DC finally released a movie from their universe which isn’t terrible. All of the DC movies up until Aquaman have suffered from a terrible third act where they shifted genre and became a horrible homunculus. Aquaman is the first story the actually sticks the landing and remains consistent the entire way through the film.
I realise that is a very harsh way to talk about a film that I enjoyed, but DC just hasn’t built a track record that meant I walked into this film with high hopes.
The movie not only delivers on the low expectation that I had but also shows that DC can write a good movie.
I try to review stories from the perspective of how well they fit into their genre, rather than how artistic or shiny they might be. I hated growing up watching critics on the ABC tell me that a film was a masterpiece because it was an entirely black and white French film that only played whalesong while downplaying the latest popcorn flick because it wasn’t highbrow enough. If a film is exactly what it’s trying to be, then I think it’s a good film; and if it’s also more than what it’s trying to be, then I think it’s a great film.
Aquaman is definitely a good film. It is trying to be an action story with a maturation subplot. Arthur Curry must become worthy to crowned King; so that his half brother Orrin doesn’t lead Atlantis’ armies (or should that be navies?) on an attack against the surface world.
Where the film really shines is where it solves the plot question in an unexpected, but inevitable, way. In the traditional superhero story, we expect Arthur to prove his worthiness, usually by showing his indelible character. However, the climax concludes with Arthur showing that he is worthy not because of his character, but in spite of it. He’s made mistakes before, and he knows that he will make mistakes in the future, but he’s willing to learn from his mistakes. It’s not his blood rite that makes him worthy, but his doubt that he can do the right thing that makes him worthy. Which stands in stark opposition the Orrin, who believes unwaveringly that he is doing the right thing; no matter how many people he hurts in the pursuit of his righteous goal.
The only negative that I noticed is that Mira’s motivations are never expressed to the audience. She has a righteous goal to protect her people from needless war, but her motivations are never made clear. We can assume that this happens off-screen, but the film would be improved by a scene that shows that Mira knows that Orrin is morally bankrupt, leading her to seek out Arthur to protect Atlantis. Honestly, it is a tiny concern from such a well put together film.
Aquaman is a great film and you show definitely see it at the cinema.
Now that DC has shown that it can make a good film, it just has to show that it wasn’t a fluke.