An over the top, wildly bombastic and often times deliriously messy film, Aquaman is like getting blasted in the eyes balls with a concentrated energy drink. The latest entry in the DCEU franchise, James Wan transplants his wonderfully kinetic brand of filmmaking over to his second tent pole film in his career and, for the most part it works intensely, other times it’s gloriously stupid.
Following on from the events of Justice League – there’s all of a single line of dialogue referencing the film – Aquaman sees the return of everyone’s favourite iteration of the surfer bro / biker Jesus, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), aka the Aquaman as he continues to do his hero thing while trying his best to make happy hour. Following a savage sequence set on a submarine, Arthur’s pulled into the underwater geo-political squabbles of Atlantis, as King Orm (Patrick Wilson) attempts to shore up as much power as he can in order to lead a revolt against the surface dwellers. Turns out we’ve been behaving like a pack of pigs and treating the sea like our own personal dumping ground and Orm’s about had enough. Getting wind of his plan to commit dry land genocide, Mera (Amber Heard) enlists the help of Arthur to reclaim the throne from his half-brother and bring peace to both worlds.
If you had to choose the one good thing to come from the earlier iteration of the DCEU it’s the casting of Momoa as the would-be king of Atlantis. Snyder’s attempt to inject a little grit into the often maligned fish talker pays off in spades in this go around, with Momoa carrying the movie on his burly shoulders effortlessly. You can tell he’s having the time of his life going from super bar room brawler to a kid on a roller coaster at the flick of a switch. One gets the sense that the only real acting direction he received was “Jason, mate, just be yourself, but every so often respond to Arthur / Aquaman.” Even for the casual fan of the former Game of Thrones actor, you can tell he’s playing very close to himself and having a blast doing it, even pulling out a little Dothraki savagery when the moment calls for it.
In fact, the entire cast knows exactly what they’ve signed up for. However, it’s Patrick Wilson who absolutely barrels into his role with all the subtlety of a rocket launcher. As the vengeful acting king, he knows he looks ridiculous and is wise to the fact that his dialogue is trash, but he goes for it without a second’s thought. His character embodies what the entire movie is; colourful, flamboyant as hell, utterly over the top and completely unapologetic about all of it.
It’s been a blast to watch Wan’s career progress over the years. From energetic horror auteur to now swimming with the big fish (pun intended? I’ll let you decide) you can tell he’s been preparing for a movie like this for years. With Aquaman he leaves nothing in the tank, pulling out every tool he can from his bag of tricks to make sure you barely feel the otherwise cumbersome 148 minute run time. You know exactly the kind of movie you’re in for early on when Wan has Nicole Kidman decimate an entire house of aqua-goons in a sublime one shot fight sequence for the ages. Even if the script leaves a lot (and I mean A LOT) to be desired, the former Conjuring director makes sure he squeezes every ounce of visual potential he can, soaking his audience in the fluoro aura of Atlantis and raising the bar of what it means to be an action director.
And of course the movie has issues. The dialogue is atrocious, the plot fairly thin, the love story stapled on to the forehead of said plot and Pitbull’s rendition of Toto’s Africa needs to be blasted into the sun. BUT if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what you’re in for, and if you just give yourself over to the visual insanity you won’t be disappointed.
Ultimately, Aquaman is best enjoyed with a group of your closest mates, half cut on the cheapest alcohol you can find and about mid way through you dump the extra large bucket of popcorn on your face.
One doesn’t simply watch Aquaman, they surrender to Aquaman.