‘Aquaman’ Review: Flash Gordon Under The Sea

Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa) is born of two worlds. He is the son of a fisherman and the heir to the throne of the underwater city of Atlantis. When his half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) seizes control of the nation and threatens to wage war against the surface world, Arthur must team up with Mera (Amber Heard) to discover his birthright and win back the kingdom.
Tonally, Aquaman represents another shift towards the light and playful and away from the grim dullness of the earlier Snyder films. It’s definitely a fantasy adventure movie with a globe-trotting plot involving a treasure hunt, and classical fantasy/sci-fi tropes like a forgotten land of dinosaurs and a mighty weapon guarded by a terrible beast that may only be overcome by the true king.
There are however some fairly incongruous moments, such as the playful banter scene between Arthur and Mara in the desert, complete with cartoon playful banter music. The dynamic between the two is quite good for the most part, but the more interesting aspects of their characters are given little time. For example Mara learning about the beauty of the outside world is confined to a single, admittedly very sweet, sequence.
There are themes introduced but not explored. Mankind has definately defiled the ocean, and so Orm’s scorn is justified which is never really addressed in the film. The scene in which all of mankind’s waste is returned to land feels like a triumphant moment, not one of devastation. It seems as though a wasteful human being or co-orperation might have been a worthier foe for Aquaman, as well as further invoking the evironmentally positive 80s cartoons that have clearly inspired the film’s tone.
One thing Aquaman has that DC has always struggled with (Even wonder woman) is good action. The camera is far more subdued and graceful than typical DC fair. It’s easy to see what is happening and appreciate the choreography and special effects. Although the underwater sequences often succumb to the CGI heavy, gravity disregarding nonsense that makes so many modern action sequences uninvolving, there are still many aspects of the enourmous climactic sea battle that are memorable. It recalls the big underwater battle at the end of Thunderball, but with some Flash Gordon thrown in.
The production design and special effects of Aquaman are fantastic. Atlantis is an interesting and playfully imagined place in which armoured seahorses and ridden into battle against mounted sharks. The scenes that take place underwater feel as though they are happening overwater but with a clarity that was wholly missing from the Atlantis sequences in Justice League.
Aquaman is an enjoyable if lightweight fantasy adventure that sees DC on surer footing than recent quaky experiments and represents their second wholy enjoyable film, even if it doesn’t by any means reach the heights of Wonder Woman.
Three Stars

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