“Aquaman”: Movie review

Aquaman is a surprising delight, but not for everyone


John Lehan, JagWire reporter/photographer

Walking into Aquaman, I expected the movie to be an exposition-heavy origin story to set the character up for later films with some action sprinkled throughout. While Aquaman is an origin story with action, it superseded my expectations by evenly incorporating both aspects into the main story to create a stunning film.

The movie tells the story of Aquaman, the son of an Atlantean queen and a lighthouse keeper, whose forbidden birth causes his mother’s execution. Aquaman learns to accept both his human and Atlantean heritage in order to become king of all seven kingdoms of Atlantis, while teaching Mera, princess of the Xebel kingdom, to appreciate human culture. Orm, his younger half-brother and pure Atlantean, also attempts to unite the kingdoms in order to destroy humankind. Black Manta, a high-tech pirate seeking revenge against Aquaman for not saving his father, aids Orm. Every character in the film is given an appropriate amount of screen time, with the aforementioned four having plenty to develop their arcs.

The storytelling of Aquaman’s arc is particularly impressive. Throughout the movie, flashbacks of Aquaman’s childhood show how he initially learned Atlantean culture. Aquaman couldn’t wait to meet his younger Atlantean brother and completely embraced his culture. Yet upon learning his birth caused his mother’s execution, he shuns his Atlantean ancestry.

Additionally, at the beginning of the film, Aquaman is a lone wolf who shows no mercy against evildoers, including his brother. During the course of the film, Aquaman regains his childhood appreciation for Atlantean culture and refrains from making enemies when possible. The connection between flashback and journey makes the origin portion of the movie feel more pertinent to film’s actual adventure.

Another major arc involves Aquaman learning what being king of Atlantis entails. Being a half breed, proving his right to rule is more difficult than simply showing up. Unlike every other king in the film, he travels to nearly every kingdom of Atlantis, allowing him to connect with every kingdom and become a true king. By contrast, his brother uses force to command various kingdoms, and in the end, these kingdoms fail to stand by Orm’s side. Aquaman’s connection to all seven kingdoms is even portrayed through the action and shooting of the film, which impressed me the most. In the beginning he fights like his brother, alone and in an almost brutish style, taking hits and dishing them right back out. The film’s shooting draws the viewer into these scenes through point of view shots, enhancing the feeling of unrestrained violence. Aquaman proceeds to lose many of the following fights. This forces him to learn restraint and technique, as well as teamwork, ultimately separating him from his brother and allowing him to become the true king of Atlantis. The film’s shooting of later fight scenes puts emphasis on Aquaman’s growth by not focusing solely on him, but panning out to show how many Atlanteans he has connected with.

Despite these arcs being well developed and integrated into every aspect of the film, the movie still has flaws. The primary journey, while doing a good job to truly develop the story and characters in a believable way, does involve quite a bit of disjointed jumping between locations and goals. Additionally, while the film does a phenomenal job of integrating the origin and exposition into the story, the movie still spends a fair bit of its runtime on explanations.

Beyond the story, Aquaman performs slightly above average. There is plenty of action, which avoids being repetitive. The movie included Aquaman fight scenes, a chase scene and a larger war scene. For a superhero with seemingly limited capabilities, the combat was also pretty unique. Aquaman utilized basic fighting and more advanced Atlantean techniques and weaponry to keep things fresh.

The shooting was also pretty nice. It avoided common underwater mistakes such as lighting and hard to follow action scenes. The very first action scene had breathtaking shots from unique angles that drew the viewer in. Additionally, the film had some beautiful shots of the movie’s interpretation of Atlantis, as well as some extremely satisfying shots of Aquaman himself, ending on one such shot.

The acting and dialogue were only decent. Jason Momoa feels like Aquaman. His mannerisms really bring the character to life. Otherwise, I didn’t feel a deep reaction to any performance, but the acting was solid. The dialogue was pretty simple. The movie didn’t feature too many long speeches or expositional moments, and most dialogue felt natural to the character. A few places in the movie felt a little off, but it didn’t cause it to crash and burn.

The humor was also somewhat subpar. The movie certainly had its funny moments, with one scene in particular being totally unexpected and hilarious. However, most of it wasn’t anything too special and clearly not the highlight.

Aquaman is a superhero movie, and thus, not for everyone. Understanding the references enhances the experience, and enjoying the action is obviously important. Still, none of my family disliked the movie, but Aquaman does have an over the top comic-book feel that could deter less enthusiastic viewers.

Overall, I rate Aquaman four out of five stars, for a beautiful story held down slightly by improvable humor and appeal. Not everyone will appreciate Aquaman in its entirety, but most will enjoy it nonetheless.

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