Epic, mythological CGI mega-spectacle blending "Star Wars" and "Avatar" with "Thor: Ragnarok," one for the ages
"Aquaman" is a stunning miracle; the most visually oddball and mesmerizing big-budget superhero film the world has ever seen. Do not misunderstand me, the Arthur Curry solo film is far from perfect, it presents an origin, born-to-be-king story, rhythmically goes from dynamite to languor and storytelling-wise is whimsical and silly dealing with Greek mythology, but that bravery and audacity, coming from a huge budget and an amazing source material, are what makes it an experience as dangerously unconventional as imperfectly extraordinary.
It's no secret that the DC Extended Universe went from bad to worse within American comic book film landscape; diabolically histrionic, unnecessarily drawn-out, fiercely dark, overly serious; whatever the dilemma may be, Walter Hamada, the new president of DC-based film production after legends Geoff Johns and Jon Berg stepped down in early 2018, had to move quickly and wisely his cards after "Justice League"'s inglorious financial outcome and poorly critics' response.
An angel from heaven, "Wonder Woman" opened at the very right time — #MeToo and #Time's Up, — displayed a powerful war tale of exquisite female empowerment aided by Patty Jenkins' unflinching direction, introduced the only superheroine portrayed on the big screen so far through Gal Gadot' astonishing performance and let free a fictional universe as feminist and uplifting as promising with a few drops of fish-out-of-water humor that put the subsidiary of Warner in competition again. Clearing their minds and knowing what to do and what not to do as for the kind of movie audiences want to see, they left a bunch of projects behind, rewrote some scripts and gave the go-ahead to ideas discussed for a very long time. Among the category of polished and slightly modified scripts, with special emphasis on comedy, was its latest, most risky and pleasant Hollywood chaos.
If "Wonder Woman" was somewhat like a Spider-Man for DC, Arthur Curry would oddly be a colorful hybrid with DNA from Tony Stark, Thor and Star-Lord. The King of the Seven Seas has chances to become the most outstanding, fascinating and exotic superhero of the whole combo out there. Momoa gives his role a dominant macho vibe and look, as well as silliness and sarcastic humor that provide much of the funny and not-so-funny jokes spread throughout the feature film. His acting range and rancidity in each of his scenes are the reason why he's so special, so unique, so emotionally relatable and flat-out politically correct.
Bigger-sized muscles, two antagonists, responsibility, legacy, kingship, splendid chases, and hand-to-hand combats, we've seen this before, haven't we? — cough, "Black Panther," cough. — But as Ryan Coogler diligently proposed to make a stand against racism, politics, Hollywood's diversity and some other highly important social matters, Wan loosens up and never takes the material too seriously; it's simple: a silly, funny, over-the-top fantasy actioner with two specific purposes on its mind: a message of solving your problems peacefully and an act of redemption for DC; its fuzzy proceedings are what makes it so enjoyable, so strangely magnetic and carefreely brilliant.
"Aquaman" is a bona fide rara avis, and one of the big ones. Auteurs entrusted with a nine-digit budget to make an original screenplay a reality— Mr. Christopher Nolan — can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Fewer filmmakers get such whopping sums of money to pull off a bizarre comic book adaptation, which is under the eye of a whole company; judgments, visions and worldwide expectations included. After a hurtful slate of bad decisions and critical misfires, DC changed its mind and left its unexpectedly successful billion-dollar baby to one of the most qualified, professional and creative artists working today in the industry.
James Wan is a filmmaker for the ages. Visionary, maestro of horror and action, creator and owner of the most profitable, breathtaking and poignant entry in "Fast & Furious" franchise yet and king of mainstream contemporary horror at the expense of his 2013 vintage masterpiece/hit, a billion-dollar IP from which spin-offs, prequels, and sequels emanate. These endless victories are the reason why the Malay is now Warner's spoiled child, which was more than enough to entrust him one of the riskiest, most crucial projects for the future of DC.
