Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) lives a moderately normal life when he is not rescuing the people who call him the Aquaman. But when he learns that he is the heir to the throne of Atlantis and that his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is uniting the underwater kingdoms in a bid to wage war on humanity, Curry must decide if he will remain on his current path or pursue his destiny.
With Saw, Furious 7 and The Conjuring series under his belt, you would be remiss to think Director James Wan would be the one to bring Aquaman to life. But he has done exactly that, creating a living, breathing world unlike anything we have seen in a very long time. The visual artistry on display is exquisite and spectacular, and puts naysayers like me in their place right from the start. Atlantis and the kingdoms that surround it are highly detailed, finely tuned and expressive. Wan wisely blends visual and practical effects, forcing us to constantly question what we are seeing on-screen. And the underwater battle scenes may sound inherently silly, but they look incredible and push the very limits of what is possible within the medium. Any time the film travels away from its underwater locales, all you will want is for them to go back.
My main gripe with Aquaman (beyond not being played by Vincent Chase from Entourage) is that it does not have a consistent tone whatsoever. For nearly two and a half hours, the Film veers wildly from deadly-serious to campy hilarity to a treatise on environmental protection, alongside sudden bursts of full blown Horror, and then rinses and repeats. It even features at least two 1980s style montages, complete with catchy songs that clearly do not belong in a movie like this. While some will write this off as goofy fun, it is all too clear that there was a disconnect between the Film Wan set-out to make and the final product. Its meaty second-half does not quite match what comes before and this stands in the way of what should be the more prominent darker, bolder and more interesting elements at play.
For me, the most entertaining part of Aquaman is watching Momoa try to make a glorified side character be a compelling lead. He succeeds in spurts, commanding the screen and exuding as much charisma and bravado as he possibly can. He struggles in other areas, unsure of whether to lead or divert to one of his more seasoned castmates. Some of his amusing one-liners feel overly choreographed, but he spends a good chunk of the Movie topless and soaking wet. So I imagine a large portion of the crowd watching this weekend will care very little for his smaller character nuances. Amber Heard does well as female lead Mera, but her chemistry with Momoa is a bit too disingenuous for its own good. Wilson is even better as Orm, leaning into the inherent lunacy of the Aquaman mythos and staying in-tune with each ridiculous tonal pivot. The Supporting Cast of Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren and Temuera Morrison remain committed and consistent, each one having a blast playing in Wan’s pool.
In the end, Aquaman is enjoyable and entertaining enough, even if the ludicrous tonal shifts are always threatening to derail the Movie. Wan set out to make his rendition of a Saturday morning cartoon, and from a strictly visual stand point, he succeeds. The world he creates is a fascinating marvel to behold and is plenty enough reason to see the film on the biggest IMAX screen you can find. Getting to watch gorgeous actors like Momoa and Heard frolic around in the water while wearing skin tight costumes is just a bonus.
Warner Bros. Canada release AQUAMAN on Friday, December 21, 2018.