Aquaman - This DCEU Movie Crashes Far Away From The Rocks
Dir: James Wan
Starring Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Temeura Morrison, Dolph Lundgren
If we are now judging DCEU movies (and we are!) by the good – Wonder Woman, and the bad – everything else, then Aquaman comes right bang in the middle. Which is still not necessarily a good place to be.
Remarkably, for a film awash with so much plot it offers very little in the way of story, with DC’s beleaguered attempts to ape the MCU never quite getting to terms with the fact that Marvel start and end all their movies with character first; DC still labours under the impression that in place of that, spectacle will make up for it. It doesn’t.
Here we have the rather terribly named Arthur Curry – son of an Atlantian queen and a lighthouse keeper (Kidman and Morrison, respectively), a bastard cross breed who can sink a pint, talk to fish and likes his tats. He is also – oddly – fully aware of his position as possible king of supposedly mythical Atlantis, yet also in denial of the whole thing. Until his half-brother, Patrick Wilson’s decidedly dodgy (and equally badly named) King Orm decides to unite the seven sea worlds and take on us land dwellers, and Amber Heard’s very red-haired Princess Mera comes ashore to get Arthur to swim on down and save the world as we know it – and clearly don’t know it.
And then Dolph Lundgren shows up – but not in a good Creed II kinda way.
And then half way through, the whole thing becomes Tomb Raider for about twenty minutes – but without the shorts. (By the time you get to the crab people – Kingdom of the Brine – you may well be asking yourself – why the fuck am I still here?)
Which is all indicative of Wan’s film as a whole. Whilst the director is clearly a strong visualist, and his film is beautiful in terms of production design, it literally lurches from one locale to another, and one set piece to another – the sound of metal clashing on metal is never more than a minute away in a DC movie, it seems.
None of which is helped by the lack of chemistry between its leads. As Mamoa and Heard head off on the Tomb Raider section of the movie (something about retrieving a long lost trident) their sub-rom-com quips are hardly Tracy and Hepburn, and fall flat accordingly. Indeed, most of the gags in this movie singularly fail to raise a smile. And there are more than a few filmic in-jokes – from a Jaws quote to the return appearance of Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ drumming octopus – but none of them land.
As our titular hero, Jason Momoa lacks the charisma of, say, a Dave Bautista, (check out his Conan reboot for confirmation), and consequently gives us the worst cinematic Arthur since Arthur 2: On The Rocks.
Which is not to say it’s all bad news. Willem Dafoe give his best performance in years – if only by virtue of the fact that he manages to deliver all of his lines with a straight face (he is, as such, the Basil Exposition of this film – a film with an awful lot of Basil in it!), Patrick Wilson really seems to be enjoying himself chewing the great looking but non-existent CG scenery, Kidman is luminous throughout, begging the question – just how much was spent on computer based de-ageing?, everything looks amazing and Wan does know how to edit an action sequence. But in such action sequences you really need to be rooting for someone. And those behind the DCEU still don’t appear to have worked that out.
Want the short version? – “Aquaman – never anyone’s favourite comic book. Destined not to be anyone favourite comic book movie.” (Put that on the poster! No, seriously – do!!)
(And DC’s next bright idea – a Plasticman movie!! Nuff said.)
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