As a great fan of comic books (especially of DC Comics) there has been one “must see” for me: Aquaman

I believe, that there are too many comic book-based films in cinema around the last few years. I do not count Christopher Nolans Dark Knight trilogy. Based on comic books too those movies were different. They told a story. I’m talking mainly of those action-packed Marvel Films and of the not less action-packed attempt of DC to put their own universe onto the big screen. It’s quite a lot and it doesn’t stopp. Actually, I think, it’s enough.

Still I had to see “Aquaman”. I had some expectations of course. Aquaman is a DC character and the one thing DC does better than Marvel – in my opinion – are the characters. Still I expected not too much. A colleague of mine and I agreed in advance, that Aquaman is mainly “pop corn cinema”. And… That’s what it is.

Short story told long

Arthur Curry son of an Atlantean queen and a simple mortal man grows up without his mom, ‘cause the Atlantean queen must return to her underwater realm for the son’s and the husband’s sake. Later after the events of “Justice League” and the defeat of Steppenwolf Arthur becomes a hero and must ascend to the Atlantean throne. Against his will but for both the underwater realm’s and humanity’s sake.

Aquaman succeeds of course. And yes, he finds his mother in the end. What else? It’s Hollywood and it’s a comic book. Such had to be expected. Hollywood always works the same way.

Still the movie runs nearly 2 ½ hours. Quite a long time for a “standard story” but it took a long time ‘til the true story began. First the protagonist had to tell the world how his dad met his mother. He had to rescue the crew of a captured submarine after lifting it with bare hands to the surface (please don’t ask, when Aquaman had emptied the ballast tanks of the submarines so that it could float on the surface) and have a drink or two with his father (and some wild selfies with some guys). And meanwhile Aquaman’s half-brother Orm, acting king of Atlantis, rages war against the surface.

I cannot let “Aquaman” go without some critical words, because the beginning had been a bit to fast paced for my taste, made of a lot of short scenes. To me it could have been even Fast and Furious or something like that. It might be director James Wan’s (Fast & Furious 7) own hand, the same problem I had with Star Trek Beyond, which had also been directed by a Fast and Furious director – Justin Lin. The beginning had been a quite long story put into a to short time but not told in short. Less would have been more.

I tend to compare movies. Especially I tend to compare movies that are connected. In the case of “Aquaman” one of the movies I am comparing is “Man of Steel”. The thing the Superman movie had made better was the origin story told in flashbacks. By this the actual story moved through the whole movie just interrupted by a few memories of Kal El. And those flashbacks gave the audience some time to breath. In “Aquaman” one had to watch on to catch what might be important for the later half of the film. Telling the past in flashbacks could have given more time for Orm and to tell the story of some side characters like Vulko, an important person in the Aquaman universe being the chief science advisory to the throne of Atlantis.

Speaking of characters with too little time in the story brings me to another important character, who were disturbingly short of it: Black Manta, Aquaman’s nemesis. His origin had been told and he had one small moment in the movie battling the hero one time then apparently dying. I would have wanted a bit more of him. But maybe this will be the story for “Aquaman 2”.

But finally, there came the other half of the tale, the search for King Atlan’s Trident. Still action packed the story had been slowed down a bit, had been a bit easier to follow, became a mixture of Indiana Jones, Conan the Barbarian and the Arthurian tale. Leaves a question to me: Is it coincidence, that Aquaman’s name is Arthur Curry? Is it just coincidence, that the one man worthy to wield a legendary weapon, is named after the king of Camelot? No, please don’t answer! I know it is told but I don’t want to spoil anything. Or have I already done so?

Anyway, the second half of the movie is a straight told story, a journey with not too many stations. Like Indiana Jones Aquaman and his red-haired companion Mera unveil the secret where the Trident is to be found. Like Conan the ongoing king battles first Black Manta, then monsters and finally his half-brother. And like King Arthur he finally gets into possession of the legendary weapon which identifies him as the rightful king and lets him command his army and gives him the victory over his enemy. This part as light as it told and played builds up a suspense that grows and grows until it discharges in the finale of the film.

So both parts of the movie make one whole thing that works well. The flaws of the beginning are literally wiped away by the end. Plot holes don’t really matter in that case. And if you stop thinking too much, you won’t ask, why the submarine is able to work properly after the hero had literally ripped out the hatch to enter the craft.

Well played and not so well “unaged”

Comic books are no easy thing to be put into a movie. A book always challenges the readers fantasy about the look of things and persons. Comic books give us images. We know how people and things look and the makers of the movie have to match them.

Well, the movie’s Aquaman is different to the comic books. He isn’t blond, and he is more serious. But it does him good and Jason Momoa finds exactly the right mix of grumpiness, seriousness and humour. And heroism. There have been only a few actors with his masculinity in the last years. In this DC is a point ahead of Marvel. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor comes close but is no match to Aquaman. Temuera Morrison is a match. But this is no wonder. His figure in “Aquaman” is Arthur Curry’s father.

Another remarkable actor of the movie is Willem Dafoe. As short as his screen time is, he is carrying the weight of his part of the story well. He’s not the great warrior but the wiseman and he doesn’t just play him. His Vulko is believable dedicated to the throne, to his task and to Arthur. I wish he had more time onscreen and his part had been bigger.

But this is all the remarkable acting. Nobody had been bad, everybody played well but not ready for the Academy Awards. Just one thing had been disturbing: the “young” Nicole Kidman

Of course, Mrs. Kidman is no young princess in her twenties anymore. The problem is the way, the makers made her younger. It wasn’t a mask, it was CGI. Such CGI didn’t work in “Tron Legacy” and it didn’t work here, though it had looked better than with Jeff Bridges.

But the “unaging” of Mrs. Kidman had been the worst special effect, for it had been too visible. All the rest, be it the underwater realm of Atlantis, be it the creatures, be it the fact, that the voices underwater were distorted in a way, I would expect in reality, was great. There were no visible effects that seamed unrealistic. At least not in the context of the story.

And the conclusion…

“Aquaman” is obviously no high art cinema. But it’s clearly worth to be watched.

You should, as I already said, not think too much. There are holes and flaws and some illogical things (Did I mention the submarine issue?). The best way to watch “Aquaman” is to take an XXL bucket of popcorn, lean back and let it flow.

Beside that “Aquaman” is a movie for the women. At least my female colleagues enjoyed Jason Momoa’s body. So, my fellow men, take your wives or girl friends and have a fun at the cinema! You’ll have some good action to watch and your girlfriend/betrothed/wife… Well… You know.

Action:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Visual:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Fun:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Average:4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

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