Aquaman is the latest live-action DC film, the first DCEU (DC Extended Universe) film since last year’s Justice League. Since the big team-up film was a disaster — both critically and financially — and since other DCEU movies have ranged to really good (Wonder Woman and Man of Steel) to really, truly bad (Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), DC fans (and Warner Bros) had high hopes from the protector of the deep.
This is ironic, Aquaman having to play the saviour of the universe in which he has been the butt of jokes for decades (thanks to the character’s unflattering representation in the Super Friends cartoon). He was the black sheep of Justice League, both in comics and adaptations, though some works tried to improve his image, in vain.
Then Zack Snyder cast Jason Momoa in the role of Aquaman. Nobody was making fun of the character now.
So does Aquaman pass the test? I think James Wan, the director, achieved with the movie what he set out to do. Aquaman moves at a break-neck speed and is absolutely spectacular to look at. Wan and team built multiple, incredibly detailed environments and the CGI quality is top-notch. The action choreography is one of the best I have seen in superhero movies. The first duel between Arthur and Orm was a thing of mesmerising beauty.
It is also loads of fun. There is humour. The film also evokes memories of adventure movies of late last century, especially the cheesy ones.
Even Marvel movies, with the single exception of Thor: Ragnarok, have been afraid to tread the territory of downright crazy. But for Aquaman, apparently, there was no scene deemed too crazy to put on the screen. An octopus plays drums in the movie for crying out loud and that is not the wackiest part of this movie, not by a long shot.
And that’s okay. After a series of almost comically serious and so-called gritty films that DC made, we needed an Aquaman. Wan simultaneously did not make Aquaman a loser with laughable superpowers (“He talks to fish!”) and also embraced some of the cheesy aspects of it — and made them look cool.
There are problems, of course. The plot is kind of a mess. Things happen, and they just happen. Before you even begin to wonder why they happen, other things begin to happen and you lose the track. There are at least three instances in this movie when an explosion interrupts conversations. And that is what Aquaman is trying to say: why bother with characterisation and a coherent plot when there is this breathtaking set-piece we have specially created for you to look at?
But all things considered, Aquaman is a win for DC. Finally, the money seems well-spent in a DC film — every penny of it. We did not know where 300 million dollars of Justice League disappeared. It is a wild, colourful, entertaining ride that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.