Jan 1, 2019
Welcome to Year Two! Exactly one year ago I posted the first of what would become 365 daily movie reviews, an extension of the former #DLMChallenge to watch 365 movies in 365 days. Over that time, our listenership has grown steadily, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of collaborators to create their own short reviews. Today begins Year Two, and will bring with it a number of important changes to the podcast, including bringing on some of the guests from last year for their own regular movie reviews. The biggest change, however, is that all reviews will be spoiler-free going forward, if they’ve been released in the past three years. We’ll still warn you if we do, but the default will be no spoilers, including today’s film. So, this year, if you haven’t yet, head over to onemoviepunch.com and subscribe to the daily podcast, then follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for all the latest as it debuts. We’re looking forward to this year as much as you are!
Today’s movie is “Aquaman” (2018), the latest DCEU installment directed by James Wan and written for the screen by Will Beall and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, based on a story developed by James Wan, Will Beall, and Geoff Johns, and the characters created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris. The film follows the past, present, and future of Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), as he is called back to Atlantis in the wake of the events from “Justice League”, with the hope of deposing his half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) before he can unite the ocean kingdoms to bring war to the surface-dwellers.
The DC Extended Universe has been struggling since the critical flop of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, which also drew the ire of a number of fans, not a few of which reside in the murky recesses of toxic fandom. One day, the events behind the scenes at Warner Bros will make a great documentary, from the bizarre and extensive reworking of the DCEU in the wake of “Dawn of Justice”, to the tragic tale of Zack Snyder’s departure and its effect on the direction of the franchise. Despite having the greatest Batman fight scene ever produced, and the introduction of a very well-depicted Wonder Woman, the film felt like a mockbuster version of the polished and nearly perfected Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of the three films between “Dawn of Justice” and “Aquaman”, “Suicide Squad” was another critical flop, “Wonder Woman” was really quite good, and “Justice League” was all right in my book. And whatever the critics and viewers might be saying, the films continue to gross well at the box office, with “Aquaman” on track to reach $1 billion (with a B), which will make it another financial success. So, despite what any critics or viewers might say, we’re going to get more of these films, and with it, wave after wave (no pun intended) of pre- and post-criticism, some of which is quite valid, others that are just more garbage hot takes from folks looking for attention. And while today’s film could be better, if we’re going to get more DCEU films, I will take “Aquaman” over most of the rest of the canon.
“Aquaman” (2018) is the first of another creative reboot of the franchise, coming out about a year after “Justice League”. James Wan was a welcome and surprising choice, given his filmography, but not his natural talent behind a camera. I could really see a different influence on the entire film, casting off most of the dark and gritty, fairly pretentious messaging of the previous franchise for a more humorous, straightforward storytelling approach. Aquaman, as a character, does have his loyal fans, but has also been the butt of many superhero jokes over the years. Casting Jason Momoa, probably the sexiest man to ever walk the face of the planet, helps a lot, especially with his natural charisma, bad boy attitude, and superhero physique. I liked his debut in “Justice League”, even when the story and effects weren’t up to the same level. He’s also a safe bet for the box office, especially after “Game of Thrones”, even though I’ve been a fan since his role on “Stargate: Atlantis”. He even makes the power to talk to the ocean creatures look badass. Once we can take Aquaman seriously as a character, then we can take the extensive dive into the Aquaman canon seriously as well, including not just his origin story, but also the rich, complex history of the seven kingdoms, and with that, the potential to tell some of the larger stories within the DC Universe, like Flashpoint or Injustice. The special effects are top notch, bringing the seven kingdoms to life, and simulating some pretty great underwater fights and battles. It’s a huge success for this creative reboot, but it also comes with some noticeable, if forgivable flaws.
The major weak point for the film is the script, which seems to be the source of most criticism. “Aquaman” has too much story for an initial film, giving the impression the franchise is still trying to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although the 2h23m running time didn’t feel excessive at all. I really enjoyed the inclusion of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), especially the origin of the comically large helmet, but his inclusion in the film took away from the larger story. I would have preferred a subtler inclusion, as with Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), even though the fight scene between Black Manta and Aquaman is great. The dialogue could use a lot of work, often used as the major conduit for injecting humor, even when some scenes may not have needed it. I also really wish the film stuck with the awesome score used for Atlantis throughout the film rather than trying to inject or create songs that feel made for selling soundtracks, no matter how appropriate they might be for an individual scene. The soundtrack feels like a decision made by a committee, not really designed for telling the best story, but for making the most money, and without the creator-driven and story-embedded genius of James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
“Aquaman” (2018) is a strong entry into the DC Extended Universe, successfully integrating a long-dismissed character as a core part of the expanding film universe. James Wan breathes fresh air into a critically struggling franchise, with a strong assist from Jason Momoa and a high profile supporting cast. Anyone wondering if there’s hope for the DCEU should definitely check out this film, and especially any fans of Aquaman, new or old.
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
One Movie Punch: 7.6/10
“Aquaman” (2018) is rated PG-13 and is currently playing in theaters.