The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.

Reviewed by Josh Schulze.

Director James Wan
Length 143 mins
Certificate 12A
Rating *********-
Filmmaking: 4  Personal enjoyment: 5

Photo from the article

Printer friendly format [Normal view]

There are so many things to admire about James Wan’s magnificent Aquaman, from its prioritisation of moment-to-moment character beats over a broader narrative and placement within a serialised cinematic universe, to its mastery of spatial dynamics and the sense of scale in its action sequences. The film adopts an almost operatic approach to world-building and visual storytelling. The shot preceding the film’s title card, for instance, framing a young Arthur (Kaan Guldur) in front of the looming glass of an aquarium tank, as a multitude of underwater species congregate around him, is perhaps the most visually emotive and expressive composition from a superhero film in a decade.

On the playful side of things, the balancing of Jason Momoa’s often knowing and detached leading turn (one that leans precariously towards irony and self-deprecation, but reels itself in for the necessary climaxes) with the otherwise childlike and earnest approach towards having fun, is a pleasure to witness. This is perhaps most obnoxiously evident in the final kiss between Arthur and Mera (Amber Heard), during which the Trident of Atlan, firmly in Arthur’s grip and by his side, begins to rise incrementally. Any superhero film that incorporates a dick joke into its closing moments, remaining within the boundaries of its 12A BBFC rating, wins itself a place in my heart. Ironically, it is the archrivals over at Marvel that continue to produce the ‘stiff’ films, as far as this reviewer is concerned.

Let it be noted, for the troubled reader, that I am not trying to aim a dig at Marvel films - it is rather that the comparatively contained quality of Aquaman, in its relative disregard for (or, at the very least, subordination of) the ‘wider picture’ in the DC Extended Universe, effectively focuses its efforts on delivering moments that are wholly enjoyable in isolation. To pay Wan’s film a great compliment would be to say that, for the majority of its running time, I forgot that this was another entry into a serialised cinematic universe. I was too busy enjoying the myriad of pleasures and achievements of the film as I saw it, and not as I placed it in an arbitrary context.

This review was published on March 07, 2019.