Movie Review | Aquaman
Movie summary: Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world. (IMDb)
I'm going to be honest and admit that I'm not the biggest fan of the more recent DC movies, Aquaman as a character, nor Jason Momoa as an actor. So the fact that I didn't actually dislike this movie should count as some sort of recommendation I suppose.
Part of the reason for that is that everything we see feels so inconsequential that it can't really do anything to offend. On the other hand, it does mean that there's nothing really memorable or lasting to take away from it either.
Aquaman really does feel like someone made a feature-length live-action version of a Saturday morning cartoon. Outside of some very minor characters, everyone else is alive and free to return for a sequel, and it really does feel like there was never anything serious at stake.
Now, I'm not one of those people that thinks there needs to be major deaths for something to be considered high-stakes, but one early scene aside, there never feels like there's any true threat to any of the characters or the world at large.
Apparently, some bloodier scenes or even just blood in existing scenes were removed to get the 12A rating here in the UK - this seems strange as MCU characters tend to end their films bloody and bruised, letting you know just how tough things were, so I don't understand why DC weren't allowed to show the same.
Then again, DC's characters all tend to be ludicrously powerful compared to Marvel's and take barely any damage during their fights anyway, so it might've just been supporting/minor characters taking physical abuse that got the movie altered.
Oh, and before I forget, there's yet another inappropriately-timed kiss in a DC movie. During Man of Steel, with thousands having just died as a result of Zod's 'World Engine' literally flattening a large portion of Metropolis, Clark and Lois decide that's a good time and place for their first kiss.
Here, Mera (played by Amber Heard) flat out says during the final showdown that there are too many being hurt, then stops to have a lengthy make-out session with Jason Momoa's Aquaman as the camera dramatically sweeps around them while various sea people continue to get blown to hell around them.
Why is it so hard to simply copy Wonder Woman and keep the smooching for the quieter scenes and not just after people have died, or while they're dying around the heroes? I know this is one of the nit-pickiest nit-picks ever, but will someone at DC please mandate that kissing is banned while people are dying in future movies - for the heroes at least?
The thing is, that's kind of emblematic of a lot of Aquaman's issues, with characters making decisions that make no real sense. A lot of characters make choices that result in some cool shots, or that drive the plot forwards, but bear no real relation to how people actually behave.
Amber Heard's Mera comes off the worst here, with her character doing practically nothing else but making decisions to keep the film moving, rather than maintaining any consistency for her character, or any kind of development.
And I do feel sorry for Heard, who I think gives as good a performance as the role allows her to - genuinely, I'd love to see a Mera: Queen of Atlantis movie as long as the character is better written next time around. Any fault here is certainly not the fault of the actress.
Then there's Arthur Curry: Aquaman himself. Like I said, I'm not the biggest fan of Momoa, as he generally only seems to be capable of playing versions of himself, which admittedly remains the case here. However, that's not really an issue this time out as it fits how the character is written.
In fact, some of the best moments in the movie come when Momoa is acting against type and showing that he does have greater range as an actor than he often shows. The only real criticism I have of the title character is that his character arc is practically nonexistent and entirely predictable.
Again, neither of these issues are the fault of the actor, and I'd definitely be happy to see more of Momoa as Arthur Curry with Mera at his side. It really is the script that is what's holding back this film, with an emphasis on spectacle and cool shots above and beyond any kind of drama or logic.
There are a lot of great shots in this movie too, but there are occasions when the VFX don't quite hold up and it becomes readily apparent just how much of what we're seeing was shot against green screens. Which is a lot, in case you were wondering.
Overall, Aquaman feels a lot to me like Justice League, with every good thing balanced out by something equally poor, leaving little lasting impression. If DC can come up with a script that has a plot driven by the characters, rather than vice versa, then I'd be happy to see Aquaman 2.
One last thing regarding Aquaman's links to Justice League: the title character's involvement in defeating Steppenwolf is referenced, but it's as if the events of the latter movie were completely different from what we saw and there's practically no attempt to keep continuity between the movies.
Aquaman is a pretty, but dumb, movie. How much you enjoy it will depend on how big a fan you are of Jason Momoa, DC characters, or Saturday morning cartoons in general. It's simply the case that too much of the film is nonsensical to be taken too seriously: switch off your brain for maximum fun.