“Aquaman” is far from flawless, but it breaks the DC norm

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“Aquaman” is far from flawless, but it breaks the DC norm

"Aquaman" movie poster. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

"Aquaman" movie poster. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

"Aquaman" movie poster. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Melissa Ellin, Editor in Chief

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It’s no secret that DC has been struggling as far as their movies are concerned. “Suicide Squad” is nearly obsolete, “Justice League” was an utter disaster, nobody really talks about “Man of Steel,” and “Batman vs. Superman” is frequently mentioned when talking about the most pointless movies ever. The shining beacon of hope for DC has been “Wonder Woman.” “Wonder Woman” was not only the best DC film to be made in a while (maybe ever), but it is possibly one of the best superhero movies ever. So, when the it was finally announced that Aquaman would be the next character to get his own movie, to say DC fans were skeptical is an understatement.

“Aquaman” was released Dec. 21, but for Amazon Prime members, there was a viewing on Dec. 15–when I saw the movie. To say that I was risking optimism on my way in is the best way to put it. The movie was decent–not nearly as bad as previous DC movies–but not nearly as good as “Wonder Woman.”

Let’s dive in (I’m so punny). The movie takes place after “Justice League” once Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Arthur, has been outed to the public. The film starts with the story of how his father (Temuera Morrison), a human, and his mother (Nicole Kidman), queen of Atlantis, met. Of course, it ends in tragedy. Atlanna, his mom must go back to the sea to wed her betrothed, the king of Atlantis, leaving Arthur alone with his dad. Luckily, Arthur’s uncle, Nuidis Vulko (Willem DaFoe), looks out for him and teaches him how to control his powers once his mother is gone. Fast forward 20 years and we meet Mera (Amber Heard), an Atlantean, trying to convince Arthur to come to Atlantis and stop his younger brother, Orm (Patrick Nelson), from starting a war between the land and sea. What happens next is a journey to find the King Atlanta’s lost trident in order to prove Arthur is the “one true king,” and prevent war.

I honestly think the creators decided to take a look at every movie ever made and steal the pieces and parts they liked. There was Mera’s fiery red hair and green scaly outfit basically announcing her as Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” Then there was the scene where Arthur speaks “whale” so Mera and him can hide in the whale’s mouth–”Finding Nemo” anyone–and the entire plotline regarding Atlanna was giving me “How to Train Your Dragon” vibes–I’m not gonna explain because spoilers. Even the entrance to Atlantis, a long walkway with rainbow lines above it was basically the bridge to enter Asgard in “Thor.” Thank gosh the movie takes place majorly underwater, or there wouldn’t have been any originality at all.

Now let’s talk about that–the underwater aspect. Obviously, it wasn’t flawless. There was plenty of CGI and green screen usage, and overall, the creators did a fairly good job. There were many flaws, but considering how difficult this must have been to film and edit, the movie overall faired well. The major issues I found were the jerkiness of people’s movements (they live underwater, you’d think they’d move fluidly) and the actual water itself. There were times–specifically during a tsunami scene at the beginning of the movie when Arthur was searching for his dad–when it was a bit too obvious that the people weren’t actually underwater. Needless to say, the movie wasn’t groundbreaking in terms of cinematography.

What I can respect about this film was the acting, and the attempts–however feeble–at humor. One of the major problems in the past for DC has been the cloud of darkness surrounding the films. Nobody ever seems happy, but because Aquaman has been the butt of many jokes in the past–all he really does is talk to fish, and swim fast–this movie allowed for some humor. Many jokes were cringy, but the lighter mood they developed was welcome.

A major reason the film did better than its predecessors was the casting. Momoa made Aquaman genuinely impressive. His devil-may-care attitude was created effortlessly, and the reckless idiot we met in “Justice League” came back full force. Mera, the love interest, was his perfect counterpart. Heard and Momoa had great chemistry, and Heard was able to carry on with the fierce female role that Gal Gadot created as Wonder Woman. Nelson created an entirely hateable villain in Orm. He made all of the anger and arrogance involved in Orm’s character come to life. Kidman was spectacular–do I really need to go on? It is Nicole Kidman after all. As for Dafoe, I have to admit, it was weird seeing him as a good guy. To me, he will forever be Spider-Man’s nemesis, but he really did pull off the role. He played the tough guy act well, but he also managed to show Vulko’s heart.

Notice the difference between Nicole Kidman (left) and Amber Heard’s (right) costumes. Photo of Entertainment Weekly’s “Aquaman” cover.

Now that I’ve said some pros, I must mention more cons. First up, the oversexualiztion of Mera and Aquaman. Momoa was shirtless for three quarters of the movie, and Mera mostly wore a green outfit that accentuated her breasts, which 110 percent could have been avoided, as Kidman’s white outfit demonstrated. I know male and female viewers alike probably weren’t too bothered, but it says something about society that we have to have people half-naked all the time. Still, the outfits were interesting. It wasn’t like they were wearing wet suits all the time, Atlantis had its own fashion, and Mera’s white dress–worn during the ring of fire scene–was stunning.

Another issue was the music. The music definitely fit the mood throughout, but this is because it was instrumental save one or two songs. This is a weak point for the movie. Music plays an important role in setting the tone, and “Aquaman” could have ultimately been the light, fun movie creators were gunning for if there had been more recognizable music.

The final issue was the unanswered questions. The first being about how Mera got her powers of water manipulation? The second being what is their extent? The third being about Orm’s morals–he appears to hate all land people, yet he works with one in the movie.

Despite this controversial review, understand that Aquaman is not a bad movie–it’s good. No more, no less. I’d say you should see it because the concept is great, but don’t get your hopes up.

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