Let’s all agree: Aquaman is a dumb superhero. In the comics, he wears an orange leotard and gets around on the back of a giant seahorse, with lame powers that include fast swimming and the ability to communicate with marine life.
Sure, Jason Momoa’s casting was one of the only good things in last year’s Justice League, but basing a whole film on the character was always going to be a stretch. That being said, who better to bring dumb fun to the big screen than James Wan, director of Furious 7 and TV’s MacGyver.
Unfortunately for Wan and all the writers involved, Aquaman is way more dumb than fun. Almost to the point where anyone who watches this film will actually lose brain cells. For example, at one point we see an octopus playing drums during a gladiator-style fight. Seriously, it’s idiotic.
The plot isn’t even subtle about copying from previous superhero films, most notably Thor and Black Panther. It’s kind of like a pseudo-Thor, with a half-brother causing mischief that leads our hero to another world, who finds love on his quest to become king.
The world-building element of Atlantis is reminiscent of what Ryan Coogler achieved with Wakanda in Black Panther, except nowhere near as imaginative nor developed.
Some of the plot devices used are literally shoved in the audiences’ faces, whether it’s pointing out the impenetrable HYDRA cannons that will definitely come into play later, or the fact Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna mentions the exact time she’ll be back.
On that note, even against a cast of over-actors, Kidman’s performance is one of the worst. She and Temuera Morrison, who play Aquaman’s parents, fail to produce any chemistry. Same could be said for Momoa and Amber Heard, who really just read line for line without emotion. Momoa was amusing in small doses in Justice League, but here he struggles to portray anything but a meathead rock star. The dialogue doesn’t help their cause either, with lines like “in my world, the ocean hides our tears”.
As a director, Wan seems to have lost all sense of tone. The music and editing are erratic, with thundering guitars à la Wonder Woman, random moments of slow-mo action and Tron-style techno boat chase. Then, out of nowhere comes Pitbull’s rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, playing as the two sexy leads slowly emerge from the ocean. None of it makes sense.
At a period when some of the most exciting comic book adaptations have breathed new life into the genre, such as Logan, Deadpool and most recently Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, this is a huge step down. It’s even worse than Venom. Do yourself a favour and avoid at all costs.