Born of two worlds, Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, has never felt like he belonged. Despite possessing the immense strength, ability to breathe under water, and ear for “fish-speak” common among his mother’s Atlantean brethren, Arthur’s part-human heritage has made him an outcast, and ineligible for the throne. Arthur, for his part, has never had any interest in becoming King, preferring to get drunk, and save sailors from tsunamis. But when his half-brother, Orm, decides to wage war on the surface, ostensibly as revenge for decades of pollution, Arthur is forced to challenge him for the throne, first in ritual combat, and then by retrieving Poseidon’s trident, which can only be wielded by the true heir. Failure to do so will mean millions dead, and the Oceans rising to swallow the surface. Can Arthur and his partner Mera stop Orm in time? Watch the movie and find out.
I saw Aquaman back-to-back with Bumblebee. In case you’re wondering, it was a bad idea, since, together, the films add up to about 4 and a half hours of screen time. That’s a lot of sitting. But watching these flicks together clarified some things for me. See, I think Bumblebee’s a better-written flick. It’s got more naturalistic dialogue, more fleshed-out characters, and a more focused, personal story. But, at the same time, I’d honestly rather go back and watch Aquaman again. Which is strange, since this film has a lot of problems. It’s got some painfully awkward, expository dialogue, way too many villains, (seriously, they should have just saved Black Manta for the sequel) and an overly long runtime. No one ever speaks normally, with characters either telling stories that will be important later on, or loudly declaring their acts of valor, and every performance is over-the-top. And yet, this flick is enthralling.
People have described comic books as being our modern mythology, and Aquaman is a film that really embraces that fact, from the giant, Kraken-like monsters, to the Grecian design of Atlantis’s architecture, to the brother vs brother battle for the throne. It’s never boring, and the action is SUPERB. Virtually every fight is done in a long, wide shot, with the camera spinning, or dollying around the characters, and the scenes of underwater combat look incredible. I’d actually like to take a moment and commend the effects team and production designers. The world that they create looks amazing. There are scenes in here with truly remarkable creature designs, sets, and technology. And the use of color is fantastic. There’s one shot, you’ll recognize it when you see it, where Arthur and Mera are swimming through a dark trench, surrounded by monsters, and the only thing illuminating them is a flare, that made my jaw drop, it was that good. And as over-the-top as the acting is, it’s all in keeping with the melodramatic, mythological tone the film is going for. Plus, it’s just fun to watch pedigreed actors like Nicole Kidman, Julie Andrews and Patrick Wilson screaming silly lines while sharks with laser beams swim by, and an Octopus plays the drums. (Yes, all of that is in the movie).
So between the superb action, fun, adventurous tone, intentionally over-the-top performances, and fantastic visuals, Aquaman is worth watching. It goes on for too long, there are too many villains, the dialogue is just littered with clunky exposition, and it’s nowhere near as well-constructed as Into The Spider-Verse and Bumblebee, but you can never stop watching. Make of this what you will.