So, the DC Universe finally makes a reappearance, or should it be the DC extended Universe. If you’ve followed the Axia Film Society for a while you will know I have reviewed all of the DC extended Universe film, apart from The Man of Steel, and I made it pretty clear that I didn’t really like that film. After Justice League was a flop both critically and financially, it kind of looked like the DC cinematic universe was dead. I mean there was nowhere really for it to go. All plans were up in the air. In fact, there has been tonnes of announcements made for films, but very few scripts are going through, very few directors are staying on their films and the status of the Universe is still up in the air. They can’t even seem to be getting out these films. Marvel averages two to three films a year under their system, but DC has only managed to get one this year.
Aquaman comes in after the disappointment of Justice League, which first gave us a glimpse into the character. There was not much to go on, but the film was kind of set up and ready to go. In the director’s chair we have James Wan, the man behind The Conjuring and Saw movie franchises. Now I kind of like James Wan in some sense, but I think a lot of his films leave a lot to be desired. It’s one of those films where you kind of enjoy it for the most part, but there is some little niggling thing that’s eating away at you. With that being said, I’m a big fan of the Saw movie Franchise and most of my misgivings with The Conjuring are more to do with how absurd it’s gotten and the fact that it tries to maintain the ‘based on a true story’ idea.
Aquaman has always been rather the jokey hero, but most of what we think about Aquaman isn’t actually true. For example; he is not restricted to water and he can do a lot more than talk to fish. So, I was hoping they would do a really good job of going into this film.
Aquaman as you can tell, starts out as the story of a lighthouse keeper named Tom Curry, played by Temuera Morrison, who falls in love with the flame queen of Atlantis, Atlanna, played by Nicole Kidman. They later get married and have a child name Arthur. The Atlanians however, don’t take kindly to this and force her back into Atlantis for an arranged marriage. There son eventually grows up to become Arthur Curry AKA Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa. He then later makes contact with a woman named Mera, played by Amber Herd, that his half-brother Orm, played by Patrick Wilson, is uniting the undersea kingdoms to wade war on the surface world and only de-throning him can stop this.
If you are familiar with the Justice League animated series on Aquaman or the comic storyline, Throne of Atlantis, which turned into an animated movie that I reviewed, most of this is going to be pretty familiar to you. Ocean Master though is an excellent choice to be the first villain of an Aquaman film, since he ties very much in to Aquamans’ character. Ocean Master though has always been a bit of an interesting character, though he is only really a one off. He can never really tie himself into the DC Universe, since well, pretty much all of his characters focused on Aquaman. In fact, that was one of my problems with the Throne of Atlantis storyline, it was so tied into Aquaman that it felt like the Justice League were wasted. Having this be a solo Aquaman story works out very well. If you are familiar with the 52 run of Aquaman this one will seem very familiar to you because it has tonnes of elements of that story line in this one.
Now this Aquaman storyline I do find to be a bit repeated, given my familiarity with the character. But if you are going to it blind, this will definitely be an entertaining film.
They do a good job of introducing the side cast, including his good friend and mentor Vulko, played by Willem Dafoe. It introduces Mera very well, who is an excellent character when written correctly, which once again she is in this version. You get Aquamans’ back story, the concepts of all the under-sea kingdoms, which I found surprisingly they put so much time and effort into introducing. While this film is not exactly an origin story, it more serves as a catch up, considering we have learnt so much about Aquaman in. Justice League, it does still service as a good introduction to the character.
The other thing to say is if you don’t like CGI in your movies, this is not one for you. This is a major CGI Fest. There is very little use of practical effects which to be fair, trying to do Aquaman and half the concepts from them comics, without CGI is damn near impossible.
I think my biggest problem is Atlantis doesn’t really have much creativity in this version, it looks more like some weird hybrid of Blade Runner and Start Wars. There are some call backs to the ancient Greek mythology that inspires Atlantis but there is not as much as you would expect.
