Thursday 20 December 2018

Film Review: Aquaman

Aquaman swims into cinemas this Boxing Day – will DC's latest tentpole cause a splash or be all lost at sea?

What do you get you pour a dash of Jules Verne, a drop of Shakespeare, a dollop of Star Wars, a smidge of Indiana Jones, a pinch of Jupiter Ascending and a whole load of generic superhero cheesiness into a bowl and mix it up? Something that resembles James Wan's Aquaman, it would seem.

If I had to sum Aquaman up in one word it would be 'daft'. There are a lot of other words I could choose from – colourful, scattershot, goofy, beautiful and fun rate among them. But it's 'daft' that sums up this overlong, tonally-confused blast more than anything else.

Aquaman, which features an octopus that can play the drums, is so far removed from Zack Snyder's doom and gloom vision of Batman and Superman that asking audiences to buy into the idea that these three characters can coexist in the same world is a huge stretch, and confirms that DC has performed a complete 180 with its film series. The game plan going forward is all about having fun, even if that means ignoring a little thing called character.

Set after the events of Justice League, Aquaman sees Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) tussling with small-time pirates but refusing to take up the mantle of king of Atlantis. When his half-brother and current Atlantean monarch Orm (Patrick Wilson) threatens war with 'the surface' (i.e. humans), Princess Mera (Amber Heard) reaches out to Arthur and urges him to ‘fulfill his destiny’ by retrieving a long-lost magic trident or some such – you know the drill.

It’s in the plotting that the cracks start to appear in Aquaman’s hull. Key moments, such as a tidal wave that devastates the east coast of America, are dreamt up and cast aside, quickly forgotten as the next big action beat swims into view. The quest to retrieve a magical MacGuffin that proves Arthur’s royal credentials skips around a fair bit, with the treasure hunt taking Arthur and Mera from Massachusetts to the Sahara, Sicily and a spooky trench in the North Sea. Each chapter in the quest in punctuated with some surprisingly well-staged action, with Wan calling on his background in horror (The Conjuring, Insidious) to open each set piece suddenly and loudly, with pyrotechnics in place of scares. 

However, this jolly adventure doesn’t have time to rest and focus on character. Everything about who Arthur is, why Orm is the way he is or what Mera wants is spelled out in the broadest of strokes. The film completely overlooks a pivotal connection between Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe’s two characters, leaving audiences to fill in the blanks. Instead, Aquaman would rather move onto the next exciting scrape or scuffle, provided the transition is soundtracked by Pitbull’s woeful cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’ of course. 

It doesn't help matters that the film is awash with some dire dialogue, particularly Wilson, who sneers about how he aspires to be "the Ocean Master" while riding a CGI shark that wears battle armour. How anyone on set kept a straight face remains a mystery. Once the third act arrives, Aquaman's sense of adventure is replaced with a giant battle between monstrous crabs and high-tech sharks armed with frickin' lasers. Assaulting the senses, the carnage is a murky morass of messy CGI that evokes the Star Wars prequels (not a good thing), but also embraces the inherent wackiness of an underwater war between two secret futuristic kingdoms.

The Verdict: 6/10

Undeniably fun but fatally flawed, Aquaman offers an entertaining diversion with wave after wave of action, noise and colour. If only it had time to drop anchor and reflect on its actual characters, rather that simply tossing them from place to place in search of the next punch-up.

Aquaman opens in cinemas across Australia on Boxing Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...