His kinetic and idiosyncratic style for action is high and low from stem to stern. Fight sequences are provocative, diligent, straight out of the wildest video game. The filmmaker also finds time to experiment and toy with settings, nearly masterful camera movements and angles, with explosive 90/180-degree rotations he previously tested in the Hobbs vs Shaw hand-to-hand combat in "Furious 7" and then F. Gary Gray in the prison escape in "The Fate of the Furious." The camera savagely runs at the audience, endowing dynamism and thrill in large part by the uber-excellent technical, artful features of a couple of incredibly and masterfully executed sequences that might be easily part of the annals of this postmodern genre.
Despite CG-overstuffed, even in scenes perfectly filmable in real locations, the film does not limit its creative faculties. We all agree that CGI is everywhere and at all times, which might constantly divert attention from the flick's narrative purpose. Its aesthetics and visual fearlessness, however, make pictures an alluring spectacle propelled by truly great VFX. So far, far away from the gigantic old-fashioned set-pieces of modern Hollywood masterpieces as "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Mission: Impossible - Fallout," and yet the film's an artificial delight. By taking place mostly underwater, it was to be expected that even with the enthusiasm and commitment of the crew, it needed to be conceived or at least rendered digitally. Wan and his team created an entirely unique aquatic world for us, certainly embellished by Don Burgess, which is over-the-top, dazzling and exciting, absorbent and carefully designed, is pure visual ecstasy crowded with creatures, altered animals, Atlantic beasts and, why not, an octopus playing the drums. There is time for natural, majestic landscapes as well, such as a beautiful Italian village, the stunning Sahara desert or the claustrophobic Trench. Portraying the fantasy-tinged Greek mythology from the comics sounds heavy, but it pulls it off fabulously with inventiveness and audacity unusual in big-budget cinema. In the end, it's appreciated that this extremely gorgeous world, harmonized by the high-sounding techno-compositions of an unbeatable Rupert Gregson-Williams, is not only a reflection of the cinema of our time, but a reminder of the magnificence sound and image can achieve.
Kidman nails it as Atlanna, a kind of character not entirely foreign to her if you take a look at the prolific career of the "Eyes Wide Shut" actress. After the ten-minute prologue and a surprise appearance amid the story, she does have no time on screen. Still and all, her interpretative balance between fish-out-of-water humor and family drama puts her in a strange yet brilliant position; a golden gift for the genre. Played by Amber Heard, Mera's design is literally and figuratively sparkling; she's the one who leads a couple of commendable sequences that breathe #MeToo. Willem Dafoe as Vulko embraces ambiguity, having fun in a simple, smaller role that doesn't seem to agree with his previous efforts, especially keeping in mind that after the eccentric characters he delivered to the genre, the actor has focused on more serious, raw roles in outstanding dramas by Sean Baker and Julian Schnabel. Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, King Orm and Manta respectively, wrongly take turns for being the bad guy. It's hard to tell who and where is the real villain here, whether in the ambition of the former or the anger-driven vengeance of the latter. They both try their best, but the material does not help them at all.
"Aquaman" by horror mastermind James Wan is a cinematic oddity; it has an irregular pace, speaks louder than it should, ergo runs longer than it should, but even so, Arthur Curry's first solo adventure is the most playful, hilarious, rewarding and profitable comic book adaptation you will find in the troubled DC Cinematic Universe to date. Even if my voice is shaking, I dare say it is the most eye-catching, wildly stunning sci-fi show I have seen into a big-impact Hollywood production since James Cameron's "Avatar," visually speaking. To make your life easier, "Aquaman" could be synthesized like this: "Black Panther" and "Star Wars" meet "Avatar" and "Jupiter Ascending," and these, in turn, bump into "Thor: Ragnarok," energized by a kinetic video game vibe and an unhealthy dose of toxic masculinity and sheer spectacle.
This title contains:
Positive role models
Violence & scariness