I was really rooting for Aquaman to be a good movie. I got a chance to see it early as part of Amazon Prime’s special offer of an early screening a week prior to the official release. That was great. As for the movie….
I found Aquaman, the latest DC Comics movie, to be a mixed bag. In the places where I thought the film was good, I thought the film was REALLY good. When I thought the movie was bad, I thought it was cringeable.
The under sea kingdom of Atlantis is beginning to make waves about launching an assault on the surface world. Orm (Patrick Wilson) is pushing for the title of Oceanmaster over the Atlanteans but Mera (Amber Heard) has other thoughts. She goes and recruits Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and tries to get him to come and claim his birthright as the King of Atlantis. Aquaman does not believe himself worthy.
So, mixed bag, right? So let’s do a point-counterpoint type review. The visuals of the undersea nation and animals was beautifully rendered. A DC movie with bright colors? I watched several scenes in the film where it was like a beautiful artistic design. Most of the underwater scenes worked very well visually.
However, there were also several moments in the film where the CGI was terrible. The Nicole Kidman fight scene at the very beginning of the movie is one example. The people looked very rubbery, as if they were not real people being thrown around. I hated the designs of the white armored Atlantean flunkies. They made me think too much about Stormtroopers.
Jason Momoa was great as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. I liked him here considerably more than I did with him in Justice League. Amber Heard was good as Mera too and there was a strong cast including Willem Defoe, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison.
Unfortunately, I was less impressed with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who played Black Manta. I found him to be overacting big time in the early scenes on board the submarine. His performance took me out of the movie during that time. I am not sure I felt the overall chemistry between Momoa and Heard. Separately, they were very good, but together it was iffy.
There were some great action scenes. My personal favorite was the scene in Italy with Black Manta chasing Arthur and Mera. I thought that was well developed and intensely carried out.
The problem was there was too much action. Because there were too many action scenes, the film felt too long. A friend of mine said that maybe they should have cut out the Black Manta stuff and saved it for the sequel, and, in retrospect, even though I loved those scenes, that might have helped the film out.
The film has some fun moments and it is very silly at times. You see this with Aquaman himself as he embraces his role of big blockhead.
Unfortunately, there are too many tones in the film and they shift, sometimes, within the scenes. Much of the humor did not land in Aquaman.
I do not know why DC movies insist on third act CGI fights with red backgrounds. I swear that they are in every DC movie since Man of Steel. I was hoping that we would not have the red since we were under water here, but the lava showed up just in time for a big fight between Aquaman and the monstrous creatures.
However, at least the red backdrop was kept at a minimum in the third act and did not show itself in the final battle with Oceanmaster.
Another major gripe is about the trailers. Why did we need to see Aquaman in his orange outfit in the trailers and the promotional materials prior to this movie? When he gains the outfit and the trident is a huge part of the movie and, if I did not already know that he was coming out dressed in his orange outfit, that moment might have been a classic moment, maybe even a cheer out loud moment, but the movie itself spoiled that for me. Did seeing Aquaman in the orange outfit put anybody extra in the seats? If not, then they wasted what could have been a brilliant moment.
Amber Heard’s red wig distracted me all the way through the movie. I don’t have a counterpoint for that one. The wig just was bad. Nitpicky? sure.
As I said, Aquaman was a mixed bag for me, but I do think that what they did well out weighed what was done poorly. This is a step in the right direction for DC movies because they allowed the audience to have some fun and to look at the movie with a marvel. Aquaman does spectacular well, but the small scenes were lacking… or were punctuated with an explosion (and there were a ton of explosions).