AQUAMAN Review: 6 out of 10 (Silly on the Seven Seas)
AQUAMAN is as goofy as hell. And despite DC films seeming to want to shed their serious side and move to a more “Marvel-like” formula, this movie probably would have benefited from pushing that goofy side a whole lot further.
After all, there are sharks with lasers. There are giant seahorses. There are epic battles with huge crustaceans. At one point, a crab’s giant leg was lopped right off. It looked delicious. Quite a bit of the content here looks like something out of the next SHARKNADO iteration. What makes it work is Jason Momoa here as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. Momoa is doing his best “dudebro” with a laidback approach to his own hero’s origin story. The plot itself is incredibly familiar—the one true king needs to take his place as the rightful heir—meanwhile forces at work are trying to stop him while another family member (in this case his half-brother) is ruining all the things as he rules with cruelty. So yes, at least a couple of Shakespearean scenarios, The Lion King, and a few other superhero films already out there.
Save Us All Reluctant Hero!
And if you are going to tell a story that is paint-by-numbers, your story will succeed on wit, charm, and the characters. And this film does—but just barely. Momoa’s Arthur Curry is pretty fun to watch in this scenario. He seems to scoff and grin and chuckle at all the goofy things that surround him—including legends of Golden Scimitars. Did I mention that this also mimics Excalibur and King Arthur—right down to the character’s name? Look, this film steals from so many other films that makes it difficult to even see through as to what movie AQUAMAN is—or is trying to be. A good portion of the film is an Indiana Jones knock-off. But there are Lord of the Rings war sequences, ocean/space battles from Star Wars/Star Trek, Gladiator references are there, and plenty more. It is a smorgasbord of other movies in a 2 ½ hour mashup that never even attempts to explain itself. And Momoa is there grinning through it all.
The issue here is that everyone *else* in the film seems to be taking themselves so seriously. Nicole Kidman’s mermaid mom, Amber Heard as the sea princess with powers over water that no one seems to recognize or explain, Willem Dafoe as the hand of the king, and Patrick Wilson as the…(wait for it)… OCEAN MASTER! [*DUM DUM DUUUUMMM*] And yes, when that title is mentioned, the orchestration absolutely does that. More than once. Patrick Wilson even wears face armor that actually gesticulates! If he furrows his brow, the armor does too. All of these characters seem to be in a different film than Momoa’s Aquaman. They pontificate about seven kingdoms under the sea, laws, rules, legends, THE RING OF FIRE (Johnny Cash not included) all the while keeping a straight face. And that is where the film loses its way. Momoa is the only character in the film who is self-aware enough to know that he is in a movie this over the top. Hell—he is wearing khaki pants through 90% of the film! Momoa is bringing back the khaki! And yet, the loss of those pants late in the film—replaced by a scaly supersuit is one of the film’s peskiest riddles. But like so many other things here, it is left unexplained.
AQUAMAN is easily the nuttiest, goofiest, most over-the-top superhero movie to date. And that is saying something. Oddly enough, I think the film doesn’t go far enough in embracing that identity. It begs for more Momoa dudebro quips (even some from trailers were not in the final cut) and for the rest of the characters not to play this so straight. It is worth a recommend (barely) if just to watch Momoa smirk his way through the film and to bear witness to the absolutely ridiculous movie he finds himself in.