I don’t care what anyone says, Jason Momoa is #NotMyAquaman. That will forever be Vinny Chase in “Entourage.”
“Aquaman” is the sixth installment of the DC Extended Universe, and the first solo film for the titular character (we last saw him in last year’s abomination “Justice League”). Jason Momoa reprises his role as Arthur Curry aka Aquaman, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman also starring. James Wan, known mostly for horror films but also for directing “Furious 7,” directs here.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some things this film does differently and some it does right. First things first, it doesn’t really look and feel like a DCEU film, and that is because Wan has chosen to make it not only not grim and gloomy, but infuse such corniness that at times this feels as if it belongs in the mid-2000s. While Marvel has its quips, this film has … I wouldn’t even call them one-liners, they’re just kind of cheesy replies that characters have to one another. Example, a pirate is taking over a ship and says to the captain, “let me make you a deal: I won’t tell you how to captain, you don’t tell me how to pirate” and then he stabs him. Like, what? The line and delivery are awful, but I think that’s the point? Most of the time this lighter, goofy tone didn’t work for me (and my audience only had one hardy laugh throughout), but I could see someone appreciating the dialogue being so knowingly bad.
Performance wise, again, no real idea what to make of anyone. Jason Momoa continues to give a committed performance and has cemented Aquaman as a badass, not the nerd who talks to fish like was the joke back in the day, and Amber Heard is fine as Mera, it is nice to see her hold her own in the fight scenes alongside Momoa. But both Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II just feel wasted as Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother who has been sitting on the throne of Atlantis, and Blant Manta, a mercenary, respectively. They’re both just bland villains with relatively bland motivations, never given room or time to do anything fun.
The action here is a mixed bag. When it is hand-to-hand combat, the sequences are a lot of fun. Wan spins his camera and has some interesting and engaging tracking/transition shots, and the fighting is clean-cut and coherent. However the film suffers from the same thing every single other DC film does and that is no matter what has transpired over the first two hours (oh right, this thing is a needles 143 minutes), the finale has to include a bunch of CGI monsters getting tossed around a wasteland, as the audience struggles to figure out what the hell is happening on screen. Oh, and the sound mixing on the underwater dialogue scenes isn’t very good, sometimes I was straining to understand the conversations.
“Aquaman” was a disappointment for me, which seems to be par for the course for DC films (sans “BvS” and “Wonder Woman”). The whole light and cheesy attitude never clicked for me, and with so much seemingly pointless events going on it was hard to get invested. Momoa and Heard try their best, and I commend Wan’s ambition and attempts to separate this from other superhero films, but at the end of the day this just ended up belly-flopping.
Critic’s grade: C —.