Sea-Thor, Sea-Thor, on the sea floor?
After one of the most disappointing payoffs in cinema history scuppered all the good will provided by Wonder Woman, you had to wonder where could the DCEU go next after Justice League?
Next up on their slate was Aquaman, a character routinely mocked on shows such as Robot Chicken and Family Guy, portrayed by an actor who had already flubbed bringing Conan back to the big screen. “Plumbing the depths” seemed a very apt phrase indeed, especially concerning a dude who can talk to fish…
Well put those negative thoughts on hold for a second because Aquaman ain’t bad. In fact it’s actually rather good. Flawed, most definately. But a massive slice of dumb, epic, blockbuster rambunctiousness that is rough and charming as it’s lead.
The plot is… frankly unnessesary. The barest bones on which to hang lots and LOTS of massive scale action beats. In fact it’s like they laid out a table full of concepts for action set pieces in order to choose which to use and some bright spark suggested “I dunno, ALL of ’em?”
That bright spark was most likely horror/action director James Wan, a guy who has fully embraced the ludicrous nature of the story behind Arthur Curry and who just wants to make the biggest, dumbest superhero movie he can.
He’s pretty much succeeded too. Aquaman, for most of it’s staggering runtime is mostly pure action. Massive battle scenes, natural disasters, super powered fist fights and general carnage seem to kick off at regular intervals of what seems like every ten minutes (not even some buses run that regular).
Casting the harsh-edged “realism” of Zack Snyder’s early DCEU efforts to the wind, Wan’s movie goes full day-glow fantasy, with much of the game cast looking like super-rad action figures (arch villain Black Manta’s giant domed, mongloid-headed battle suit simply just shouldn’t work on film but somehow proves to be a highlight on sheer nerve alone). In fact the whole thing looks like The Little Mermaid re-imagined as a cover to a Nordic metal album.
The cast are impressively game with Jason Momoa finally having more to do than scream “YEAH!” and “I DIG IT!” every 3 minutes (although not THAT much more) holding the screen with that rough and ready, beefcake charisma. Patrick Wilson in his villainous role also goes all in, bellowing commands and orders and somehow convinces even when announcing himself “Ocean Master” without a shed of irony. Major props too to Amber Heard who sidesteps the exposition/girlfriend role neatly and even pulls off a dress made of jellyfish.
When you’re not staring, hypnotized by everyone’s computer generated underwater hair, it’s evident that this is by far the most “Marvel” of any DC movie yet, everyone here may inhale water but they breathe pure levity and jettisoning the usual Batman levels of gloom the film soars. No time for Man Of Steel style angst here, we’ve giant Clash Of The Titans style sea monsters to roll out.
The sheer amount of balls on this film to not only be a “single character” origin movie that manages to almost be as long as Avengers: Infinity War, but ALSO defiantly refuses to reference the DCEU as a whole (Justice League barely gets a line in mention) simply cannot be ignored. But then bravado over brains is pretty much what Mamoa’s portrayal of the character is all about and for some, it’s all simply going to be too much. With hardly a scene that doesn’t involve super heroics, fantastical kingdoms, giant sea monsters and SO much CGI (at least 3 dialogue scenes end with a shock explosion sending people scattering like bowling pins) the sheer unrelenting energy of the thing can simply be numbing, but for those with the mental resilience of a 12 year old it’s deliriously epic. It’s also deliriously reminiscent of virtually every blockbuster made over the last 15 years or so, referencing, homaging and in some cases outright stealing from movies like Avatar, Black Panther, Clash Of The Titans, Ant-Man & The Wasp, Tron: Legacy and many others.
Sure, more than a few duff FX shots slip through and you could easily carve out a good half hour without losing a single thing but the sheer, uncut energy of this thing overrides the vast quantities of silly hurled at your eyeballs.
Check your cynicism at the door and let Aquaman wash right over you…
Damn. That sounded filthy.