Film Review

REVIEW: Aquaman

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to the World Premiere of Aquaman, where I also got to see the film TWO WEEKS EARLY! While I was there I had to sign an embargo, to say that I wouldn’t talk about the film or give too much detail about it. Trust me when I say I have been dying to tell you guys all about it! Don’t worry, I’m not heartless there will be NO spoilers here.

First things first, there is a LOT to talk about. Aquaman is a true superhero block buster, which is perfect for all audiences. It has everything, incredible effects, a fantastic score (sometimes) along with powerful characters and messages about the world as we know it. But it does also have one or two flaws that by all means did not ruin the film at all… it just confused me a little. I’ll go into that later on, but other than that the film is an absolute hit! So lets break it down…

Story

The synopsis of the film is simple, but worthy. Arthur Curry is forced to step up and battle his brother King Orm to take the throne of Atlantis to prevent a war between them and the “Surface World”. The story-line is brilliant and extremely well written. So well, that it almost feels familiar, and I think that is part of the success, it is a classic “heir to the throne” and “battle of the brothers” story.

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As well as a great plot, the film also highlights some extremely valid and timely issues. Firstly – Hate. The film really focuses on it and it shows the different ways that people deal with it, and that is so important. This is showcased by several characters – Black Manta, King Orm and Aquaman himself. Each one has experienced a similar tragedy, and each of them releases their hate in different ways. Black Manta is hellbent on revenge against Arthur, Orm is determined to start a war to prove that his race is superior and Aquaman uses it to be better, and to encourage people to be better.

Secondly – Pollution by man. The film touches on this ever so slightly, but enough so it’s effective and really makes you think, but it’s quite subtle so the message isn’t too in your face. Things like plastic in the sea killing animals, pollution and litter in the sea and how it affects the wildlife – and in this case their life. This is actually what King Orm uses to help gain followers on his war of the Surface World. He uses this as a method of antagonising people to be on his side.

Thirdly – Race. Aquaman challenges race in a few ways, not only does it have a diverse cast, it has brought Jason Momoa’s heritage and background into play. That is rare to see. Momoa has mixed heritage, just like his character Arthur Curry who is half “surface dweller” and half Atlantian. The fact that he is of mixed heritage gives Arthur an advantage and a different take on life that helps him with his journey. You can see how proud he is of this, he is essentially telling part of his own story here. But it is so nice to see mixed heritage being thrust into the limelight, not negatively but positively and also in a superhero film, it’s not often you can say that. As someone of mixed heritage myself (English and Jamaican) I loved this aspect to it. It’s important for people of mixed heritage to look up to, and to actually be represented in a positive light. It doesn’t matter what race you are, we are all equal. No race is superior.

It’s hard to describe the film and it’s genre overall, but think Star Wars, mixed with Gladiator, Indiana Jones, Lord of The Rings, Godzilla and The Little Mermaid. I bet you are all thinking, what on earth?! But really, that perfectly describes it… It reminds me of Star Wars because of all of the futuristic tech and underwater scenes in Atlantis. Gladiator because of the fight scenes and battles, Indiana Jones because of it’s sense of adventure – especially the lengthy tracking shot in the Sahara. Lord of The Rings because of the underwater creatures and the final battle scene. Godzilla because ONE creature in particular and The Little Mermaid mostly because of Mera’s innocence and her red hair.

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Now, just to put it out there there is one or two cheesy scenes – but what film doesn’t have those? The cheesy scenes are what reminds me of The Little Mermaid, there is a scene where Mera comes to the “Surface World” in search of the King Atlan’s trident, but she and Arthur take a little detour in Italy. She is incredibly innocent in the scene and hasn’t seen a lot of things we take for granted like flowers and waterfalls, it really gives me Little Mermaid vibes and I think you will know exactly what I’m talking about when you see it. To me, this scene seems a little out of place, and doesn’t seem anything like the rest of the film, which is odd. It isn’t particularly a bad scene, and it does have some comedic value, but it just feels a little out of place to me.

Casting

The casting is perfect, there is truly not one casting decision that I would change. Everyone absolutely killed their role and really embraced their characters. There are strong cast performances throughout, which all show heart, emotion, and it isn’t forced. You can truly tell they love and are engaged with their characters, they understand them perfectly.

Jason Momoa is perfect for the role. I am so glad that Aquaman has been thrust into the limelight and given a sense of swagger about it – if you’ve read the old comics, he is the polar opposite of what he has been previously! Momoa has almost made Aquaman cool, and he has done it with ease.

