I'm going to go out on limb, and say that the new Aquaman movie is kind of meh. Now, before you get the pitchforks and torches out and burn this website to the ground, let me explain. I'm not saying the movie is bad. Overall, it's a good, but flawed movie. I'd say the two things that keep it from being a great movie, are that the story relies way too much on exposition, and the movie is way too long for it's own good. Given the subject matter, I can understand the filmmakers desire to try and make it an epic, but a more measured and streamlined approach would have served the story better.
So what is the story? The story is actually a very old one: A prince turns his back on his birthright. A usurper steps in to seize power. The prince must embrace his destiny, in order to save a kingdom. It's the stuff of legends, really.
And don't get me wrong, there is a lot to like (some spoilers here).
First, with two exceptions, the principal cast is excellent.
Jason Momoa oozes charm and charisma as Arthur Curry/Aquaman (I feel as though I should put a pun intended here).
Amber Heard's plays a sort of the know it all Mera. But, her character contrasts well against Momoa more laxidasical Aquaman.
A barely recognizable Dolph Lundgren does a good job as Mera father, King Nereus
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II steals the show as mercenary/pirate Black Manta in the (far too few) scenes he's in.
And, even Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman are solid as Aquaman's parents.
The only two holdouts are Willem Dafoe's Vulko and Patrick Wilson's Prince Orm, which is a shame because both of them are usually good actors.
Dafoe's Vulko should actually be called Mr. Exposition, because that's all Dafoe does throughout the movie. And, the flashback scene where he trains a young Aquaman is absolutely ridiculous.
Patrick Wilson does an okay job as Prince Orm, Aquaman's half-brother. But, the problem is I really don't buy him as a villain, even a noble one. His nice guy image does him no favors here, and I think another actor may have sold the part better. And yes, while its true that Wilson has played a villain before in Hard Candy, but the whole point of Hard Candy hinges on the fact that his character seems like such a good guy that he would never do the things he's accused of.
The second half of Aquaman is where the movie really shines. At about the half point, the movie becomes a quest story, where Aquaman and Mera travel the globe in search for a mythical Trident that will unite the kingdoms of Atlantis.
A brutal fight with Black Manta in Sicily.
An excellent use of CGI, as Aquaman and Mera fight their way through the Lovecraftian Creatures of the Trench armed only with a few boat flares.
Another excellent use of CGI when Aquaman uses his ability to "Talk to Fish" to confront a giant sea monster (voiced by none other than Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews).
An additional point in its favor is that it's pretty much a stand alone movie. Other than a throw away line about Darseid's attack in the Justice League movie, Aquaman really doesn't reference the other DC Extended Universe.
But with the good comes the bad, and the first half of the movie is a bit of a let down. Most of the first half of Aquaman could have easily been cut out, and it wouldn't have taken much away from the story. Keep maybe the scene where Aquaman saves the crewmen from the Russian sub. Maybe also the scene where the Atlantis sends a tidal wave to attack Aquaman's home town, and maybe a few scenes to move the plot along. But, the dump the rest. Honestly, they needed to the quest part of the movie much sooner.
Another negative, the Atlantis scenes rely way too much on CGI. Understandable, I suppose, since Atlantis is a submerged city. But it does raise the question: if you are using this much CGI, then why not just make an animated movie instead? As the scene with the Creatures of the Trench shows, CGI can be used effectively, but seems to work best in muted colors, or to fill in the background. The problem is Atlantis is bright and colorful, and as a result it comes across looking incredibly fake looking. Perhaps, it might have worked better to have a few exteriors shots of Atlantis to establish the location, but primarily have the Atlantis scenes take place mostly in interior sets, with the ocean and sea life seen through the ports or windows.
The costuming, too, needed a redesign. The wet-suits that the Atlantians wear really don't work, and only Lundgren and Momoa seemed to be able to pull off the look. Robe like costumes may have worked better, and having the fabric flow with the ocean currents would have been much more visually appealing. That being said, the battle armor suits that the Atlantian wear, with the helmets filled with water, did kind of work, especially on when they were on dry land.
Patrick Wilson's Prince Orm should have been saved for the second movie. Instead, the main villain of this film should have been Black Manta. He is set up early to be the villain to beat, but then sadly largely disappears for most of the movie.
Plus, if you establish Aquaman as King of the Sea Seven in the first film, you could flip the script for the second. In the second, have Orm come in, and challenge Aquaman for the throne of Atlantis. Maybe adapt some of the elements from the 1986 comic book mini series, Thicker Than Water, where Orm (as Ocean Master) was the main villain. In that story Ocean Master gained six of the magical gems of Atlantis, which made him a serious threat to both Aquaman and the underwater city.
Instead of Orm, have Lundgren's King Nereus be the main instigator of events, whether for fair means or fowl.
Another thing that could have improved the film, would have been an animated opening sequence. In the animated opening either explain Aquaman's origin, or explain the history of Atlantis and the mythical trident that will one day unite the kingdoms again. That would have saved Dafoe's Vulko character from having to constantly explaining everything throughout the film.
Overall, Aquaman is a good movie. However, it is bogged down by a poor first half and way too much exposition, which, in the end, leaves it a bit of a wash.
Hello, my name is
Kelly Logue, and I'm a writer who lives in Alaska. Generally, I write horror or weird fiction, but I am currently working on a superhero title that should be out next year. In addition to this blog, you can follow my adventures on Twitter @KellyLogue3