Thanks be to Amazon Prime membership, I was able to see the latest DC hero to get his own movie, Aquaman, on Dec. 15.
The movie doesn’t officially hit American theaters until this weekend, but according to Variety, the movie has already brought in $250 million from international audiences. Crowds already seem to be loving this land-and-sea adventure.
This film had its flaws, but count me among the audiences who loved the experience regardless.
My biggest criticism with Aquaman’s solo movie debut, directed by James Wan, is it seemed like DC was worried they might not get to make a sequel, so they tried to shove in too many little stories. This made it seem a little confusing as to what it was trying to be, from the rom-com vibe of Splash, to the fantasy "reclaim to your birthright" story a la Tolkien or T. H. White, to an all-terrain globe-hopping Indiana Jones style action quest.
I can’t fault Wan for pulling from some classic tales, but I would like to see him concentrating more on just one of these styles instead of worrying he has to fit everything in this one, big, epic movie lest Aquaman doesn't get another show at movie stardom.
Fusing the Arthur Curry (aka Aquaman) origin story into a present-day storyline that takes place even after he fought along side the Justice League I didn't mind, but maybe Black Manta, Aquaman’s archenemy who has been around since the late 60s, could have been saved for a proper sequel. Actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II gave such as solid performance in the Black Manta role, I think the character deserved more than just being tossed into an already busy storyline just so they can bring in "the big villain."
At risk of giving out a spoiler, there’s a scene at the end of the film that would have lent itself perfectly as an introduction to Manta. This would have had comic junkies saying, "Whoa! Is that Blank Manta? Cool!" It would’ve been similar to Joe Manganiello showing up as Deathstroke at the end of Justice League (one of the better parts of that movie). The action scenes with Manta were nevertheless awesome, and I liked watching him get his new gear ready for battle.
Of course, it also veered into that current day movie preachiness once or twice. I 100 percent agree with the sentiment we need to clean up our oceans, but I think another movie pointing out our "evils to Mother Earth" just makes us numb. This is something I’ve come to expect in most new movies, so I just take these moments with a grain of salt, or sea salt as the case may be.
One thing the movie has going for it creatively is Wan, who is probably best known by horror and action movie fans for writing, producing and/or directing creepy hits like The Conjuring, The Nun, or Insidious. Whatever one thinks of Wan's usual genre of choice, he has an eye for keeping story and the action going at a fast, crazy pace. Even when the movie tried to fit too many story elements into one, two-hour time frame, it never dragged. Wan took us for a rollicking ride, and never let up. It was an adventure from beginning to end, as all comic book based movies should be. Wan even included some pretty intense moments complete with a jump scare or two when Arthur and Mera reach The Trench.
The visuals were also beautiful, and in true tribute to the comics. The eye candy was fantastic. Most of the Atlantean interaction was actually under water, as well. The Justice League movie's decision to put them primarily in a big underwater air pocket seemed a little lazy to me, and this movie remedied that decision. The creatures and setting of this undersea kingdom are something I recommend seeing on the big screen in order to take in the details.
As far as the casting, yes, Jason Momoa is the main reason to see this one. He is proof audiences want and love a hero who isn't constantly griping about social issues, and giving up his manhood in order to overplay his sensitive side. Momoa managed to turn the DC character who has been the butt of fan jokes for decades into Aqua-Freakin’-Man!! He's a scene-stealing giant from the get-go, and we love it!
On the surface, he’s a beer-drinking, hard rock lovin’, muscle bound, tat-covered, leather-wearing, macho archetype who men want to be and women want to be with. The scene when he encounters the bikers in the bar was brief, but incredibly funny.
However, Momoa’s portrayal also revealed a character that was exceptionally well educated, strongly devoted to his family, and wanting to do the right thing. This film is helping to make Momoa a huge star (even bigger than his Game of Thrones days), and he well deserves it. Plus, I don't care what other people think, he makes that "classic" Aquaman costume look like a hot rod!
It’s a rare thing for me to like every casting choice in a movie, but I thought the entire cast was a good fit for their characters, including Amber Heard as Mera, and Patrick Wilson as King Orm. Nichole Kidman and Temuera Morrison delivered a beautiful love story, which felt much more real than Arthur and Mera's mutual attraction.
I also didn’t expect such cool casting in some of the minor roles. Graham McTavish as King Atlan was a welcome surprise, but learning some of the best actors out there, including John Rhys-Davies, Djimon Hounsou, and Julie Andrews, took on voice duties made this one especially enjoyable. Now that Andrews’ credits range from the original face of Mary Poppins to the voice behind the gargantuan sea beast Karathen, she just may be the coolest actress of all time.
In summary, don't expect a perfectly crafted comic book tale, but expect to be very, very entertained. Aquaman is just great fun.
Although there are no "after-the-credits" scenes, there is a pretty significant hint Aquaman is coming back again. If they can keep the team of Wan, Momoa, and writers like Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics Geoff Johns together, I’m more than ready to dive in once again.
Aquaman opens in U.S. theaters Friday, Dec. 21.
Images ©2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment.