Aquaman (2018): A Big Splash of Fun
“Aquaman” is directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7) and stars Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian), Amber Heard (The Danish Girl, 3 Days To Kill), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, xXx: State of the Union), Patrick Wilson (Fargo, Insidious), Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Masters of the Universe), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down, The Greatest Showman), and Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, Big Little Lies). This film is based on the Detective Comics property that is probably mocked more than any other. Fittingly, this movie is most likely to be seen by people who are mocked more than any other. The plot to “Aquaman” is that Arthur Curry is the heir to the throne in his underwater kingdom, Atlantis. He also must unleash his inner hero and defend the world.
The world as we know it seems to have a very complicated relationship with the Detective Comics Extended Universe, and this includes myself. I have seen all the movies in its franchise thus far. I really enjoyed “Man of Steel.” “Batman v. Superman” is not as good as I would have hoped, but it’s still watchable. “Suicide Squad” is just plain awful, even though I enjoyed it the first time around. “Wonder Woman” was spectacular, and at one point, was probably my favorite movie of 2017. “Justice League” was pretty good, in fact, I honestly think I enjoyed it more than a lot of other people did. However, there is no denying that the turnout of the movie, almost felt like a movie that went through development hell. There were some clashing tones, lackluster effects at times, and Steppenwolf was kind of a one-dimensional villain. Then again, it’s hard to blame everybody because the technical director, Zack Snyder, needed Joss Whedon to fill his shoes for post-production because he lost his daughter to suicide, but nevertheless. I personally thought while DC was not as big or as close to quality as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they were heading in the right direction. This direction personally tends to continue with “Aquaman” because it’s just a damn good time at the movies.
Comic book movies are perhaps the biggest trend in film right now, and I don’t know when it is going to stop, or even IF it is ever going to stop. If somebody were to ask me, what the definition of “comic book movie” would be, I’d just point them straight to “Aquaman.” Now I mean that in the most generous of ways, because the reality is that I tend to be a complete nerd who enjoys comic book movies. But when I think of comic books, superheroes, and stuff like that. I tend to think of big spectacles, compelling characters who have interesting backstories, epic fights, and stories that don’t necessarily need to be completely catered to logic. This is THAT movie. Without getting into heavy spoilers, let me just tell you about some of the weird s*it that goes down in “Aquaman.”
- An Octopus plays the drums!
- Laser sharks!
- Underwater gladiator fights!
- Occasional cartoony music!
- Jumping off an aircraft and landing into a desert with no pain whatsoever!
- Getting inside a giant fish who apparently doesn’t eat everything in its mouth!
- Witty banter!
- A shark nearly breaks the glass in an aquarium!
- And of course, a man can talk to fish.
This is not just a movie, it’s a Saturday morning cartoon in all of its glory. And in all honesty, it’s actually better than “Thor: Ragnarok,” which I’ve heard from some people is like a Saturday morning cartoon, but in my eyes, that’s not what it should have been. I would have much preferred seeing a darker version of the story, one where there is despair! But no, you gotta get kids in the theater! La-de-frikin-dah! But the thing about “Thor: Ragnarok” is while it is a superhero movie and might as well be something that kids can enjoy, it seemed much lighter compared to the previous two “Thor” movies. It feels like a change of pace that I wasn’t able to grasp onto. “Aquaman” has yet to have his own standalone film, so therefore, I didn’t really know what to expect. A lot of information prior to the to release of “Aquaman” can be interpreted in one’s own imagination. What really matters is how people like me react to the execution. And I thought the execution was pretty swell if you ask me.
Visually speaking, this is one of the best movies of the year. Someone really must have had fun with the concept art for this film, because this film feels like what happens when you create Dungeons & Dragons underwater. I wanted to know more about the lore and mythology behind Atlantis. I mean, it really doesn’t surprise me that this movie looks good. After all, I have the fighting game “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and Atlantis happens to be my favorite stage in the entire game.
Let’s talk about Arthur Curry, AKA “Aquaman.” He’s played by Jason Momoa who we’ve seen in “Justice League” as the title character but now we get a much more personal look. One thing I will say about many superheroes is that they seem to highly associate with one certain word. With “Spider-Man,” he seems to clearly define an outsider, a nerd. With “Thor,” he seems to define a powerful god. With “Aquaman,” he may be that “chosen one” cliche per se, but he also seems to come off as a regular, everyday gay. There’s a scene with him at the bar where I got this vibe that he is that character on a sitcom that a main character would want to have a beer with. Also, out of all the superheroes that I’ve seen on screen, “Aquaman” by far, possibly might be the most masculine out of all of them. He’s ripped, he’s ready to have a good time, and that haircut, while it makes this dude look like a lady, it certainly just screams “MAN!”
Also, Mera? Yeah. She’s cool. I’d just say she’s hot and leave the description at that, but that’s not the point. I will say that prior to seeing “Aquaman” I went out and bought Mera’s Funko Pop before even going out to see the film. Not only did it look cool, but based on how awesome Mera is in this movie, the Pop was well worth the money. When I saw the “Ghostbusters” remake back in 2016, I imagined personally how much better the movie would be had it included half a team with girls and half a team with boys, to show gender equality, not to mention men and women working together for the better of society. This dynamic duo does not disappoint! Mera doesn’t feel like a sidekick and instead feels like Aquaman’s equal. They go together like bread and butter!
