DC’s Aquaman is the latest entry in the ever-expanding canon of superhero saga’s and stories.

This is even more of a shame considering the refreshingly simple narrative that the film is going for and all the time its had to get things right. Playing with the elemental material of the adventure led, coming-of-age story could have rather easily led to something terrific, in equal parts fun and at times moving – we have seen successful attempts of that kind of storytelling across many comic book films and fantasy. Aquaman however seems nervous and aware of falling into the much-ridiculed gravity that stable mates, Justice League (2017) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) have left in their wake.

There is a thinly veiled sense that Aquaman is overtly trying to be all things to all men and as such we are left with very little of anything. Obvious and somewhat, desperate attempts to please everyone weigh down its genuinely fun aspects – and as such only encourages the cynic in me. This film flip-flops between being an earnest coming-of-age adventure, a buddy cop comedy, and an intense action epic, instead of just picking one genre, resulting i a fragmented mess.

A quite gritty opening scene onboard a submarine is reminiscent of the darkest moments from The Dark Knight (2008) but there is no payoff or continuation of this tone. A Romancing the Stone-esque romp, set in the Sahara recalls the worst comedic exchanges from 80’s action films but with less charm. A battle scene straight out of Lord of the Rings (2001)and the epic parachute drop from Godzilla (2014) are all fair game here too it would seem. The constant jump from one beat to another isn’t fun and you kind of want Director James Wan to just settle on a particular style and just run with it.

Aquaman includes more than a few absurd, head-scratching moments that made me think what the hell?!? One such incident sees an octopus banging on some drums before a big battle; all that was missing was Sebastian the Crab singing ‘Under the Sea‘ and this is supposed to set the tone for a fierce battle?!? Later an experimental, one of a kind weapon, is retrofitted in the time it takes our heroes to fall out of a plane. We even get some Arthurian legend and a scene straight out of Pinocchio for good measure.

The plot itself sees the titular hero aka Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) fresh from Justice League duty returning to his happy go lucky life. An early encounter with some mercs aboard a Submarine leads to the establishment of one of the films better characters, Black Manta, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen. Set on revenge following events aboard the Sub, he shines very well as a vengeance driven, secondary villain. There is a war coming between ocean dwellers and those whom reside on the land. Aquaman’s half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) wants to unite all the Ocean kingdoms and wage his war but Mera (Amber Heard) and Nuidis (Willem Dafoe) believe Arthur will be the better King and encourage him to fight for the throne and halt the invasion plans.

Aquaman/Arthur Curry remains a divisive and reluctant hero throughout and him being surrounded by clearly defined characters with their own clear goals and characteristics makes him all the more confusing. Nothing in his personality or attitude betrays any of that self-doubt or guilt we are meant to feel as a result of him feeling responsible for his mother’s death. The film’s attempt to present his becoming King of Atlantis as the culmination of a personal journey of self-discovery falls flat.
Momoa clearly revels in the light-hearted moments and seems suited for the brashness of it all but it’s by no means a stand out performance. Elsewhere, the rest of the cast is solid especially the two villain’s, Abdul-Mateen and Wilson.

Some of the action sequences are dynamic and at times over-the-top but none-the-less entertaining; a fantastic chase set across rooftops in Sicily feels like an old-school, Saturday morning adventure film. Luckily the pace of this film is unabated which saves it from being a downright shipwreck. In all, it has its moments but they are very few and far between to truly keep you entertained for over 2hrs.


Review by @nigel_knows 1/3 of Glassmates 


Aquaman
Director: James Wan, 
Screenwriter(S): David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall | Geoff Johns, James Wan, Will Beall (story)
Cast: Abdul-Mateen II, Michael Beach, Jason Momoa, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren. 
Release Date: Friday December 14th 2018