Jason Momoa wins big in this enthralling, joyful festivity of sea monsters, tight suits and (unfortunately) disposable villains.
In James Wan’s film, Aquaman (Jason Momoa who reprises the role of the sea hero after appearing in “The League of Justice”) lives his life on the surface, but as the rightful heir to the throne of Atlantis, he is a threat to his ambitious brother – Orm (Patrick Wilson), the current evil ruler of the sea kingdom. When Orm becomes a grave danger to the balance between underworld and the surface, Aquaman is brought into the undersea war against his will as the only person who can stop the global conflict.
My most memorable experience with Aquaman (before “The League of Justice”) was Robot Chicken mocking the character in the episodes starring all of the iconic superheroes (watch here) and memes.
Kudos to the team behind “Aquaman” for changing my view.
Jason Momoa has breathed life into the fishy joke that Aquaman was on paper. His half-serious, half-dramatic approach fits the character perfectly – Aquaman is a badass with a heart and a kind of warmth that you naturally root for. Moreover, the script provides him with a genuine reason for the mess he’s involved in. He’s an outcast on both sides and wishes to belong somewhere. As a concept and as a protagonist, Momoa’s Aquaman is a win.
The same can’t be, unfortunately, said about his “nemesis” in the quantity of two. To be frank, both King Orm and Black Manta cause problems.
Patrick Wilson has proven himself to be a versatile actor, but even despite his love for horror genre and dark characters, King Orm in his interpretation falls awfully flat. The dreadfully shallow character is a result of the speeding plot that refrains Wilson from any piece of the film to himself. He is forced to build Orm from scratches – it’s a lifeless patchwork.
His reasoning is, therefore, flawed too. Contrary to every fantastic villain that DC and Marvel have conjured over the years, King Orm is a big kid, whose ridiculous craving to become an Ocean Master (what a dull name too) causes a total mayhem including Godzilla-like beasts and killing other undersea kings. Character-wise, it’s a reason that none of us can buy – he already has an immense power in his reach, so why bother?
The kind of sidekick to King Orm’s is Black Manta (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) – a pirate-turned-mercenary, who develops a deadly suit with laser beams that fry everything in his eyesight.
In the very beginning of the film, Black Manta is given a fair reason to hate Aquaman (the hero leaves Manta’s father in a sinking ship), but this whole character reminded me more of “Power Rangers” monster than a serious bad guy. On top of that comes an uncomfortable way of throwing Black Manta into the plot when there simply isn’t any better idea on hand. As a consequence, Black Manta’s side-quest is as unnecessary as Jared Leto’s Joker in “Suicide Squad”.
Enough of the hate – what’s good in “Aquaman”?
A brighter side of “Aquaman” is – apart from Momoa – Amber Heard, who constitutes a wonderful pairing for Aquaman. They share an onscreen chemistry and strive for turning the action-packed razzmatazz into a funny (if a bit kitschy) entertainment. Heard looks gorgeous as the conflicted queen and she adds a great balance to the mostly male-led sea territories too.
I also find praiseworthy the fact that James Wan managed to sneak his horror craftsmanship into the film. The war sharks, undersea undeads and all kinds of fairytale creatures are infused with the horror spirit, which enriches the fun with “Aquaman” greatly. Mixing these darker parts with joyful inspirations ranging from “Star Wars” to “Kong: Skull Island” and even “Indiana Jones” series brings a superhero film that is a wicked conglomerate of concepts that – miraculously – doesn’t eventually turn into a pile of crap.
Finally, Rupert Gregson-Williams also deserves a warmer treatment for his score. “Aquaman” brings orchestral panache and blends it with electronic trumpets and basses to fill the flashing images with an equally unconventional music. While it’s nowhere near an iconic theme like Hans Zimmer’s “Dark Knight”, there is cunning thinking in this soundtrack (I will remain silent about including Pitbull).
Is “Aquaman” a good movie then?
To be fair, “Aquaman” has been a much more difficult thing to pull of than any other superhero title in a long time.
In comparison with ghastly, flesh-devouring Venom, well-established Spiderman or even Black Panther, Aquaman needed to strike a balance between a fish-controlling guy in a slinky suit and a hefty-looking badass, with bombs blasting behind him as he walks in glory (and slow motion). I was almost sure that it’s going to be a disaster and I surprise even myself by liking this motley.
Dir. James Wan
Hate Grade: 3/10
Fan of Jason Momoa? Read about “Braven” starring him in a thriller drama.