Aquaman

January 1, 2019 by  

The DC Cineverse seems to want to catch up to Marvel these days, now working on giving each member of the Justice League their own film. A bit of a backwards logic, as the “Justice League” film has already been done. But, things have been a little more uneven in the DC world. “Man of Steel” was messy, “Batman v. Superman” was even messier, and then things seemed to get right with “Wonder Woman”. Now, they gave themselves the ultimate task: make Aquaman NOT the joke of superheroes, and even go a step further: make him entertaining. They got the casting down: Jason Momoa proves he is more than capable of carrying a film. But that still leaves the question: can you give him a good villain, a good premise, and maybe even a love interest?

Director James Wan gives it the old college try, and for the most part he does succeed. We are introduced to the backstory through Aquaman–known as Arthur Curry–narrating his origin. His father, Thomas (Temuera Morrison), finds Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis, lying on the rocks beneath his lighthouse. This kind of “Splash” origin is a little goofy at first, but Atlanna and Thomas do share some chemistry before having Arthur, and raising him on land. Atlanna has left Atlantis and eventually is taken after raising Arthur briefly. Thomas takes over until Arthur is a grown man, and learns about his heritage. He is trained by Vulko (Willem Dafoe) but Atlantis ultimately doesn’t want anything to do with the “half-breed” as he’s called. Not even his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is trying to take over the undersea world as Ocean Master.

Arthur confronts a group of pirates, led by a father/son team Jesse and David Kane (Michael Beach and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II respectively), and David vows revenge after his father dies in the battle. Arthur is also met by Mera (Amber Heard) who has an agenda to stop Orm (even though she’s actually betrothed to him). She and Arthur also have good chemistry, and work together to stop Orm from waging war against the surface dwellers: aka, us.

There is plenty to like about “Aquaman”, but the main reason for that is the strength of charisma of Jason Momoa. He makes up for some clumsy tonality shifts (especially when the film tries to be humorous), and some clunkiness late in the second act of the film. David Kane is actually a more intriguing villain than Orm, because he wants to avenge his father’s death (which, Aquaman pretty much regrets allowing to happen in the end). He is aided by Orm at one point and is given armor and weaponry to battle Aquaman competently, and gives him his villain name–Black Manta. Certainly credible as a superhero villain, and we will most likely see him again (this will definitely be given a sequel).

The film is not as strong as “Wonder Woman”, but it does have its own charm. I think if they turn this into a series, they might want to get a director who has some chops doing superhero action films. James Wan is mostly in the horror genre, and he definitely shows his talents in that for a few scenes (the creepy deep sea underdwellers are pretty striking). But the pacing isn’t strong, and the running time really starts to lag toward the end.

The family story not only between Arthur and his parents and Arthur and his ocean family is probably the best part of the plot, and makes for an endearing story. The movie is worth seeing simply because they do actually pull off a good Aquaman movie. Something I don’t think anyone ever saw coming…certainly not anyone from “Entourage”.

My rating: :-)

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