Movie Review: “Aquaman” – Bless the Reign

Written by Jeremiah Greville December 29, 2018

You know that moment on a rollercoaster when you convince yourself that your harness is coming undone? When exhilaration collides with fear and everything becomes brighter and sharper? That’s Aquaman. It’s the biggest, scariest, rickety-est ride in the park, and when you get off you’re not sure if you want to ride again or throw up. James Wan’s newest film boasts the same technical prowess and genre savvy he’s known for, but this time in a much riskier property. Aquaman is big and dumb and loud and aggressive, yet willing to do anything and everything to please its audience. It’s a giant, sopping wet dog desperate for a hug. It’ll mess you up, but you just might love it.

Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, a man whose father was a lighthouse keeper, and whose mother was an Atlantean queen. As a half-human/half-Atlantean royal heir, he’s reluctantly forced to claim the underwater throne of Atlantis before his evil half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) starts a war with the surface world. With the help of an Atlantean princess named Mera (Amber Heard), he sets out to find a legendary trident that will prove his claim to the throne. Along the way, he has to contend with the mysterious Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a man desperate for revenge against Arthur. Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, and Dolph Lundgren also star.

“I heard so many stories about you.”

If you’ve read or seen any review of Aquaman, you’ve probably heard about the octopus playing the drums. I’m obliged to mention it here as well. Yes, an octopus plays the drums, and it’s not even the weirdest part of the film by far.

There are macho men riding sea horses, people talking to fish, swim-fights, sea battles, fish people, crab people, and a cover of Toto’s “Africa” by friggin’ Pitbull. Oh, and there’s definitely something else:

It’s nuts. Aquaman is ambitiously insane on a level seldom seen nowadays.

And somehow, that insanity sort of works. Aquaman is constantly flexing—both the movie and the man. Explosions are used to end dialogue scenes three separate times. A large chunk of the water-themed film takes place in an actual desert. There’s campy, almost slapstick-level comedy that leads directly into Indiana Jones-esque adventure interspersed with over-the-top melodrama. It’s grand and epic and silly, and difficult to fully encapsulate in words. But holy hell, is it ambitious. It doesn’t hide behind any of the camp or crazy—it embraces it wholeheartedly. The best thing about Aquaman, the film, is how much it’s not afraid to be Aquaman: the Movie.

“The time has come for Atlantis to rise again.”

For the longest time, the closest we had to a cinematic Aquaman was the fake James Cameron film in the TV show Entourage. And even then, the idea of Aquaman was laughable and kept at a distance. Not this time. Jason Momoa and everyone else fully commit to the absurdity of the subject matter, and Wan directs the hell out of it all with confidence and gusto. There’s an admirable and obvious ‘go for broke’ spirit to the whole affair. If this was the only Aquaman movie they ever made, why not do literally everything they could with it? It seems like no idea was left off the page or in the editing room. Rather, those ideas are lobbed like grenades into the audience’s face. Justice League tried to make Aquaman cool. Aquaman just wants to bring the character and his world to life—whether you like it or not.

Momoa is less an actor than he is a tattooed walking Y-Chromosome built to steal yo’ girl. He’s a haircut with abs; a growling tanned personal massager set to explode. He’s what happens when an orgasm comes to life and wants to fight you. And he’s not much more, but the film realizes that and runs with it. He doesn’t need to act because he’s surrounded by people doing the work for him. Which means that, for the most part, Momoa gets to have fun and you get to enjoy the ride with him. And his enthusiasm is infectious. While he was the dead-eyed bore of Justice League, here he’s the every-man bro you find yourself rooting for. James Wan found a way to build a movie around Momoa, and used the actor’s charm to make everything else work.

“I must admit…I am conflicted.”

But Aquaman definitely isn’t a slam-dunk. It’s overly long, and will leave you drained by the end. While Momoa and the rest of the cast are fully committed, Amber Heard seems out of her depth as the female lead. She gives it her all, but lacks the energy and screen-presence of her co-stars, which is a shame since she gets the second largest amount of screen-time. Hopefully, like Momoa, she’ll find her stride in the sequel. The script is stiff and far too busy for what ultimately amounts to a simple adventure plot, but I’m hard-pressed to think of what else they could do. The threw in everything they could, and that meant a hell of a lot of backstory and exposition. Not all of it works, and the tone isn’t always consistent. But when Aquaman kicks into gear, it’s still far better than it has any right to be.

The action is extraordinary and the special effects are dazzling. This movie is an onslaught, and it defiantly challenges you not to have a good time. You want fish people? Here’s some f%&ing fish people! You want sea monsters? Here’s some f%&ing sea monsters! Aquaman not only recreates Black Manta and Ocean Master—two of the more ridiculous designs in comics history—it makes them bad-ass. This is a film that blows Batman v Superman and Justice League out of the water, and proudly stands alongside Wonder Woman and Man of Steel as the best of the DCEU. It’s silly and poorly written and never friggin’ ends, but it’s also a strange delight. It won’t be for everyone. Aquaman is an underwater treasure waiting to be discovered. But you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the dive.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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