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Amber Heard is perfect in the role of Mera. She is absolutely brilliant and was really a highlight for me. I’ll be honest, I’m not a frequent Aquaman comic reader, but MAN my expectations of her were blown out of the water. She was truly incredible, a real heroine who fought for what she thought was right no matter the consequences.

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Patrick Wilson is scarily convincing as King Orm. Having worked with James Wan several times previously in horror series, Insideous, this role is completely different to that and really showcases his capabilities. Orm is a brutal, over-confident and power hungry villain, who just wants to seek justice for what happened to his mother. It’s a simple villain concept, but it works really well.

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Yahya is a fantastic Black Manta, and you can see his passion, and the hate in his facial expressions alone. My only issue with Manta is that it didn’t feel like there was enough of him, it felt like the trailers/advertising showcased him as the true villain of the film, but really he was just a pawn in it all.

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Cinematography & Visual Effects

The film obviously used a lot of CGI and special effects, and when a lot of CGI is used, you can sometimes really tell. But with this film, it is done so well, the effects are incredible and so well thought out and detailed. It is an incredible spectacle of a film.

The effects are phenomenal, they have perfectly captured the ambiance and realism of the depth of the sea! The way the hair and lighter objects moves but everything else is so still, is perfect. It really adds a sense of realism to the film, and that’s not something you can usually say when it comes to a superhero film.

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The digital team mixed with James Wans’ vision of the film and its creatures is a spectacular combination. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to see so many creatures, more just what was included in the trailer – sharks and giant sea horses, but the film delivers SO much more than that. Sometimes you forget that what you are watching, but not in a bad way at all.

The fight sequences and tracking shots are AWESOME and work really well. The whole film is action packed and non-stop, but not over the top, it is spaced perfectly throughout the film. There are so many iconic scenes within the film, it’s hard to pin point them out, but be sure to look out for the reveal of the classic suit, Mera kicking ass (numerous times) and Arthur’s entrance in the final sequence. I can really say that there is never a dull moment, and there are so many beautiful scenes, not only down to what happens in those scenes, but also the look and feel of them.

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James Wan brings something completely different and new to the table as a director of a superhero film. With that said, you really do get a sense of his typical and most prolific style – horror. There are so many parts that made me jump, and I do love a bit of a scare. I have been a fan on James Wan’s for a while, since Saw and Insideous and it is really nice to see his own style being incorporated into the film even though it is a completely different genre to what we have seem from him previously.

Zack and Deborah Snyder were the executive producers of the film and you can really see his/her influence in a lot of of the scenes – especially the mythological aspects. After all of the Justice League debacle, it is so nice to see him STILL helping to grow the characters that he loves. I smiled when I saw his name in the credits.

And as far as costumes go, WOW. They are so incredibly detailed and you can even see that in the film – sometimes the detail isn’t as clear in a film until you see the suit in person, but you can see every detail in this. Especially Queen Atlanna, Arthur Curry, Orm and Mera’s. Bravo to Kym Barrett on her designs, they are seriously commendable. Black Manta’s suit is just plain badass – especially when it gets a certain upgrade! Most characters have more than one costume too, so you can imagine the detail involved there. Especially Mera and Orm I would say, although I do prefer King Orm’s costume from the first sequence than I do in the second – the classic purple suit.

The score is great too, and yes it does feature the music from the trailer! The music perfectly hypes and builds up the scenes throughout the film. I was constantly moving closer and closer to the screen as a result of it. It just adds that extra emotion to each of the scenes, it’s triumphant! There is one scene though – when Arthur and Mera are walking through the Sahara Desert where the music just feels completely out of place, I understand what they are trying to go for, but for me that just doesn’t work.

Overall the film is fantastic and is easily one of the most ambitious DC films, but with that said, it certainly pays off. The incredible effects, plot, characters and creatures really pull you in, and I really hope that James Wan continues directing films for DC. I would say that this is one of the best solo DC films to date, and for me it is certainly on par with Wonder Woman. I cannot wait to watch the film again on it’s official release, it is brilliant.

As far as post credit scenes go, there is only one. And it really sets the film up for a sequel with a very familiar villain, lets just hope we don’t have to wait as long as we have – well still waiting for Man of Steel 2.

Aquaman hits cinemas in the UK on 12th December, and in the US on 21st December. Make sure you see it, it is EPIC. Now… when is Aquaman 2 out?

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