December 28, 2018

Aquaman, from the very beginning, was set to be the defining DC Extended Universe film. It would make clear whether Wonder Woman was DC’s one hit wonder, or the first of many successful films by the franchise, parting ways with its less notable but highly anticipated predecessors: ‘Batman Vs Superman’ and ‘Justice League’.

James Wan’s debut DCEU film, ‘Aquaman’ traces the journey of Arthur Curry, the half Atlantean love child of a light house keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) The title character is played by Jason Momoa whose Vitruvian physique overshadows  his witty personality and makes his ability to talk to marine life seem somewhat comical. The setting of the film is half-land half-sea and it alludes to Arthur’s inability to find his place in either. As the plot progresses, our protagonist has to face two enemies, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul Mateen II) and his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who blames him for the death of their mother. Lucky for him, Mera (Amber Heard), daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), betrays her father to join Arthur on his destined crusade to be King of the seas.

The film as a whole is an exciting ride for cinema goers, especially DC fans who had low expectations after a disappointing “Justice League”. The light-hearted atmosphere of this film mimics that of a marvel film (there is even a post-credits scene), abandoning the trademark grittiness and bleak backdrop of a DC production. Momoa’s charming wit and his cool composure throughout the film, allow him to fully exploit its lighter, more comic tone.

A strength of the film lies in its ability to present a mesmerizing underwater world. Too much CGI in a superhero film can cause it to lose its relatability, while too little adds to the “what could have been” factor. Aquaman’s VFX department uses just the right amount of CGI to create an interactive underwater world, while preserving its relatability to audiences. Particular attention to detail is paid when crafting Atlantis – so much so that underwater dialogues are even muffled. This attention to detail is also seen in the costumes worn by the characters. Aquaman’s ‘King of the seas’ costume is a standout; the striking gold and green cohesively blend with the undersea CGI world better than one would expect. It finally seems as though filmmakers in the superhero genre have learned to rely on CGI as an embellishment rather than a crutch.

The light hearted, rollicking scenes transition into epic battles between Aquaman and his rivals. Here, Wan displays his sheer skill with the camera, providing us with seamless 360-degree fights scenes that capture every kick, punch, and strike of a trident. He ensures smooth character movement that is especially visually stunning underwater. James Wan, in true horror-movie fashion, also films tense underwater chases through narrow corridors and on top of buildings, which have the audience at the edge of their seats, anxious to see whether the heroes make it out alive or not. Overall, it is a great cinematic experience, made even better in 3D and IMAX.

The film, however, falls short in regard to its excessive script that drags on for just under two and a half hours, of which the audience feels every minute. One could argue that the flashbacks are a vital part of the film, but at times they feel more like an add-on to an already ambitious script, given that ‘Aquaman’ was never labelled an origins story. The script, having been written twice by different scriptwriters and then edited multiple times by the director, was destined to be the movie’s weakest point. It is embroiled in melodramatic dialogues, predictable scenes, and a lack of plot twists. In all, it seems far too linear and far too long.

As of December 25, 2018, Aquaman has exceeded 500 million dollars at the box office. Even though the movie has not worsened the already tarnished reputation of the franchise behind the DCEU films, it has not done much to improve it either. The future of DC films, therefore, is uncertain but both ‘Aquaman’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ have proved that the franchise is far more successful when creating solo superhero films.