Published on January 11th, 2019 | by voxx0
The superhero genre in modern cinema is arguably the most lucrative and profitable genre of film today. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently 20 movies deep and has a worldwide box office total of over 17 billion dollars. DC’s respective cinematic universe, Worlds of DC, however, still only has six movies released. Each film is inevitably compared to Marvel’s own offerings, with Wonder Woman being the only one so far to have received a positive reaction from critics and fans alike.
In an attempt to follow Wonder Woman’s success, the latest Worlds of DC output is the James Wan directed ‘Aquaman’, starring Jason Mamoa in the titular role. ‘Aquaman’ has been the butt of the joke for years by comic book readers, so it was somewhat of a risk for DC to give him his own solo film, especially with him having already appeared in the critically panned Justice League.
And in truth, ‘Aquaman’, at times, is a mess. It has a score that doesn’t quite match up to the action on screen, CGI that would have looked out of place ten years ago, and a story as bland as it is predictable. However, ‘Aquaman’ is also a blast. Jason Mamoa is fantastic as the man who can talk to fish, with strong support from Amber Heard’s Princess Mera. The smaller fighting scenes, especially the first few, are frenetic and fun, the types of scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in one of Wan’s ‘Fast and Furious’ films.
This movie would be a far worse offering if not for Jason Mamoa. He is electric, channeling part Hawaiian badass and part Khal Drogo for his stint as Aquaman. It is impossible to take your eyes off him whilst he is on screen, whether he’s quipping one liners that hit more times than miss, or flaunting his shirtless body. He has turned Aquaman as a character from a joke to potentially one of the best characters in the entire Worlds of DC universe. Flanked for most of the film by Princess Mera, the two share incredible chemistry, and thankfully Mera doesn’t play the damsel in distress here, having more than enough changes to show off her own skills as a fighter. If there’s one thing DC has done well recently, it’s been showing their female characters are more than simply the person who needs saving.
The rest of the supporting cast, however, don’t get too much to do, except for Patrick Clark’s Orm and Willem Dafoe’s Vulko. Orm is the power hungry younger half-brother of Awuaman, with Clark taking every chance to really chew the scenery. His story arc is dull and played out in thousands of similar action films, but Clark does bring a certain gravitas to his performance. Vulko is the Obi-Wan to Aquaman’s Luke Skywalker. Whilst it’s odd to see Dafoe on screen without his villainous snarl, he does make the most of what the script gives him and turns out a somewhat memorable shift. The rest of the cast suffer mostly from poor screenwriting, with Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna suffering the most. Kidman seems disenchanted with the role, her performance wooden. In contrast, the one character who does have potential if a sequel ever does happen is Black Manta, played by Yayha Abdul-Mateen II. Though given a good backstory near the beginning of the story, he fades off throughout. If given a full film to be introduced he could have been a villain similar to Black Panther’s Killmonger. Instead, he feels like merely a tacked-on addition.
James Wan was generally a good choice for director here, though at times he definitely goes with style over substance. There are far too many “hero shots”, which, though making Aquaman look super cool, serve to take you out of the action on screen. Likewise, there is a heavy use of slow-motion. Used sparingly it could be effective, but the trope soon feels laboured by the halfway point. His experience in horror also rears its head at one point, creating some fantastically tense moments that are better experienced than read about.
Ultimately though, ‘Aquaman’ feels like a film that should have been released in the mid 2000s. You aren’t going to get the emotion of the newer Marvel movies, or the slick action of some of the earlier films. This would have been a chore to get through if not for Jason Mamoa. It does feel like a true breakout role for the former Khal Drogo, but he could also quite easily be typecast as a rom-com dreamboat just like pre-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds. The same must be said for Amber Heard, who brings her own charm and likability to the otherwise lacking film. Is it bad? No. Is it great? Also, no. It is however a perfectly enjoyable blockbuster with two charismatic leading stars who do their best to drag it into a fun outing, something DC desperately needed. Alongside Shazam, due for release in later 2019, DC could be about to turn a corner by focusing on more fun than grit to sell their movies, but really, only time will tell.
- By Callum Parker