14th Dec2018

‘Aquaman’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin, Michael Beach, Randall Park, Graham McTavish | Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall | Directed by James Wan


After the critical and financial failure of Zach Snyder or Joss Whedon’s Justice League and the surrounding controversy of just what film we actually saw, or indeed were promised, Warner Brothers have had a colossal and impromptu turnaround. Affleck and Cavill have been seemingly ousted from their respective roles as Batman and Superman, respectively. Matt Reeves solo The Batman project is in reported snail’s pace of script completion and there are now two Jokers in two different universes with Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix.

To make matters worse the reported Flash solo outing is based on the Flashpoint Paradox storyline, to what will presumably re-establish a new set of characters and stories rendering the state of this franchise ultimately redundant and irrelevant. With that being said and the release of Aquaman and Wonder Women 1984 on the horizon, it would seem that the DC extended universe aka DCEU would be by definition a contradiction and you would be most certainly correct in that regard.

Aquaman is plain and simple, a truly mixed bag at its core. It is a rollercoaster of entertaining highs and painfully bland lows. The strongest aspect and the highlight of the picture are, of course, its dazzling special effects and production design that are mesmerising to behold, rivalling that of Denis Villeneuve’s breathtaking Blade Runner 2049. The scope and scale to behold are extravagant. The colour alone is so vivid, so lavish and enchanting on screen, intoxicating in fact. The world built is outrageously fecund in not only the magnitude of whats showcased on screen but the level of detail and believability in such a superficially dense idea.

The real crux of production and where positives slowly begin and end in hoarse knife edges are with its performances. Momoa was probably born to the play such a charismatic and boisterous role of Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. A combination of slick and ultra-cool bravado mixed with an affectionate eagerness and energy takes centre stage. The performance of a bro-ish mannerism is toned down from that of Justice League, implemented in its wake is a more gentle ideal that is parsimonious and surprisingly endearing with emotional benevolence.

Amber Heard also impresses with a charming and wheedling role as Mera. The fiery energy and charismatic persona blended with a subtle, yet simplistic character a is in full swing. Allowing the character to be free and restraint from numbing predictability and thematic convention. Patrick Wilson puts forth a menacing turn as arch-villain Orm Marius. A role that does often define itself as pure mouth with just rising voice tone to a range of shouting, the key ingredient. However, the screen presence is strong and the villainous obnoxiousness deeply engaging.

The two main issues and what dampens the whole Aquaman experience is both dialogue/script and style/aesthetic. The former is in close proximity to that of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, which sounds ridiculous and overly zealous, but I affirm with certain dialogue delivery from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II the result often leaves an embarrassing taste in one’s mouth. However, performances aren’t necessarily the primary reasoning of such. It is the five writers of David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, James Wan and Geoff Johns Frankenstein-esque screenplay that causes a terrible display. The result is a melodramatic blend of outlandish emotional egotistical hubristic tension that is conveyed in a ridiculous and belligerent manner.

However, it is the latter issue that throws Aquaman off completely and that’s the manner of chosen aesthetic implemented by director James Wan. The style incorporated in the action sequences is quite frankly horrific in both its efficiency and articulation of intended impact. The camera and effect are far too complex and jarring for its own good, opting for style over substance in a way that conclusively proves Wan is incapable of shooting action – similar to that of the overly zealous and un-equanimous display in Furious 7. The sequences of such, as in Aquaman also, range from overly competent and impactful to a highly stylised bombardment. A seemingly long unbroken take, indeed edited to evoke such impression, in its opening suffers the most from overcomplicating the basics and basis of entertaining the audience first. Repeated and rinsed throughout only reinforces the theme that James Wan and action do not meld whatsoever, to a point where Wan’s films are becoming strangled with the bravado of a director that wants to impress far more so than ground himself in the simplicity of filmmaking.

Aquaman is in UK cinemas now.


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