It took a lot of skill on the part of director James Wan and his crew to make a movie this big, with this much technology, and with a deft blend of comedy and drama, work. The comedy is enough that it doesn’t become overbearing, and the drama is enough that it doesn’t become 500 pounds of oppressive dead weight like Batman v. Superman. I look forward to movies like this, because I always feel that they are trying to entertain me. They cast off any intention of being broody and deep and just want to be fun.
What works best is the visual look – it’s a wonder to behold. The set design, the visual effects, and the different locations – both on land and under the sea – are breathtaking. This is a cinematic experience. Do not wait until home video to see this – see it on the biggest screen that you can find.
I had so much fun that I wish that this was where DC and Warner Brothers had started. Aquaman, and last year’s hit Wonder Woman, are proof of a positive trek for the studio when it comes to these characters. Both regard the character based around their personality. The story of Wonder Woman worked because it was about the unpinning of Diana Prince’s perception about the wars humans wage. Aquaman walks a different path. It’s about birthrights and rulers and kingdoms and lost talismans and sins of the father, but it doesn’t trap Jason Momoa in a hard-bound set of plot elements. He’s allowed to be relaxed and funny. He occupies the title role with a wink and a smile. He’s could easily let his muscles do the talking, but he understands the character that he’s playing. He’s serious when he needs to be and can throw out a one-liner when the moment calls for it. His screen presence reminds me a lot of what made Arnold Schwarzenegger a movie star. He knows that his looks and his physique can be comical, and so he plays the comedy.
At the risk of sounding redundant, Aquaman is not to be taken seriously at all. It has enough to keep you interested dramatically and entertained comically. James Wan knows the kind of movie that he’s making. It is probably about half an hour too long, and the dramatic predictability gets a little frustrating, but you don’t get restless. Aquaman is fun, colorful, and again, very silly – in a good way.
★★★ (of four)
Jerry Roberts is a movie critic and movie fan who believes in Birth-Movies-Death. He is the historian for armchaircinema.com and armchairoscars.com, and he has a blog at overthinkingoscar.wordpress.com.