Maintains Its Balance;
Between Fun Factor And Camp;
A Visual Feast.
James Wan has proven himself a good director of an epic action adventure with the likes of Furious 7, so taking on a comic franchise like this seems like a natural match between source material and director. And since DC has taken so much flak for a lack of fun in some of its DCECU stories, this felt like a continued breath of fresh air after Justice League showed that the company could have some fun while dispensing the bad guys.
Aquaman is over the top, a bit long, and loads of fun. It focuses on the things it does well and turns up the volume loud enough to mask its deficiencies and leave the audience satisfied. You aren’t likely to find a lot of deep themes to explore, or for that matter much new ground being covered in terms of the story, but that’s not the film’s goal. The point is the underwater battles, racking up a bad guy body count and Jason Momoa making a play toward bona fide action stardom. In those regards, it should be seen as a rousing success.
The film’s visuals are certainly impressive. The new dynamic of underwater exploration, civilization and war adds a great layer to what we are used to seeing as members of the moviegoing audience that flocks to these types of releases. The ocean is vast and full of mystery, so from a production design standpoint, the creative freedom is almost limitless. The results are wonderful to look at (and I only saw the regular presentation, not even IMAX or 3D) and the world is fully-realized, with bright, fluorescent colors to offset the blackness of the deep. Atlantis looks amazing, and the character designs fit right in.
The script definitely needed some work. For a film nearly two and a half hours long, there is very little in the way of memorable dialogue, even with some very experienced, capable folks taking up roles here (I’m looking at you, Willem Dafoe and Nicole Kidman). I’m not saying all the dialogue is bad, but I could have used something from Momoa besides the occasional one-liner. He delivers them very well, but it’s not enough. We also get the expected amount of exposition and world-building, and though I’m growing tired of that formula, I can’t really hold it against the movie since it needs to develop a backstory to get the crowd invested. Amber Heard does a good job portraying herself as a warrior who may have a soft spot for Arthur (Momoa) but won’t let that get in the way of hard work. I especially liked Dafoe in his role, as he seems like a wise choice to dispense sage wisdom on a young warrior in training, while also being believable as an elder statesman of this new world.
The cinematography is one of the film’s strong points. There are some breathtaking shots on display, working in tandem with an overload of CGI and solid editing. The armies, sea creatures and the like are all dazzling, as you’re swallowed up in the spectacle much the same as the characters are swallowed up in the waves. All of these things help to cover up the inherent flaws and deliver an experience that is certainly worth seeing on the big screen, so I’m glad I was finally able to catch a showing before it leaves theaters!