Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, January 23, 2019

“Aquaman” can’t live up to its low-bar expectations

If you’ve kept up with the DC extended universe (DCEU), which, as lowly box office sales report, many of you have not -- then you are probably looking forward to James Wan’s “Aquaman” coming out this weekend.

For those not keeping their thumbs on the dying pulse of Warner Bros. attempt at a cinematic universe, “Aquaman” follows Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) as he is torn between the “surface world” and Atlantis; with a war on the horizon, he must find a sacred trident in order to stop his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) from becoming “Ocean Master.” The film is as silly as that sentence sounds and while it can lean into that goofiness a little bit, the film can’t ever seem to grasp who its characters are, which characters are important and most importantly, why.

Running for an ambitious two hours and 23 minutes, many scenes meander aimlessly as our protagonists search for one of a couple artifacts that hold some significant value before finding the trident. It’s hard to care about what the characters are doing when they’ve been given little to no backstory with the exception of obnoxious exposition dumps -- lacking any confidence in audience member intelligence. Perhaps its worst sin is the usage of Nicole Kidman, perhaps the film’s most talented actress, and mitigating her role and lines to some of the worst the film has to offer.

Wan is a talented director, as evidenced by his horror résumé, but he isn’t given the chance to flex those muscles much -- instead crafting a rather forgettable film from top to bottom. One positive aspect is a newfound sense of humor that the previous DCEU films sidestepped as they transition to a Marvel-esque approach. Not every joke lands, but having a sense of self-realization is a good quality to have. That even extends to our main character, as Arthur Curry describes himself at one point as a “blunt instrument,” words that could not be more fitting as he jumps around from ocean to ocean often acting before thinking.

Some of the more inexcusable offenses of the film include horrific editing, effects and set design. Often times, green screens are glaringly noticeable -- whether it be a dock, a desert or something in between. “Aquaman” lays it on heavy with slow-motion effects, with every action scene including at least a couple uses. It’s reasonable to become a bit nauseous as the film reaches its conclusion, given the unforgivable amount of slo-mo.

Following last year’s horrendous flop of a team-up film, “Justice League,” “Aquaman” had to be better than its predecessor, at least financially. Chances are it will be able to outperform its expectations on the basis of selling Momoa as a jacked dude who can talk to fish. However, Warner Bros. is in dire straits after they tried to run before they could even stand, let alone, walk -- and now they’re in the process of rebuilding on-the-go.

Arthur Curry is a big, dumb and brash superhero who, at times, can be fun to watch but “Aquaman” is just big, dumb and bloated.

Grade: D+

“Aquaman” will be released in theaters Friday, December 21st.

draju@theeagleonline.com


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