Review: Aquaman (2018)




James Wan


David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johnson, James Wan


2h 23m


Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin, Michael Beach, Randall Park, Graham McTavish, Leigh Whannell

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

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If there’s one descriptor that can be applied to the latest Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film, it’s loud. Aquaman is a veritable smorgasbord of sound effects, musical queues, and deafening dialogue that often leaves the audience dizzy.

Jason Momoa is an affable film lead as the titular Aquaman. Born Arthur Currie to human lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) and Atlantean queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Arthur grows up learning how to fight from Atlantean counselor Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe) all while the new king of Atlantis, Orm (Patrick Wilson), plots the ultimate demise of the landwalkers for their affronts to the natural world.

The pro-environmental message is quickly lost in the numerous sub-oceanic combat sequences that play out like a hyperkinetic video game replete with fancy effects and standard plot twist revelations that do little more than excuse the action without necessity. What made Wonder Woman so great was that it spent just as much time on the intimate details as it did on the quintessential battle scenes, which seemed more of a fitting end than a justified expense.

A deafening soundscape makes for an overbearing two-plus-hour experience where every moment is filled with some sort of aural cacophony when sound under the waves should at least be muted or otherwise deadened. Director James Wan missed out on an opportunity for creative expressionism instead executing an aural bombardment of this order. There are some fascinating uses of sound effects here, but most of them are busier than a Transformers movie with the thunderous and often out of place musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams, who has seldom been known for his subtlety, distracting at all the wrong moments.

The visual panoply that exists in the Atlantean universe is expansive and oftentimes beautiful. The excessive amounts of visual effects leave the audience frequently in awe, but sometimes unimpressed, most notably with the rather languid and silly way many of the characters move within the water. This is a film that has so many visual elements to it that it’s hard to pick just one for recognition while it’s equally impossible to figure out which are the most oppressive or offensive.

While the prior films in the DCEU, Wonder Woman excepted, have all had issues with narrative convenience, silly dialogue, and bland world building, Aquaman is the perfect embodiment of how the post-Zack Snyder universe is unable to throw off the shackles he placed on them. It exemplifies all of the problems that the DCEU must still overcome before being able to wrest the mantle of creative energy away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which Disney has laid claim to for over a decade.

Review Written

March 27, 2019

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