By Bradley Lane
Aquaman is a film with many flaws that somehow manages to stay enjoyable. Thanks mostly to the passionate direction of James Wan, what could have ended up as another messy and convoluted entry into DC’s film universe ends up as a relatively entertaining action flick. It is evident when watching Aquaman that Wan cares greatly for this character and the world in which he built for him to exist. What is most surprising about Aquaman, though, is just how silly it is. Previous films in the DC Universe have been criticized for being too dark and brooding. Wan takes that criticism seriously and delivers an over-the-top superhero flick full of colorful costumes, ridiculous characters and goofy dialogue.
Aquaman takes place after the events of the Justice League movie that came out last year, sort of. While it does acknowledge that the Justice League took place, it makes a clear attempt to distance itself from the rest of the DC Universe films. Throughout the movie we follow Arthur Curry, Aquaman, as he reluctantly attempts to take back the throne of Atlantis from his less heroic half-brother, Orm, to save the surface world from total annihilation. Orm seeks to go to war with the people of the surface over their reckless pollution of the Earth’s oceans. With help from the Atlantean princess Mera and his Atlantean mentor Vulko, Arthur must bring peace to Atlantis.
This movie’s presentation is the best part about it, by far. The saturated colors and over-the-top action are pure popcorn fun. Wan lets the action set pieces unfold mostly in camera so the fight choreography and visual effects artists shine through with every laser blast and trident whip. At times the CGI heavy look of the film can look slightly off or over reliant on its visual effects, but for the most part it looks great throughout.
However, Aquaman is abundant with shortcomings, the most egregious of which is its script. The dialogue in this movie feels so artificial and bland. Not only that but the narrative structure is pointless. Each story point exists almost solely to take our protagonists from location to location aimlessly. Additionally, the romance between the two leads of the film feels forced and totally unnecessary. It is a real shame because by trimming down the unnecessary elements and adding some character development for the supporting cast this could be a much better film.
Unlike the script, the performances in Aquaman are not terrible, but rather just forgettable. Everyone reads their cheesy lines with complete conviction, which does help to add to the comic book-like feel but stops just short of being entertaining. While they might not be the best performances, they certainly feel sincere, and I think that characterizes Aquaman perfectly. A film that tells its story, however goofy and silly, with the upmost sincerity that it is hard to not enjoy at least a little bit.
Aquaman is ultimately flawed but finds a way to remain fun and entertaining throughout.