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Aquaman (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Aquaman

AQUAMAN (2018)

Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin, Randall Park, Michael Beach, Graham McTavish, Natalia Safran, Sophia Forrest, Leigh Whannell, Robert Longstreet, Andrew Crawford and the voices of John Rhys-Davies, Djimon Hounsou and Julie Andrews.

Screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall.

Directed by James Wan.

Distributed by Warner Brothers. 143 minutes. Rated PG-13.

This ain’t your father’s Aquaman.

I have a confession to make. This may date me a bit, but I am old enough to remember when Aquaman was a clean-cut guy with a conservative blond haircut and a tight green and gold jumpsuit.

Somewhere along the line he’s apparently turned into a buff body builder with no shirt, fully covered in tattoos, with long brown hair, a hipster beard and a man bun.

This is not merely the fault of the person who cast Jason Momoa in Batman v. Superman, Justice League and now this stand-alone origin adventure. According to a friend who is much more up to date on comics than I am, this is a direction that DC has been moving in incrementally since the 90s. However, it’s a bit of a shock to the system for someone who grew up with the old comics.

However, okay, fine, I recognize that most comic book characters have evolved since my time reading them. I will usually give the filmmakers a certain amount of leeway for changing them for the big screen – even if this character looks more like Conan the Barbarian than Aquaman to me. (Come to think of it, Momoa played Conan in the quickly-forgotten reboot of that property about five years ago. Hmmm….)

Besides, Aquaman has a much more basic problem to deal with. Simply put, movies from the DC Extended Universe are usually pretty bad – overly violent, horribly dark, rather depressing, and kind of confusing. They have never figured out the way to balance the serious and comic parts of their stories like Marvel mostly has – at least on the big screen, the DC Comic series on TV seem to work much better than their cinematic cousins.

Honestly, Wonder Woman was the only one of the current crop of films that was fun – and perhaps because of that it became their biggest hit since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films (which were good, but a little overrated, too.) Most of the movies were DOA bummers like Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, Justice League and Suicide Squad. Before that you have to go way back to The Dark Knight or even Superman II to find a good DC superhero film other than Wonder Woman.

Does Aquaman end that jinx?

Ummm… no. It lives down to the worst of the DC movie excesses.

Aquaman drowns in a morass of dumb plot points, wooden acting, excessive CGI (underwater laser guns and robots???) and some of the worst dialogue uttered in a major motion picture this year. Some examples: “I won’t tell you how to captain and you don’t tell me how to pirate.” “Check this place out. This is badass!” “It’s been soaking in brine. I’ll smell like swamp butt.” “The war is coming to the surface, and I am bringing the wrath of the Seven Seas with me.” In fact, just about every single line uttered by Patrick Wilson’s evil half-brother character Orm lands with a thud.

And that Pitbull rap on the soundtrack that extensively samples “Africa” by Toto? No. Just no.

On the positive side, due to its setting, Aquaman – at least in certain scenes – is the brightest and most colorful of the DC films. I know that’s not much of a compliment, but it’s something, right?

Also, in fairness, periodicially Aquaman tries to give its burly main character some throwaway tough guy jokes to lighten the mood. However, the jokes mostly aren’t very good, and they are sabotaged a bit by the tossed-off manner of Mamoa’s acting. Still, you have to appreciate the attempt after having survived humorless stuff like The Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman.

I will also give Aquaman credit for moving fast. There is near-constant action or eye-candy (CGI and human) on display. It’s trying to pummel people into submission – if they keep throwing stuff at us, maybe we will miss how dumb some of the plot points and the dialogue are.

No such luck, protector of the deep.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 21, 2018.

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