The biggest cinematic joke of the past decade has got to be the DC  extended universe (DCEU). It’s gotten to a point where beating up on  Warner Bros’ pathetic attempt to cash in on the extended universe trend  set by Disney-Marvel is just stale and sad. Wonder Woman almost  doesn’t even seem like it was a real movie because it was actually  good, despite being forgotten almost immediately due to DC’s cinematic  disaster of Justice League polluting the waters not even six months later. The promising Shazam! trailer at Comic-Con this year was paired with a trailer for Aquaman that  looked just as schlocky and terrible as the rest of the DCEU. Needless  to say, hopes for this being a good movie were at rock bottom.

So now that Aquaman is finally released to the public, is it going to be the real turning point we all thought Wonder Woman should’ve  been? Or is the DCEU simply going to drown in a pool of its own filth?  The answer, one so shocking that I’m not sure I believe myself when I  say it, is that Aquaman is a good, competent movie. And for DC, good is  as amazing as it gets.

Leaning into the joke of Aquaman

Aquaman is the standalone film about the previously  introduced Arthur Curry, also known as “the Aquaman,” a slab of meat  played by TV’s best meat mountain Jason Mamoa. Aquaman is a key member  of the Justice League, but mostly as the butt of everyone’s jokes. He’s  the guy who talks to fish and swims good. Justice League leaned  too far in making Aquaman a serious character because the director,  Zack Snyder, is a hack. This movie smartly makes the decision of turning  Aquaman into a bit of a buffoon. He’s constantly joked about, loses a  number of fights, and doesn’t really seem capable. But that just makes  him a more relatable character overall, and a much more entertaining  lead than we see in the rest of the DC movies aside from Wonder Woman.

This movie feels like a Marvel movie in its tone and plotline, along  with having two villains and save-the-world stakes. For DC fans (and I  mean the “release the Snyder cut” fans), this will come as a  disappointment. Average moviegoers, however, will find this change a  breath of fresh air, and most of the humor lands. Some lines are  groaners, but there are some genuinely good lines of dialogue that make  the film enjoyable to watch.

Image from IMDb

The cast of characters as a whole also feels much more dynamic than  previous DC films, particularly the villains of Ocean Master and Black  Manta. Ocean Master may have some questionable motives, but both he and  Manta feel like threatening villains, which is likely because Aquaman is  written as kind of a loser in this movie. The love interest and partner  of Mera, played by Amber Heard, is great on her own as a character. Her  snark with Mamoa’s Aquaman is at least enjoyable since I love me some  petty bickering. It’s just a shame their relationship is ruined by the  absolute lack of romantic chemistry between them. There’s a scene in the  film where the two explore a village in Italy for a few minutes while  romantic pop music plays and it’s just terrible to watch. Skip the love  story next time DC; you still don’t know how to write one.

Aquatic action that’s quite the underwater show

If a “most improved” ribbon could be given to any category of Aquaman, it would be the direction and action of the film. Director James Wan, famous for The Conjuring,  brings a fresh change of pace to the cinematography that is much needed  considering how stale Synder’s film style has become. The usage of  wide-shots, swinging and rotating the camera around the battle arenas  and the expert usage of color makes the movie a joy to watch. The  underwater city of Atlantis, despite giving off some heavy Star Wars: The Phantom Menace vibes,  looks lovely with all of the neon colors illuminating the oceans. The  gladiatorial combat sequence between Aquaman and Ocean Master is also a  joy to watch with its great usage of a three-dimensional underwater  space. It reminded me, strangely enough, of Final Fantasy X. The movie likely didn’t intend that, but since I love that game, it made me enjoy the movie more.

The action sequences also excel because of how well the different  shots flow together. Although its strengths are almost certainly in the  underwater fight sequences, the close-quarters combat also looks and  flows great. The sequence in the submarine that’s shown in trailers  flows particularly well, making the action feel well-paced. The main  focus of the fights are always shown clearly, which is amazing to see  after the rest of the DC mess. The only thing that can become  distracting is the CGI in these sequences, particularly the CGI hair,  but that’s mostly a nitpick and something that most people can ignore.

The ride never ends and the terrible music won’t stop

Image from IMDb

Aquaman is not a perfect movie, however, and its biggest crime is in the length. Most movies feel too long these days, but Aquaman really  pushes that limit with some incredibly rough pacing. The first half of  the movie leading into the underwater city is amazing, and had the movie  kept that tone and pacing for the rest of it, I would have been  content. Yet, once the characters start their discount Indiana Jones adventure  in the desert, the film starts to really drag. Even the fight in Italy  with Manta was unnecessarily long, since it had to cut between two  different fights going on at the same time. There was also an  unnecessary Lord of the Rings-esque big underwater battle  between two ocean kingdoms that was just a CGI slugfest. It really  shouldn’t have been in the movie, and turns what would have been a  fantastic final battle into something you just want to end.

Finally, the soundtrack must be mentioned. The original soundtrack, a  surprisingly synth-heavy superhero score, is perfectly fine and does  its job well despite being a little too bombastic at times where it  didn’t fit. The inclusion of some (pretty terrible) pop songs during the  movie, however, did a lot to hurt the experience. If you haven’t seen Aquaman,  be warned: there’s a song in the movie so hilariously terrible that I  broke down laughing and almost got thrown out of the theater. This kind  of toxic waste is exactly why the Atlantians want to destroy humanity.

Featured Image: IMDb

Images: IMDb

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