bright colors and good visual effects that it basically felt like a Marvel movie at times. It seems like DC studios finally figured out that in movies that rely heavily on CGI, they can’t half-ass the CGI.
But this wouldn’t be a DC movie without a few issues. When I first walked out of the theater one of the first things that popped into my head was ‘Well that was an odd soundtrack.’ While not necessarily bad, the soundtrack for the movie was all over the place. Basically every major genre of music was covered in this soundtrack from hip-hop to rock to some weird classical-EDM fusion (which I admit was actually my favorite musical bit from the movie). And while the music worked more or less with each individual scene, when taken as a whole it just turns into a giant mess with no real continuity. Is this being too nit-picky? Maybe. But when this is literally the first thing that comes to mind after leaving the theater, not the acting nor the plot, then it’s worth mentioning.
So let’s discuss the acting quickly. For the most part this movie has solid acting and dialogue. Momoa plays the lovable asshole well, Patrick Wilson brings a sense of insanity and cruelty to King Orm, and Willem Dafoe was there. My biggest gripe with the dialogue in the movie is with Arthur. I feel that the writers realized that they had written him as too much of an asshole and not likable enough. Their solution? Throw in a few groan inducing puns and jokes to make him feel more playful and a bit like a total idiot. Yeah, when you build up a total asshole of a character this doesn’t really mesh too well.
The plot of the movie is the standard ‘rightful king in exile comes back to take back the throne from the evil/misguided king’ story line. There’s nothing overly remarkable about the story. However the execution of the story was well done. There weren’t many scenes in the movie that felt as if it added nothing to the overall story. One thing that DC has been able to do slightly better than Marvel overall is have their villains be well-defined and this movie is no exception. Despite Orm’s motivation being somewhat flimsy, we spend enough time with him to understand what he’s about and what his overall endgame is. And with Black Manta, we get to see the birth of the villain (figuratively, not literally thankfully) and see exactly why he has it out for Aquaman.
This is usually the point where I’d throw up the spoiler warning but honestly I don’t think there’s really a need for that here. This movie basically shows you its hand from the start and doesn’t try and deceive you much. The one actual plot-twisty point was so telegraphed throughout the movie that it doesn’t really feel like a plot-twist at all. I guess the biggest spoiler from this movie is that the center of the Earth isn’t molten magma that will burn your flesh off but rather a hidden ocean where dinosaurs and evil Cthulhu-esque creatures still live? On behalf of the entire scientific community, fuck you movie.
Aquaman is fun. Not stellar, but much better than most of the other shit that DC has been producing lately. It’s run-of-the-mill plot is offset by visually captivating scenes. The at times cringe inducing performance from Momoa is balanced by the rest of Momoa’s and everyone else’s performances. I would congratulate DC for this movie, but honestly this is where DC should have been the entire time. This movie helped to raise the bar for DC movies but when your bar so far as been at Thor: The Dark World levels, with the momentary raising from Wonder Woman, that’s not really much of an accomplishment. This movie served to just bring their movie standard back to par. Hopefully DC has learned their lesson and all their movies from here on out continue to improve.