Movies

‘Aquaman’ review: Choppy before the calm

A still from the movie ‘Aquaman’

A still from the movie ‘Aquaman’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In comparison to its major competitor, DC has always been the underdog. Try as they might, their films mostly fall short of hitting the mark. That is until Wonder Woman reversed the tide. But Justice League was a mixed bag of hits and misses. Gargantuan expectations then lay on Aquaman’s massive shoulders, the coolest and buff-est of the DC universe.

Aquaman
  • Director: James Wan
  • Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman
  • Storyline: To save the world, Arthur Curry must become the king of Atlantis

When it comes to a superhero standalone venture, being restrained is everything. But horror king James Wan (Saw, Conjuring and Annabelle) unfortunately succumbs to the temptation of the superfluous with Aquaman. Wan eschews a smarter format of storytelling instead of opting for a paint-by-numbers and strictly chronological approach. We go through the motions: pre-birth parents’ love story, birth, childhood, adolescence, you get the drift? The staccato narrative then remembers it must stir things up and swiftly transitions to action. One moment, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is saving the lives of submariners and in the next he’s taking selfies with a bunch of buff fans in a bar. All the while, there are his cooler-than-thou dialogues that need to be pulled down a notch. For example, when Aquaman first appears on screen in the aforementioned submarine, he crashes in with the cocky “permission to come aboard” line.

So many elements feel forced and out of place. There’s a side track to establish future antagonist Black Manta when the film should focus more on the main conflict between Curry and his half-brother. Our hero must usurp the throne from his sibling and rule over Atlantis. Then there’s that scene where Wan may have tried to sexualise both his protagonists (gender equality?). But when Aquaman and Mera (Amber Heard) emerge from the ocean (a la Bo Derek), it’s more cringe than cute.

It takes a long, long time for Aquaman to find its feet or fins and swim on course. But when it does, the DC film soars high. What Wan lacks with storytelling, he makes up with action and captivating visuals. Everything underwater is spectacular, from the fluorescent fauna and flora to the infrastructure. Wan can make a swarm of ugly sea demon creatures look hauntingly beautiful. When Aquaman enters the arena in the end, the final fight is reward enough for our patience. So his swag sometimes fails him, but Momoa as Aquaman proves to be a worthy superhero who can rouse an audience.

Though flawed and excruciatingly long, DC’s latest packs enough punch to keep Aquaman fans hooked.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 9:45:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/aquaman-review-choppy-before-the-calm/article25744583.ece

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