What a trip! Aquaman is like the best movie that is a 6/10 movie. Like the best 6/10 that ever 6/10’d. Warner Brother’s DC’s Aquaman is what happens when you mix the following elements into one movie:
- Power Rangers
- The 1980’s action stereotypes
- The Fast and Furious franchise
- A 2018 blockbuster budget
There’s no bones about it. This movie is Dumb! Capital ‘D’ Dumb. But it’s also fun.
It has some laugh out loud moments that are intentional. Then some I’m pretty sure weren’t intentional but they’re great anyway, like when ‘Africa’ by Pitbull plays. Or the green screen-CGI looks funny. The gratuitous slow-mo for 80’s style action glamour shots of abs and pecs and super hero landings, plus one scene that looked slow-mo’d through a free iPhone app.
It’s campy. They know it and they take it seriously enough that you believe it, but it’s still campy. I like how silly everything looks. People riding seahorses and sharks with saddles. That’s great!
Embarrassing looking costumes but they own them. I can really appreciate that. Some of these outfits are stupid. These are some Power Rangers/Super Sentai level costumes. But they take them seriously. There are no winks to the audience. So you roll with it and smile. Amber Heard wearing a jellyfish dress? Sure!
One thing I really did find myself enjoying was the number of different “cultures” they dipped into and explored. The Atlanteans are clearly Greek inspired, with the Amber Heard ones are sort the Rohan to their Gondor, the seahorse people being a “tech” culture, the horrible demon sea creatures (where it felt like James Wan’s horror background really came through) and then the Crab People. That was fun. The Crab People were my favourite. And setting all these cultures up should make for a really fun sequel.
Jason Mamoa is fine. He does his thing. He is buff and large and dopey. Amber Heard is okay. Nicole Kidman needed more screen time. Seeing Dolph Lundgren go from direct to DVD trash to big budget trash warms my soul. It’s cool to see Patrick Wilson get a sizeable role.
The plot is by the numbers. Checkmarks and rubber stamps. Boilerplate. Whatever. No real twists. The romance is bland. It’s enough to keep you moving and get you through the world they want to show. It could have been tightened up but it wasn’t, and it gets by.
It’s a very Thor on earth story. He’s a fish out of water but reversed as he doesn’t really know much about the world underwater. So it’s a fish in water story. He’s unsure of culture, doesn’t care, fight, punch, ignorant, etc. There’s definite Conan The Barbarian vibes. That cheesy level of 80s hero buff-man saves everyone story.
Action and dialogue are often sequestered and it feels strange to have what feels like a 10 minute fight scene have no dialogue beyond grunts and CGI fight moves. If you’re trying to simulate a real serious fight, that’s one thing. But we know they aren’t. The tone of the movie isn’t that kind of tone, so you almost drift when you’re looking at the 14th CGI water attack in a row.
This really felt like DC’s first kick to the nuts of the Snyder-verse. Wonder Woman and Justice League were steps away, but they were still grim and washed out with speed-up/slow-down action scenes.
The look of Aquaman doesn’t “fit” that.
- Five-pronged trident.
- Edgelord armour.
- Everything being grey and brown.
- Everyone frowning.
- Everyone’s life sucks.
- Not being able to talk without air.
- An actual trident with three prongs.
- The 1960’s orange and green armour.
- People smile and make intentional jokes.
- Characters are allowed to be happy.
- There is daytime and sunshine.
- Able to talk under water.
And it should be that way. This is Aquaman. He isn’t Batman. He isn’t part of the Watchmen. He isn’t that serious, and audiences won’t take him that seriously. He talks to fish and pals around with seahorse people and crab people and is a bit of a knucklehead.
The only two real drawbacks to the movie to me come down to two things: run time and cinematography.
This movie could have been 45 minutes shorter and I’m sure if I re-watch it I’ll find myself using fast-forward through a good chunk of the middle 90 minutes. The entire B-Plot villain doesn’t need to be there. A fan edit that cuts that stuff down could really tighten this movie up.
As for cinematography it comes down to two issues. The first, I think they were trying to go for a “free-flowing” camera like it was in water. However, the camera spinning and zipping like crazy has times where you are looking at the screen unsure of what you’re looking at. I really hate looking at a movie and trying to “pause” it in my head so I can figure out who is who and what is what.
The second issue with the cinematography is the number of times they do the “one take” camera shot that is clearly like 1729 camera shots composited together. I can live without this ever happening again in any movie. If it is to happen, it needs to have a style and a trick to it. But there’s no substance to that kind of shot when it’s just zooming through windows and across rooftops then back to the street when everything is clearly a green screen in a sound stage.
However, they deserve huge props for the look of the movie. It could have been super distracting with the underwater effect but they found a way to make it blend in and you don’t notice it. The hair floats a little, the movements are floaty and swimmy, everything is blue and green without being grey, the costume and architecture is distinct and well done.
The movie is fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously. I don’t know if its “run to your nearest theatre” good, but it might be worth a free evening. If not, find a lazy evening once it is on Netflix and stuff yourself with popcorn.