Rating 3.5/5 – Okay, it’s Aquaman. Aquaman is a diehard staple of the DC universe, a founding and core member of the Justice League. He’s been the butt of the “guy who talks to fish” jokes since Super Friends was a thing. Wonder Woman has always had respect, she’s as strong as Superman and from the beginning she was defined as a feminist icon. Superman was the first and Batman is, well, Batman. The Flash and Green Lantern have cool ass powers backing them up. Aquaman, however, has always been “he talks to fish, so what?” in the minds of everyone. Color me surprised that this goofy plotted, action intensive and go-hard-or-go-home acted movie came dressed in visuals worthy of iMax totally worked.
DC/Warner decided to just go for it an lean into everything anyone ever saw or read or heard about Aquaman. In other words, they decided to do what Marvel has been doing for almost 20 movies and just embrace what their hero is and and just bloody go for it. I’m not kidding, this movie is like watching someone pull out every ingredient, vegetable, meat and additive then dump it into a soup you later admit was pretty damn tastey. Aquaman is a lot of dumb fun, a lot of goofy references, a collection of action set pieces that will make Fast and Furious go “we should steal that” and it all blends into to a hyper shot action origin movie that will leave you smiling like a fool.
Aquaman is Not a Blockbuster
I’m not saying that Aquaman reached Avengers level of success. I’m saying this is NOT Justice League. I’m only saying it was a great time to be had at the movies. Isn’t that all you really want? Let’s not dance around this; the DCEU has a lot of shit to make up for. The biggest mistake before was letting Zack Snyder run rampant even when it became knife through the gut painfully obvious his spin was not working at all. I admit I thought making Aquaman as played by Jason Mamoa a “bro surfer dude” type was an interesting take in the Justice League trailers. Unfortunately they didn’t put anything more into who he was but that. A lot of people were put off by the bro-dude feel of Aquaman, but I figured “why the fuck not?” We are, after all, talking about a character defined by memes from a 1970’s children’s cartoon. Many talented writers like Peter David, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison took great pains to make him more than a guy who talks to fish with various levels of success.
Veteran comic writer Peter David was the first to make Aquaman more of a story about the epic legacy of Atlantis. He’s also the guy who gave Aquaman a hook. Aquaman, the movie, leaned into Peter David’s Atlantis Chronicles. The movie also made some seriously funny call backs to the old Super Friend cartoon. The plot was a little grander than I expected and there were moments that felt like they were happening because the story needed them to happen. Then again this is Aquaman. There’s a lot you simply have to accept with the title. Because of this the movie was all over the place in trying to info-dump everything an audience needed to know, Atlantis and the conflict between characters. Surprisingly the doses of serious to silly, fantastic visual elements and tired one-liners worked in this moie’s favor. Why? Because it Aquaman, how exactly did you think they could pull this off?
Aquaman: A Visual Experience
There are so many instances where you can cry “CONVOLUTED” in the plot and storyline of Aquaman. When you think about it all comic character wreak of convultured. Superman is supposedly an alien but as an allegory for immigration and adaption into the fantasy that is the Americn ideal it works. Batman works as a detective story, a psychological examination and as a super hero story. People accept characters like Captain America, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman because they represent bigger ideas as well as modern god fairytales. Aquaman, by definition, can’t do this the same way. We know what the oceans are, but humans really don’t care. Many heard of the story of Atlantis but thanks to conspiracy theory movies born during the era of Ancient Astronaunts and the Illuminati, Altantis makes about as much sense as any religious story or 9/11 conspiracy video. So how do you get past that one? Easy, make Atlantis worthy of iMax. When I said they decided to go hard or go home, the visuals are where they put the bulk of that currency.
The general visuals were good. Watched with no sound you can see they didn’t screw around with color and brightness. The Atlantis visuals were just shot after shot of poster worthy stuff. They tried to make it alien but human, where the people use the sea as part of their lives. A critic I watch on YouTube said it gave you pause to question. For instance there’s a scene where Amber Heard, who play Mera, is wearing a dress with glowing Jellyfish floating in the back. The reviewer seemed to think it would cause people to ask many questions. I think it was supposed to do that. The kingdoms of Atlantis were all difference because story reasons and to give the filmmakers a reason to nuts with the visuals and CGI. After leaving this movie you might not remember the plot, you might not even remember Amber Heard in the sexy Mera costume, but you will remember the visuals. They even made Aquaman’s goofy original custom blend in with those visuals. That’s entertainment.
Mamoa, Heard and Wilson
At the heart of the story are the three characters the story centers around, Aquaman played by Game of Thrones tough guy Jason Mamoa, Mera played by Television and movie sexy lamp Amber Heard and Orm played by “Try as I might I just look like a bad guy” Patrick Wilson. If I’m being flip about these actors, I mean to be. Amber Heard has done a lot of TV and movies but gets written into “hot girl who. . .” roles way too much. Luke Wilson just looks like any second he’s going to start laughing like a madman from his underground volcano lear, and Jason Mamoa should have been much more successful three movies ago but when bore audiences with a Conan movie there doesn’t seem to be hope. (For real, his Conan was exceptionally boring and that should never have happened.)
The writers decided to put a little more effort into the script so Jason Mamoa did not play the dumb tough guy throughout the movie, Amber Heard got to kick some serious ass and help hold up the silliness of the plot, and Patrick Wilson did have a bit of a point even if he executed his plan in really bad ways. They are the main focus of this movie and all three did a wonderful job with the material they were given. In fact if Jason, Amber and Patrick didn’t do as good a job as they all did, this thing would have fallen apart within the first 20 minutes.
I don’t see Aquaman going to blockbuster levels, and it wasn’t as smart as Wonder Woman, but for an Aquaman movie it was fun to watch, better paced than you’d expect and just a damn good time. The balance of things that worked with things that did not work is what saved it. The actors breathed life into the characters, all never giving you the feeling they were smart phoning in their performances. The villains were comic book villains so I don’t go insane because they act like comic book villains. If anything the share beauty of the visuals would be worth the price of admission alone, but since this movie had a few more things going for it you won’t leave this movie feeling like you wasted time or money. For me the call backs to the old comic stories and silly cartoon tropes brought much joy to my little greek heart. My rating stands at 3.5 stars, if you just need something that doesn’t suck to see this weekend, go see Aquaman.