Aquaman is a 2018 American superhero movie directed by James Wan of the ‘Saw’ and ‘The Conjuring’ fame. Based on characters from the DC comics, the plot pivots on Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the son of a lighthouse keeper who alongside Queen Mera (Amber Heard) is on a quest to assume his destiny as king of an underwater civilization called Atlantis as well as the Seven Seas.
Acting and Character performances.
It’s safe to say that Jason Momoa was born to play Aquaman, wouldn’t you agree? This extra-ordinary man that resulted from the love of an ordinary lighthouse keeper and a powerful queen from a sub-aquatic monarchy. Yes, he might be playing a different iteration of the character who is more gritty, more serious and noticeably less blonde; something which some fans of the retro cartoon series ‘Super Friends’ might dislike nonetheless, it’s the version which most D.C fans needed. Speaking of gritty, let’s dial back on that aspect of the character first, shall we?
Arthur Curry is a hero in his own right, that’s a given; it was clearly highlighted in last year’s Box Office super-flop Justice League and it sure does carry on to this 2018 film. That said, as is the staple with many heroes, he is bound to have flaws; flaws that ground the character and make him feel more riveting and relatable to the ordinary audience member. As far as Momoa’s character is concerned, his major flaw is self-doubt. Despite being this 200-pound-plus behemoth with a hard exterior both figuratively and literally, he is unsure of his true capabilities as the leader of all that lives beneath the Seven Seas.
It’s an issue that is clearly addressed when he and his father have a man-to-man chat in the 1st Act as well as in his various interactions with Queen Mera. What I found so beautiful about this was the manner in which he overcame the flaw; he’s not just a puppet who is forced into fulfilling his destiny, not in the very least. He gets a first-hand experience of the dire consequences that would stem out of him not fulfilling his destiny and thus he takes it upon himself to do what needs to be done. Additionally, Momoa’s performances, though a bit over the top at some points in the runtime, were great all the same.
Moving on to Queen Mera herself; every D.C fan’s favourite red-head alongside Poison Ivy. Played by Amber Heard, she basically juggles between being a side character, an emotional anchor to Arthur Curry as well as the much needed voice of reason in the conflict that ensues. All these elements go on to serve her character well in the long run but as far as character development is concerned, I didn’t get much of it and to some extent that was a disappointment. Amber is a great actress and thus I expected her to be great in this movie coming into it. I was a bit concerned about whether she’d be convincing in combat as you would expect of a film of this nature but having watched it, I can indeed say she put all my doubts to bed.
And then there was King Orm; a character who I must say was embodied exceptionally by one Patrick Wilson. Wow! 2018 superhero movies have given us great villains I must say. First there was and Erik Killmonger from Black Panther, then came the Mad Titan himself Thanos from Avengers; Infinity War and now we have King Orm, or as the character would put it, Ocean Master. As a critic, there are essential attributes that I look for in a main antagonist to consider him or her fulfilling, for a lack of a better term. If you give me a villain in a film who is just bad because that’s what the movie needs him to be, then I’d be very disconnected from him or her. Nonetheless, if you give me a villain with clear motives and a desire to achieve those motives despite the stacked odds then I’d be fulfilled. Wilson was fantastic as this self-proclaimed King of Atlantis who wanted nothing more but to enforce his vengeance mission that he strongly feels has been long overdue.
The Plot, Merits and Demerits.
Straight off the bat, let’s acknowledge how far this beloved D.C hero has come as far as media representations are concerned. The following imagery should suffice.
It’s no secret that I am a huge Aquaman fan; I love the way he ‘talks to fish’, how he can control water with the help of his trident, how he swims at incredible speeds, among others. Nevertheless, from a cinematic and critical point of view, if I get to experience all this superhero stuff but fail to understand the story that is built around the character then I’d be walking out of the theatre a disappointed man.
The story adapted for this motion-picture is not fresh; at least not wholesomely. It borrows some elements from the comics and also from a certain D.C animated movie called ‘Justice League; Throne of Atlantis. Notwithstanding, it’s also original in its own way because it presents different narratives from the said elements which in the grand scheme of things go on to make a fantastic plot. Narratives that not only appeal to emotion for a movie-goer who doesn’t know anything about comic books but also narratives that appeal to spectacle and intrigue for that D.C comic book fan who has yearned to see a live on-screen adaptation of Aquaman that is bereft of predictability.
Staying on what I liked about this movie, how about the cinematography and production design; stunning would be an understatement. These two element’s work hand in hand to give you an inclusive and detailed look into the incredible fight sequences, the inviting dialogue sequences as well as sequences that require you, the viewer, to savour the moment and feast your eyes on unbelievable visuals that characterize the environment where the characters are in.
Furthermore, I was drawn to the various themes that are incorporated into the story. We have the theme of transformation i.e. Aquaman becoming more than what he had intended for himself and shedding off all the self-doubt he had in him. We also have the theme of vengeance i.e. King Orm wanting to take his revenge on a certain civilization that I won’t mention for spoiler related reasons. Lastly, we have the theme of justice which for the most part, is a cliché theme and one that I need not go deep into considering that this is a superhero movie for crying out loud.
This movie, however is not without faults. In as much as the visual elements are great, the latter give little to no room for proper character development outside the character of Arthur Curry and that was a big let-down. Additionally, I was quite upset by the fact that the film didn’t give much prominence to the dynamics of the underwater civilizations i.e. whether or not educational systems or religious systems are just as operational down there as they are on land. Also, some moments in the flick felt too fast paced especially in the 1st Act as we are introduced to the main characters hence the choppy editing.
James Wan ventured into new territory with this motion-picture considering his past exploits that include ‘Saw’ and ‘The Conjuring’ as I previously mentioned but much to my satisfaction, he eventually came up with a masterpiece. Aquaman is, for the most part, a watchable coming-of-age story that is sure to excite and wow you in every possible way, unless otherwise, and I would strongly suggest that you see it before its cinematic run is over. Trust me, you certainly don’t want to see it on D.V.D.