Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review: Aquaman

Release date: December 21, 2018
Running time: 143 minutes
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe 

Aquaman is the latest DC Comics film and features a hero that was introduced in last year's
Justice League.  Aquaman always seemed like a tough movie to tell a story in due to the aquatic nature and odd powers of the protagonist.  But thankfully, Zack Snyder is up to the task and creates a compelling world that straddles both the surface and the ocean.

DC Comics is clearly hoping that this film will make a big holiday splash, and has upped the special effects to 11.  Viewers are hit with a tidal wave of colors and effects as mysterious sea worlds and creatures fill the screen.  Overall the effects are entertaining and sometimes awe inspiring.  And the casting is perfect, with Jason Momoa as a convincing Aquaman.  Not only does he have the physique to play the role (sorry Vinny Chase), but he also plays a convincing character who is caught between two very different worlds and a conflict he has no interest in.  Amber Heard is another standout as princess Mera, a strong female companion during Aquaman's journey.  Like the main theme of bridging two different worlds, the film also spans multiple genres with mixed effect.  The film is part super hero movie, part fantasy adventure, and part action extravaganza.  

However, the film is not without its flaws.  One problem with the movie, and its aquatic nature, is that it relies far too much on CG.  Pretty much every underwater scene uses some from of computer enhancement, and this leads to many of the scenes falling into an uncanny valley as vast as the oceans.  Additionally, because some of the film is set in the past, certain characters are digitally de-aged with a similar off-putting effect.  The previously mentioned genre mash-up leads to what seems like an unnecessarily long adventure, pushing the run time to well over two hours.  And the journey leads to a story that feels convoluted at times and builds towards a climactic final scene that borders on ridiculous.  Finally, the writing feels like it was ripped out of a fantasy epic, leading to cheesy dialogue.  And last but not least, Amber Heard's outfit feels like a regression after the care that was taken for Wonder Woman.  I was hoping that the backlash from Justice League would have moved the needle, but apparently that was not the case.

Much of this review has been harsh for Aquaman, but like the main character, this film feels like it is from two different worlds.  It is a visual treat with fun characters on an epic journey through some wonderous worlds.  But it also is a movie that has entire CG scenes, a story that at times feels as long as crossing the oceans, and some really underwhelming writing.  In the end, Aquaman is one of the better DC Comics movies in recent memory.  It is DC's attempt to make its films more entertaining and light-hearted, and if you can get past its flaws, the film has a lot of entertainment value.  

Rent it.

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