Deep dive into Aquaman

The DC cinematic universe has long been an underdog in superhero movies; while Marvel is known to produce classics, DC makes blunders. After “Justice League” was universally criticized, having a movie about “Aquaman” seemed to be digging an even deeper grave for DC. Surprisingly, however, the movie was action-packed and enjoyable to watch.

Aquaman isn’t a perfect film, but it also is not bad enough to make you regret watching it. With Jason Momoa as the titular character, I was scared that he would be trying too hard to act cool to boost Aquaman’s dull, fish communicating powers. He is a tryhard but the movie is aware of that and does not take him too seriously. Although Momoa is very likable and charismatic, his personality doesn’t feel original; the way he acts out Aquaman is very similar to both Thor and Drax the Destroyer. He’s either super serious, making a bad joke or making a good joke at the wrong time.

Although he is the villain, Black Manta, a marauder who will stop at nothing to kill Aquaman even if it involves betraying humanity, is the best character in the entire movie. At the beginning of the film, Aquaman wrongs him, which fuels a revenge arc that makes you empathize with Black Manta. However, it does not make you root for him more than the hero because he was always evil. This makes Black Manta a more complex character than most other DCU villains who most of the time  just want to take over the world. The movie would be better if Black Manta had a bigger role, but there is always room for a sequel.

The comedy falls flat sometimes, but it isn’t too awkward or distracting—sometimes there might even be a clever line. The humor is necessary, but often seems out of place. The action steals the show since Aquaman’s fight scenes are so unique. When Aquaman first encounters Black Manta, the sound design of debris being thrown at the heads of pirates is powerful and extremely satisfying. During an underwater arena battle versus the Ocean Master, shockwaves burst out from Aquaman whenever he hits or gets hit. Because of the brutal action sequences, you can truly feel the impact that other DC superheroes lack.

In fact, the action is the redeeming quality of Aquaman, as the plot can be incoherent at some points. The city of Atlantis begins the main conflict of the movie against humans due to their ocean pollution and cruelty towards wildlife; yet, when the war initiates, the Atlanteans instead fight crab people known as Brine. There is no context to who or what the Brine are, and they only exist for a battle scene Aquaman can also inexplicably survive anything, from jumping out of planes without a parachute to getting zapped by a mega laser capable of blowing up an entire island. Because of this, the stakes don’t feel high, and a good superhero movie needs high stakes to create tension and suspense. The action in Aquaman is fun to watch, but it definitely lacks a point, and it feels very disorganized. The movie uses jumpscares multiple times with a random explosion during important plot moments just to start an action sequence. For example, when Atlantean science advisor Nuidis Vulko, played by Willem Dafoe, explains the origin of Neptune’s trident, out of nowhere a grenade is dropped in the room and everyone gets thrown about. When Aquaman and his almost-girlfriend, Mera, are having a heartfelt conversation, a grenade gets popped in the room and they get knocked around.  It’s a lazy way to start a fight sequence, especially when it keeps happening.

However, the worst part of the film is undoubtedly the soundtrack. It seems fine in the first 30 minutes, but it slowly deteriorates into the worst thing ever. None of the songs are anything to write home about, and the ‘80s music (not listed in the soundtrack) is completely out of place. It would be better if the soundtrack was more consistent and stuck to one genre rather than being a salad bowl of noise.

In the end, Aquaman is the fast food of superhero movies. It’s tasty, fast and simple, but is lacking in quality. Although this movie is a step up from Justice League, it cannot compare to the leap DC made from Suicide Squad to Wonder Woman. It falls short in some parts, but Aquaman is worth a watch if you like superhero movies, even with its two and a half hour runtime, and it’d definitely be a fun watch with friends or family.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “Aquaman” a 6/10.