Top positive review
Aquaman splashes onscreen with a spectacular torrent and a waterfall of barnacle action.
14 December 2018
Aquaman splashes onscreen with a spectacular torrent and a waterfall of barnacle action. It's safe to say that Aquaman is no longer not cool. The running joke is finally put to rest. Not only has accomplished director Wan created a decent superhero film in an extended universe that feels tonally convoluted, but possibly its strongest entry. That's not to say it's perfect, there is dampness in the far corners of Atlantis. But "my man", what a ride! Set after the events of 'Justice League', Arthur must step forward to be king of Atlantis and stop his half-brother from creating a war with the surface world. There's a phrase that has been circulating within the inner workings of the Internet. "In Wan we trust". A director who singlehandedly modernised the horror genre, entered the 'Fast & Furious' to create its best entry and conceptualised 'Saw', one of the most renowned horror franchises of all time. He is what makes Aquaman work. He is what gives life to the seven seas. He is why he is often the secret weapon in franchises. He understands any genre that is given to him. This solo endeavour, that rarely references other DCEU films, conforms to the cheesiness and blockbusting entertainment of earlier successes. From cringe-inducing one liners ("Permission to come aboard?") to humour that often falls flat ("I could've just peed on it"), it often seems like it sets itself up for failure. However, because of this it surprisingly gives charm to the film and personality to its characters. It's so light in tone, purposefully juxtaposing the darker narratives of other entries, that it feels fresher than freshwater. Wan's eye for visual spectacle and intrinsically immersive action proves that it's not trying to be the next 'The Dark Knight'. Grand in scope, yet a personal tale of leadership for Arthur that enables his character to develop from a careless brute to a genuine role of idolisation. Considering the 143 minute runtime, it was paced methodically. Never did I feel the need to look at my watch, a rare achievement for any lengthy blockbuster.
As the trailers suggest, the primary insight into Wan's ambitious creation is the use of visual effects. There were one or two scenes that physically gave me goosebumps. The design and architecture of Atlantis was awe-inspiring. Each building upholding a sense of modern personality, and each inhabitant spreading ancient history. Vivid neon colours invade your sight, as you sit back holding your breathe whilst being submerged into this otherworldly fantasy. With the help of Gregson-Williams' euphoric score, the world of Atlantis truly came to life. These visuals are then utilised during action sequences in order to stylise them. Wan tends to experiment with his camerawork (switching from POV to 360 rotational panning to ambitious one take shots) which invites you into the combat. Simple choreographed fights involving tridents soon escalate into kingdoms battling each other on giant crustaceans and hammerhead sharks. The range is splendid and maintains the entertainment. Momoa, Heard, Wilson and Kidman all getting involved within these sequences. The performances, for the most part, were good. Momoa is in his element and embracing every opportunity as the leading actor. Both his physicality and demeanour suit the role of Arthur Curry. Heard was also decent as Mera, the two interacting with each other often to create comedic moments. Although the end relationship is somewhat predictable, it was still pleasant to watch. Wilson also held his own (as always) as the primary antagonist. Kidman and Lundgren though were slightly dry and probably needed more time in the water.
There are however faults that makes this a wet affair occasionally. The screenplay needed more work and is the weakest aspect to the film. Often relying on exposition, it never truly embraces its characters and instead settles for scope rather than nuance. For example, the secondary antagonist Black Manta was horrifically underdeveloped and unfortunately felt like an afterthought. Only showing up during action sequences and nothing more. Even the Ocean Master himself wasn't particularly developed enough to make you understand his viewpoint (aside from humanity destroying its waters). Wan has so many ideas, so many locations that he wants to showcase, that the narrative occasionally feels like shallow set pieces rather than a deep story. The "Ring of Fire" challenge fight sequence does accentuate the often poor human CGI, turning a pivotal moment into more of a distraction. I also found the conclusion underwhelming and rushed, in a bid to open itself up to a sequel. Still, in Wan we trust and fortunately his trust was justified. Aquaman is a nautical adventure that is sure to reinvigorate the extended universe that crumbled before it.