Film

Aquaman

Neither Jason Mamoa’s charisma nor amazing special effects can mask this film’s poorly written dialogue

2/5 stars

There’s a lot about Aqua­man that would­n’t have ever been pos­si­ble in the past. Cre­at­ing a world of under­wa­ter peo­ple (and mak­ing it believ­able) is a film­mak­ing feat, but ulti­mate­ly Aqua­man left me underwhelmed.

The dia­logue in much of this film feels unnat­ur­al and stiff. A movie like this requires a lot of expo­si­tion to explain the Atlantean mythos, and unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s painful­ly obvi­ous in many scenes. Instead of estab­lish­ing the Atlantean peo­ple, their pol­i­tics, and beliefs as seri­ous stakes, the poor­ly writ­ten dia­logue makes much of it feel straight out of a bad­ly writ­ten chil­dren’s book. Sad­ly, Aqua­man is full of fan­tas­tic actors who did their best with what they were given.

The score is all over the place. Some moments have a beau­ti­ful sweep­ing orches­tra, and oth­ers have jar­ring elec­tron­ic music. More con­fus­ing­ly, some scenes are scored with songs that don’t mesh with the tone of the film. Even a Pit­bull song makes an appear­ance, which made me won­der if we were in 2010 all over again.

The sto­ry is also bogged down by a big CGI mon­ster fight, which involves thou­sands of crea­tures that you’ve been giv­en zero rea­sons to care about. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is a trap that many super­hero films fall into, hav­ing huge action set pieces with­out any thought of how they con­tribute to the nar­ra­tive. In fair­ness, the work done to make these crea­tures come to life is amaz­ing, but a waste.

It’s not all bad though. The cos­tumes are pret­ty great, and see­ing Aqua­man in his tra­di­tion­al out­fit is a sat­is­fy­ing moment. Black Man­ta’s suit (as ridicu­lous as it might seem to some) is straight out of the comics.

This film also nailed the mechan­ics of being under­wa­ter. I don’t know how they did it. The way the hair flows, the sound of voic­es, and the body move­ments make you believe this is all hap­pen­ing in the ocean, instead of in front of some green screen on a sound stage. That is unimag­in­ably hard, and I’d assume one of the biggest rea­sons we’ve nev­er seen a live-action adap­ta­tion of Aqua­man until now.

The Black Man­ta sto­ry­line is a high­light. Arthur’s deci­sion regard­ing the char­ac­ter is clear­ly wrong, and the real­iza­tion of his mis­take set up this clas­sic rival­ry perfectly.

In the end how­ev­er, Aqua­man is a dis­ap­point­ing film that does­n’t do jus­tice to the rich source mate­r­i­al. Regret­tably, it’ll leave most peo­ple think­ing the char­ac­ter is just as lame as pop­u­lar media has made him out to be.