REVIEW: ‘Aquaman’ is flawed, but fun

Despite rocky a rocky reception over several movies, the DC Comics Cinematic Universe still has movies coming out. The latest is this feature following the hero of the deep.

“Aquaman” takes place after the events of last year’s “Justice League” and follows the water-based hero, played by Jason Momoa, whose actual name is Arthur. Embracing the idea of being a hero, Arthur has taken it upon himself to fight crime and rescue people on the high seas.

However, while this is taking place, the politics of his estranged home Atlantis are turning dangerous. Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who’s now a ruler in Atlantis, is fed up with humans negatively impacting the ocean and now wants to launch a war. In order to stop the potential conflict, another Atlantis royal, Mera (Amber Heard), recruits Arthur to take his place as the true king.

I was getting the same vibes from “Aquaman” as I was getting from “Venom,” another comic book based film released earlier this year. Like “Venom,” “Aquaman” is a picture with a dated feel, featuring a story and characters not quite different from any generic mid-2000s or late 90s comic book movie. At the same time, again similar to “Venom,” “Aquaman” does offer some fun.

On the story front, we have the protagonist and a love interest on an adventure to find a special item before the villain can do the bad thing. While there are some bits of intrigue thrown in like a revenge subplot and a political maneuvering by Orm, it’s not incorporated all that well. Films such as “Thor Ragnarok” and “Black Panther” have done the drama of who should rightfully sit on the throne much better.

Courtesy Warner Bros.

On top of a simplistic story with extra helpings of poorly executed monarchy tropes, “Aquaman” is often a bit too overfilled with exposition.

While the story and plotting trip the movie up here and there, though, there’s no doubt that overall, it’s an entertaining ride. The movie is too long, sure, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours. Yet the pacing is quite fast and the action keeps coming to earn the price of at least a matinee admission.

Part of the reason that some of it works is the film is so willing to jump into the silly side of the genre and not take itself all that seriously. It’s over-the-top, especially when it comes to the sequences in the underwater civilizations, yet it embraces those worlds and it sort of wins a person over. Combined with plenty of action pieces, the film can entice an audience with entertainment value.

Somewhat hit or miss is the performance of Jason Momoa. From start to finish, Momoa does bring a ton of energy and charisma to the screen in his performance. At the same time, it’s apparent that Momoa is just playing himself in some scenes, without bringing much complexities to the character. It also didn’t help that the character was written without much of an arc.

I was a bit let down by the surrounding cast. Wilson, and Willem Dafoe who portrayed another character from Atlantis, played such stereotypical caricatures without much character. Heard, meanwhile, was pretty good here, but I didn’t find her to have much chemistry with Momoa and the romance felt a bit forced.

“Aquaman” has quite a few flaws keeping it from the upper tier of comic book movies, yet I remained engaged for the most part thanks to the charm of the two lead performers and some impressive action. The latter had especially great moments, with some very nice visuals. 2.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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