‘Aquaman’ – Review: A New Direction For Live-Action DC Films?

***Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead***

It’s been over a year since we seen Momoa’s Aquaman on-screen in the “not-so-well” received Justice League. When it was announced an Aquaman film was coming, some fans turned their heads while others (like me), actually looked forward to the idea. The DC cinematic universe films haven’t bode too well for critics and fans alike, but there have been hits with Man of Steel (2013) and Wonder Woman (2017). But what about James Wan’s Aquaman? Does it live up to the hype?

James Wan’s Take On This Film

Director James Wan with actors Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Going into Aquaman, there was some doubt as to how this film would look and feel with its tone. James Wan had a lot on his plate going in because of the backlash of previous DC universe films and the fact that it’s the first solo Aquaman film. Wan did an incredible job with the visuals and things like the sound of the characters and the way their hair looked underwater was incredible and delivers that “wow” factor.

One of the things that made this film work was the character development and performances throughout – not perfect, but well done. A lot of this was due to Wan using a stellar cast. Most notably Dolph Lundgren, Willem Dafoe, and Nicole Kidman as they each gave a great performance and hopefully we’ll see them again.

Wan managed to pull off the action as well and not only with just two main characters fighting, but managing to pull off entire set pieces as well. We should have known this going in because of the trailers but other than a few CGI hiccups, the fighting was excellent, including the opening battle sequence.

What Worked And What Didn’t?

Actor Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, aka ‘Aquaman’: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

As with all films, there are some problems with Aquaman – some you can overlook while some may pull you out of the film for a moment. Regarding Wan’s direction, most of the dialogue and the character development was enjoyable. There were scenes and moments where there could have been more emotion built between Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard, for example. Their on-screen chemistry together was great, however, it was hard at times to believe in their “love” towards by the end of the film.

As for Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), there were a few things James Wan could have done differently or developed more. One instance was at the beginning of the film between her and Arthur’s dad, Thomas (Temuera Morrison), where she gives her goodbye to Thomas and Arthur. Understanding the what and the why for narrative’s sake, that scene could have had more weight to it, but it wasn’t worthy of pulling you out of the film – which is a good thing.

One other thing that didn’t make sense was towards the end of the film just after the climactic battle and Atlanna appears with an entirely different wardrobe than what she had when we saw her last. It’s hilariously bad because after Arthur gets the new Trident, he and Mera go straight to battle, but we don’t see Atlantis’ previous queen, who we saw at the beginning of the film demolish multiple Atlantean guards. The fact that Atlanna had time to change into a dress and say the line, “no more killing” didn’t settle well at all and James Wan could have done this differently.

Stereotypical Villains

Actors Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Patrick Wilson as King Orm: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

As talented as Patrick Wilson is and what he did with Orm, this film doesn’t shy away from using stereotypical antagonists. We always knew from the trailers that Black Manta was probably going to be the secondary antagonist while Orm was the main villain, but both characters were done well for what the film was going for. There were some moments where Patrick Wilson got too much into his character as he should have dialed back a bit.

As with Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), there could have been more with that character. Every time this character was on-screen, his actions were believable and you were able to share empathy with him. One moment that felt out of place was when Manta managed to decrypt Atlantean technology (which he’s never seen or handled before) and managed to make an entirely different weapon out of it within a few hours. Again, nothing too crazy to pull you out of the film, but bad enough to notice.

Overall Thoughts

Actor Jason Momoa as Aquaman: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

All in all, Aquaman is a mixed bag and you’re either going to enjoy yourself or hate that you even bought a ticket. I don’t consider this a “top 10” comic book movie or anything like that, but it’s exactly what Warner Bros. needed moving forward with the franchise. James Wan yet again succeeded in giving fans a good, fun and enjoyable comic book film with just a few mistakes here and there. Now that it’s creeping up on being part of the billion dollar club, you best believe there will be a sequel but I’m kind of hoping for a different director to take what James Wan built and have their new take as well.

I’m sure I didn’t cover everything but these are my thoughts. Comment below on your thoughts on ‘Aquaman’

‘Aquaman’ = B-

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