Mon | Mar 25, 2019

'Aquaman' - 'Black Panther' without substance, 'Thor' without impact

Published:Monday | December 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
Jason Momoa as Aquaman, a half-Atlantean/half-human who is reluctant to be king of the undersea nation of Atlantis.
Aquaman in his element.
Jason Momoa (left) and Amber Heard in a scene from ‘Aquaman’.
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I've never been more exhausted by a film in my life. To say that Aquaman was a labour of love would be incredulous. Laborious as it may be, there is little love for Aquaman, although it is not a film that is without its charms. In fact, Aquaman, for all its faults, has some very bright spots among its vast sea of disappointment. Particularly, the action in the film has some very well-done choreography, and it's a bright, colourful film. These are the highs of the roller coaster that is Aquaman. Most everything else - the acting, storytelling, and dialogue - are the very long lows.

 

DONE BEFORE

 

If nothing else, Aquaman simply feels like a film that's been seen before and done better - this year, in fact. It presents a highly advanced city hidden from the rest of the world in which two half-siblings must fight a one-on-one duel for a chance to rule. One would seek out war, the other would unite the kingdoms of the sea. Swap out a few locations and names and you have the basic premise of 2018's Black Panther, but without the nuanced storytelling and deftly handled themes that made that film so exceptional.

Then, of course, there is Aquaman himself. A party boy who loves a good fight, but has no respect for the traditions of his people and is reluctant to claim the throne. His half-brother, the maniacal king Orm, covets the throne, but would use it to bring his people to destruction. Anyone paying attention can see obvious similarities to the Thor films, but without the sense of self-awareness that made those films so enjoyable.

So where does this leave Aquaman? It's not the greatest superhero film, but it's not the worst, and everything it has to offer has been done better. Not to mention, at two hours and 23 minutes, the film more than wears out its welcome by the halfway point. You're constantly fed expositional dialogue about the history of Atlantis, the power of some mystical artefact and several other important elements of the plot, which the film conveys without a hint of subtlety or cleverness.

The action is superb and the look of the film is unique and interesting. The film is severely silly and it's an experience just to get a taste of how weird it is. Even if the film doesn't seem to grasp its own ridiculousness.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.