Also, one common complaint that many comic book movies seem to be getting nowadays is the inclusion of lackluster villains. Out of the DCEU films, I gotta say that one of the villains of “Aquaman” is the best one in the DCEU thus far. Specifically, Aquaman’s brother, King Orm. And to add to all of this Saturday morning cartoon glory, in my eyes, this guy really does resemble the word dick if you ask me. He reminds me of Legolas’s father from “The Hobbit.” Also, one thing that we’ve seen in a couple of recent comic book films like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is that the main villain has some previous relation to the main character, “Aquaman” manages to continue that trend, while not necessarily improving upon it, but not destroying it either.
I really want to talk about the action in this film. One thing I’m noticing a lot nowadays is that in certain action flicks like “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” there is a really long one-take sequence where the camera does not cut away from whatever is going on in terms of action. While this movie doesn’t have THAT, there is one notable longer than usual take action scene in the beginning of the film that completely set the tone for what’s to come. Now keep in mind, this movie was directed by James Wan, who also directed “Furious 7.” That is not my favorite “Fast & Furious” film, but in terms of action and stunts, it’s probably the best. Based on his stellar action choreography and directing in that movie, it provides an excellent transition from there to here. Going back to Saturday morning cartooniness, a lot of the fighting is not just stylistically pleasing, but it’s big and loud, it kind of sent chills down my spine at this point. And, to compare this movie to “Black Panther,” Aquaman has to duel against his brother in a gladiator style ring, all of it is epic, brings things that I usually don’t see in movies. The most notable difference is that a lot of the fighting is done underwater. Granted, it’s not like the filmmakers went into the water and created a gigantic world by hand. In fact, if they actually did that, this movie actually would have probably been worse because it wouldn’t look as fantastical as it does now. Granted, there are times where I do draw a line on a movie looking fantastical, but this to me is a believable fantastical vision.
When I got home from this movie, I was able to say that this movie in no way breaks new ground. Granted, some of the action is stellar, but I felt like I’ve seen a portion of it before. However, the movies I was able to compare this to were actually likable choices. One of the easiest picks was “Black Panther.” You have this guy who is heir to the throne, who is eventually challenged by somebody for that position. The way they get to determine whether someone is worthy is through a duel. And honestly, the way they do the duel in this movie is honestly better than “Black Panther.” It feels more like an event, whereas the duel in “Black Panther” just like a couple of friends watching you play Classic mode on “Super Smash Brothers.” It was more like an underwater version of the Planet Hulk scene in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Coincidentally, this movie reminded me of “Thor,” because you have this one slightly out of place being trying to be a better version of himself. Not to mention, like in “Thor,” Aquaman is destined to rise to the throne. I also said this film kind of reminded me of a “Lord of the Rings” movie. While this is nowhere near as compelling as say “Return of the King,” it had elements of “Lord of the Rings” intact. There is a scene where our main characters have to trek through a piece of land for some time. At times the movie feels like a road trip, one moment you’re in the Sahara, the other you’re in Italy. La-de-la-de-da. Not to mention, there are some big, massive fights in the film with tons of special effects. This is where you also get to see the laser sharks in action at times. The other film this reminds me of is “Fast & Furious,” which to me is no surprise because of the director once being attached to direct “Furious 7.” It’s big, loud, absurd, and overall just balls to the wall.
Going back to the action, I gotta point one thing about it. As I said before, the action in this movie is f*cking amazing. This is one simple comparison I have to make because I’m a complete and total nerd, and nerds have opinions. When it comes to Marvel, they know how to create a story, they know how to write something, maybe not always something compelling, but something that is structured properly and is not in danger of breaking apart. When it comes to DC, one thing I’ve noticed in all of their movies is that the action is always worth the price of admission. Granted, Marvel tends to have good action, but it doesn’t hold a candle to DC. It’s always fast paced, rumbly tumbly, and it feels like something that would be in a nerd’s fantasy world. I would like to thank “Aquaman” for keeping DC’s action-based identity alive.
In the end, “Aquaman” is not the best superhero movie of the year. In fact, it came out a week after “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” so it already has a tough competitor. What it really is though is the definition of what a superhero movie should be. Fun, big, and a fine form of escapism. This is certainly a crowd-pleasing movie, and honestly, I enjoyed it more than “Black Panther.” I know some people will want to kill me for saying that, but I’m just telling the honest truth. Jason Momoa’s great as Aquaman, Amber Heard is equally as wonderful as Mera. The two have great on-screen chemistry together, and I loved every minute of the movie. I’m gonna give “Aquaman” a 7/10. Before I go any further, I gotta point out something about this movie that sets it apart from a film like “Justice League.” One thing I noticed about this film is the runtime, and it is two hours and twenty-three minutes. While some people might consider that a bit long for their liking, I honestly don’t mind it, and in some ways, it’s better than “Justice League.” When it comes to “Justice League,” it comes in nearly a couple of hours even. That is a movie with more heroes and a lower runtime. It really just feels more like a corporate cash-in effort than anything else. Granted, somewhere around the two hour mark is your typical superhero movie, but some could argue that “Justice League” deserved to be more than two hours in order to make a better product. “Aquaman,” which comes in nearly two and a half hours, feels more like it is part of a vision as opposed to a corporate product. And for that, I have nothing but respect for the studio and the filmmakers. Granted there is an argument to be made that “Batman v. Superman” is too short at a two and a half hour long runtime, but I imagine there are some people arguing it is also too long. This world is divided! Also, to enhance your experience as much as possible, go see this in a theater, on the biggest screen possible, with the highest sound quality possible. Go to RPX or IMAX, you won’t be disappointed, and stay for the mid-credits scene! Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’ll have a couple of reviews up for “The Mule” and “Instant Family,” as far as I know, those will be my last reviews before I put up my countdowns of my top 10 BEST and WORST movies of the year. Stay tuned for all of that, and if you like content like this, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Aquaman?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite superhero movie of 2018? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!