James Wan’s Aquaman is easily one of the most exciting superhero films to come out in some time. The DC comics based adventure film feels part Indiana Jones-part Star Wars with its underwater quest and politics. And though it isn’t without its flaws, Aquaman has more than enough to keep you hooked for the entirety of its run.
Starring Jason Momoa as the titular character, the movie deals with Arthur Curry accepting his place as the heir to the underwater kingdom in Atlantis, against his stepbrother Orm (Patrick Wilson). In his quest, he is aided by Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe) as they journey to find a weapon powerful enough to defeat him.
Aquaman also features Nicole Kidman as the Queen of Atlantis and Arthur’s mother. While the film’s traditional set up has been done many times before to some extent in films like Black Panther and Thor, the movie differs from them because of its strong visual effects.
Tonally, the film plays out like a Superman origin story and is light, breezy and fun. But the film is also too campy at times, especially when it is excessively using slow-mo to emphasize how hot or cool our characters are. A scene where Arthur and Mera are walking up to the shoreline set to a Pitbull track feels utterly ridiculous.
Similarly, a lot of the dialogues in the film are hammy, Patrick Wilson, in particular, is given some exceedingly poor material and it’s a testament to his acting ability that he is able to breathe some life into lines like “You’re a society of bloated philosophers and flaccid poets”.
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Elsewhere the film fails with its abrupt shifts, for example, instead of cutting away to the action Wan uses the old ‘surprise explosion’ trope a number of times. So much so that it starts getting annoying that our heroes are never able to hear or sense danger unless something explodes next to them.
But these seem like minor quibbles in the face of all the insanity and thrilling spectacles that Aquaman has to offer. For better or worse, the film plays out like an extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe than a DC film, filled with quippy one-liners.
But the movie’s majestic underwater battles and shockingly great CGI work really make Aquaman a beast of its own. From the get-go, we are treated with a huge tidal wave and it becomes clear that Aquaman put its 200 million budget to good use. The scenes underwater are also remarkably well done with the movement of the actors being noteworthy in how they really do seem to be submerged in the water.
Those who were excited about Aquaman were also eager to see the aquatic life and how the film would show us the creatures living there and Aquaman not only did them justice but was also inventive and trippy in how it portrayed the marine life in Atlantis. You know a film isn’t striving to be anything but fun when sharks are shooting lasers and an octopus is masterfully playing drums.
The film is ambitious on all fronts, and all the battles — which range from under the ocean Gladiator type battles to rooftop fight scenes — are thoroughly engaging. Wan’s direction also allows the film to move briskly along as it glides through various genres.
At one point the film has a very National Treasure, Indiana Jones vibe before it changes to a particularly captivating horror movie angle and despite these many shifts, Aquaman is a triumph. The film is best when it’s thinking out of the box. One scene early on in the movie where Arthur and Mera are in an underwater car chase, set to disco music and light up by fluorescent fish really underlines Wan’s creative vision.
At its core, Aquaman is a fun, if slightly corny action, adventure film that is thrilling because of its visual effects. While the film doesn’t have the same gravitas as Wonder Woman, it has enough of a wow factor to make it a film worth seeing in theaters.
Usama Masood Ahmad is an entertainment writer and research analyst at Global Village Space. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.