Signed up the 28/03/2017
Aquaman offers an origin story of Arthur Curry (Aquaman), picking up right after the happenings of Justice League. The movie is a tried-and-tested origin story on the surface, but as director James Wan probes deeper into the chasm of what really makes the spirited and selfless hero we love today, we're elevated from this dimension into another that we have never come across before. And that says lot about the movie, considering how many films there are out there.
Even with the wide and crowing palette of activities, places and people we experience in this film, none of it makes the film us feel stuffed and queezy. This is only possible because of Wan's brave and steadfast ability to tell a story to precision.
Wan, clearly drawing inspiration from his former fellow Worlds of DC kinsperson Zack Snyder, is ever unflinching in the story he wants to tell. He includes his signature horror elements and themes, he then goes on to flip the script just as you think you know what exactly he's aiming for and gives us a treasure-huntery expedition, and then delves deeper beyond the surface of what is familiar in voyages and gloriously presents to us what space in water would actually be like. And man, is it refreshing and rewarding to have all these new perspectives to walk away with after the credits roll.
Jason Mamoa is the Aquaman that we deserve, managing to balance both the fun and fuzzy with the tonally heavy material of his character's past and the war ahead of him, as he struggles to find his place in his newly discovered home. Even when it sometimes lumbers in certain questy sequences, this film still manages to strike the perfect balance between quirk, grit and adventure. Luckily for the film, too, every cast and crew member was clued up about what exactly the movie was trying to achieve. It's always obvious when everyone involved in making the movie cared for and enjoyed the experience.
This brings me to the cast that consists of the likes of the wonderful Amber Heard as Queen Mera, Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna, Willem Dacoe is the warm and guiding Vulko, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the B-villian Mantis to Patrick Wilson's main villian King Orm. Let me tell you, everyone brought it! It's not everyday that you get supporting characters that are as well-developed this bunch. Wan obviously cared about every character the same, good or bad, which resulted in us forming a uniquely interesting bond with, and rooting for, almost anyone who was given screen-time, including and especially the guys with very sinister intentions.
Aquaman is family driven. The movie explores the sense of being and belonging. It explores heritage and what exactly it means to have a past to embrace. Though it is at its core a high-spirited family adventure, the film has an underlying intensity that begs the audience to suspensefully concern themselves with the story at play.
It isn't just all fun and messing about. There is a sense of malevolence brought by the likes of Orm, who often break the fourth wall to call Wan back to course when the movie seems to drift too far into the realms of the lighthearted and innocent. Orm's strictness contrasting Arthur's otherwise bubbly personality is in fact an allegory of Wan himself poking fun back at the people who often criticise Worlds of DC for being too serious, side-noting that it's okay to have one or the other or even both, just as long as you do them right, with capable individuals such as himself at the helm. I thought this was genius. For him to have allowed himself enough creative freedom for these kinds of nuggets makes the movie even more enjoyable for me.
Every technical facet of the film is jawdropping, I'm not even kidding. The film is one of the best visually cultivated science fiction I've seen in nearly a decade. The colour grading. The editing. The cool and and innovative computer-generated sea monsters that looked like they belonged. The epic, and I mean epic, under-water fight choreography and action sequences. The zany, emotive score to go with all of it. Down to the meticulous constumes. Wan built a world that you really can't help but fall in love with.
Watching Aquaman is the same as going on vacation to some unknown land beyond, touring the gorgeous sites under the eager and zappy guidance of one Arthur and Mera, and then finding out that this is the world that you never thought you needed, but it turns out to mean so much more to you.
James Wan has managed to steer the teetering Warner Bros. ship in the right direction with this film, and I just hope that they learn to trust filmmakers like him and so follow their lead in the future. And not make the same mistakes of turning against their most valuable talents.
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