Does Aquaman Sink the DCEU or Swim Towards the Future?
Riding the wave of the DC Extended Universe and diving into the depths of DC Comics mythology is James Wan’s origin of “the King of the Seven Seas”: Aquaman which opened last weekend. I can't promise that I've gotten all of the puns out of the way, but I have to tell you, walking out of Aquaman instills me with hope. I must preface my review by saying I am a huge DC fanboy and avid comic collector. However, that does not prejudice my opinion. I am among the many who have found the efforts of the previous DCEU iterations lackluster. What I find to be the most interesting aspect of Aquaman's efforts is the fact that it finally wades out of the Snyder-verse’s gloomy vision and muted color palette. Despite taking place under the sea, vibrancy is everywhere.
James Wan swings big and, for the most part, he connects. Every penny of his reportedly $160 million dollar budget is on full display for the audience to revel in; most of it shown through magnificent colors and stunning CGI.
The vibrancy of the color palate is similar to Thor: Ragnarok (for my Marvel Fans) or a space adventure like Star Trek. The scope and scale of the film are massive, yet it stays connected to characters that ground the core.
That is not to say that Aquaman is a perfect film-indeed it is far from it. Actually, there are several missteps. Every scene featuring Nicole Kidman is an opportunity-an opportunity to refill your popcorn, check your phone, or use the restroom. Also, it hits the typical beats, bordering on the verge of cliche at times. The film even tries to haphazardly deliver a message on the effect of our disregard for the environment. Nevertheless, its ambition and appreciation for the source material is how Aquaman will be remembered.
Aside from Nicole Kidman, who is borderline unwatchable, and Amber Heard, who is merely serviceable, the supporting cast is outstanding. Dafoe, Wilson, and Abdul-Mateen all turn in solid performances balancing camp and the melodrama needed for a film that is equal parts Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Trek, meets comic book horror. The ambition is there and shown by none with as much enthusiasm as Jason Momoa.
Momoa as Arthur Curry is perfectly cast. From the person who condemned the casting with hyperbole, “the biggest mistake in the history of cinema”, I have to admit I was wrong. He stole the show and made the movie. Momoa’s comedic timing was on point in addition to the stellar action work that we have come to expect. He made the trip into the deep end a lot of fun.
There is a genuine respect shown by Wan for not only Aquaman’s comic book legacy, but also Wan’s own filmography. A keen viewer will feel the familiarity of roof top chases (Fast and Furious 7), the fantastical space opera themes (Star Trek Beyond), and jump scares from horror roots (Insidious franchise) that propelled Wan to this point. Simultaneously, the Easter eggs will reveal famous splash pages or nods to epic moments from comic history.
Aquaman has flaws both as a character and film, but it offers hope- hope for the future of the DCEU and hope for filmmaking. If people keep taking risks, some will pay off. Personally, after seeing Aquaman, I am eager for the future of the Justice League. Aquaman gave me everything I wanted, most important of all, hope! That is what a superhero movie is supposed to do: It is supposed to expose us to the potential of the impossible- making our lives better, while protecting us from all the evils in the world.
The Skinny: More hits than misses. A must see for any comic book or action movie fan. Fun for the family. Make sure to reserve judgements until after the first 10 minutes, they are a jarringly difficult to get through. The rest was an enjoyable romp, and I will see it again!
Thumbs up and three out of four stars.
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