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Aquaman - Review

Released December 21, 2018

This DC Comics movie is sabotaged in places by its heavy CGI and tendency for too many pauses in the action to explain Atlantean mythology, politics and Aquaman's background. These details were easier to grasp as the actors talked to each other and did things while we watched versus the sudden narrative voices popping into the film, slowing everything down and turning the story into a slide show about the underwater kingdom.

Those obtrusive segments aside, the rest of the movie is a fairly quick-footed adventure tale in which Aquaman (Jason Momea) has to come to terms with a crown he doesn't want (he's a bastard son, but all the same first in line of royal succession over secretive Atlantis). He and Mera (Amber Heard) have to run around the globe to sort out what to do about the fact Aquaman's half-brother (Patrick Wilson) wants the crown and also Aquaman dead.

This global trip gives the film an epic feel much more than any of the gargantuan amounts of CGI that is endlessly pushing across the screen. The film would have faired better if there had been more of the former and less of the latter. The CGI, however visually interesting, becomes repetitive and just swallows up too much time that would have been better used to move the narrative (I say this based on how well some of the plain old movie sections are vs the CGI segments. This is the same problem that helped screw up Justice League. For whatever reason DC/Warners doesn't have confidence in their storytelling but apparently they've got a lot in CGI).

Questions that automatically come to mind after seeing Aquaman are the things it failed to address during the 2 hours and 23 minutes. For example, how do Atlanteans live? What do they eat? Are there TVs in their living rooms? Why are they always dressed in golden Lord of the Rings armor? No idea, but we see millions of them swimming around, but never get any sense of what they are other than underwater humans complaining about surface humans, and filling up a watery stadium to watch the two half-brothers fight each other.

Black Manta is in the story, too (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) but it is peripheral to the main family fight of Aquaman's lineage. For all the money spent on Aquaman - $200 million is reported - I would expect a smoother tale and some attention paid to inculcating basic elements of this Atlantean other-world into the story without so much stop-and-go. Aquaman somehow does better with less of the expensive visual razzle-dazzle and I just wish there'd been more story, the cast seemed perfectly capable of carrying more story.


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Original Page Dec 2018 | Updated July 2023