The fight scenes themselves are actually done ok. This is actually where I had the most fluctuation. There are some fight scenes that are absolutely amazing and shot brilliantly. Then there is some that are just terrible. It goes back and forth almost on a whim.
What I can say though, about Aquaman is it seems to be going with this new DC initiative of making these films much lighter in tone. Since Justice League finally proved to the executives that these films do not need to be dark as hell. Finally, it is good to see some primary colours and scenes in the daytime in bright sunlight (didn’t realise how much I missed that). You could make an argument that they are trying to cater way too much to the people that enjoyed the Marvel cinematic universe, but it’s working for Marvel.
Jason Momoa does suit this sort of character quite well, and he once again plays the role really well. If you have seen the trailers and the posters, you are aware that they have actually gone for a costume close to his comic counterpart, rather than the really weird and muted grey one that they used in Justice League. Initially I wasn’t too keen on it because I thought that since Jason Momoa didn’t have the blonde hair of the comic character, it kind of stuck out against him, almost as if it was someone cosplaying who couldn’t be bothered to wear a wig. Fortunately, however, now the final film has come about, I can say it suits him a lot better in most of the scenes he is wearing it.
Aquaman’s popularity though really goes on if you are a fan of Super-hero films. If you are not then this is going to offer you nothing else. It’s very much a by the numbers Super-hero movie. It is a good by the numbers super-hero movie, but it doesn’t really stray off its path. DC fanboys will definitely get something out of it however as there is tonnes of call backs to various characters like the Trench, who have been an excellent part of the universe. The film is also not bogged down with references to the DC universe as a whole, probably due to the fact that we have no idea where DC is going with their extended universe at this point in time.
Patrick Wilson is doing a pretty damn good job at playing Ocean Master. I like Amber Heard as Mera. Willem Dafoe is great as Vulko, and most of the supporting cast does a pretty good job. A few surprising ones including a very interesting cameo by Dolph Lundgren, he seems to be having a pretty good year between this and Creed 2.
If there is one cast member I feel sorry for it’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen the Second, who has the role of playing Black Manta. He is one of the best parts of the film playing the character brilliantly. They get down to his origin story very well and Black Manta is honestly one of the best parts of the film, probably a more compelling villain than Ocean Master. But he is so barely in the film that he feels utterly wasted. This is Manta we are talking about, he’s one of the most iconic Aquaman villains.
The other actor who seems to be really wasted is Graham McTavish who played Dwalin in The Hobbit movies, but also this year gave an outstanding performance as Dracula in Castlevania on Netflix. With his talent he should be doing a lot more in. this film, where he plays King Atlan.
I would also suggest not bothering with this film in 3D. Even though I didn’t actually see the film in 3D there’s far too many scenes where I think the 3D’s not going to pay off. Especially in. a couple of scenes which are way too dark for a 3D effect.
Ok, Aquaman is essentially a decent film. I would probably put it second place in the running of the DC extended universe films up to this point, behind Wonder woman, but that again is not saying much given the quality of these films. Though that being said, I enjoyed this film a lot more than I enjoyed Justice League. If this is where DC is going forward with their films, I could actually see them possibly making a recovery, though at this stage they still kind of seem to be a bit in shambles.
The acting is pretty good, the cast is very talented. The special effects are a bit distracting with how computer generated they are, but they do bring Aquamans’ world to light. Its thankful to the comics, but also does its own thing to stand out. Jason Momoa makes an excellent lead for this film, but I don’t think he should be the lead taking the entire film franchise forwards. Nothing against the man, but I don’t think his character’s quite compelling enough to be the leader of the Justice League. Though I would love for the writers to prove me wrong.
As a film on its own, it does a damn good job, and in the lighter tone is very appreciated. Going forwards, I can see myself re-visiting this film. If you have a very negative view of Aquaman this might be the film to change your mind.
Well that’s it for another week, but I’ve got one more film to review. I made a promise to the team at Axia that I would review this film. So, before I go on my Christmas break, I’m going to try and get in a review of Mary Poppins Returns.
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