(NO SPOILERS REVIEW)
It’s quite a challenge to make Aquaman cool. Comic book creators have been trying to do so for decades with mixed results. They grew his hair long, replaced his hand with a hook but somehow Arthur Curry was still a minor league player even amongst the second tier of DC characters. I mean, he’s no Flash or Green Lantern!
In that context, director James Wan has done an admirable job in making this origin movie of sorts, appealing to mass audiences. Already the Chinese box office has yielded almost $100 million, so perhaps that’s an indication that Wan has largely succeeded.
It’s worth noting that critics and movie-goers had largely rejected the darker, realistic vision that Zack Snyder expressed in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice – the mangled Justice League does not count. Thus, Wan needed to convey a brighter tone in order to distance his movie from the Snyder ‘disasters’.
By and large, Wan’s solution to the DC dilemma was in fact, to make a Marvel clone. His Aquaman is basically a hybrid of Thor and Black Panther with a dab of Ant-Man.
Along the way, Wan also throws in nods to Star Wars, Indiana Jones and even Wolverine. It’s obvious from the numerous action sequences that Wan has learnt much from his helming of Furious 7. At times, this is almost Fast and Furious : Underwater Version.
The plot is simplistic to the point of being facile. At the behest of Princess Mera (Amber Heard), Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) has to ‘return’ to Atlantis to battle his evil brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) but needs to find a lost trident to discover his true self as hero and King. And of course, save the world!
Chock full of shiny underwater sequences, the reliance on CGI is to be expected but in the final act reaches such ridiculous proportions that it shatters the suspension of disbelief completely.
The weak clichéd plot is saved by Momoa’s likability and his chemistry with Heard. It’s clear that Momoa is being presented here as the new Hugh Jackman – now that the Australian has hung up his claws – and he puts in a solid shift. Heard plays a feisty Mera and is more than a match for Momoa in the appeal stakes. The chemistry works!
However, there are serious problems with the CGI on Aquaman. So much of the film looks fake. There are several instances of unconvincing de-aging that pale in comparison to what Marvel have achieved in Captain Marvel with Nick Fury.
Again that horrendous final battle sequence bears commenting on. An absolute mess. After all the complaints folks had about the third acts of the Zack Snyder movies, it’s amazing that they are content with this debacle!
No doubt that Aquaman will be a sizeable hit. Mainly because James Wan has pandered and given the critics and fans what they wanted all along – an average Marvel movie but with DC characters.
If that works for you, then enjoy. It’s personally disappointing that after Zack Snyder promised so much with his distinctive take, DC have compromised for the sake of the Almighty Buck!
… still there’s more …