Home is calling.
Ah, the half man who talks to fish that I have never cared about - which is honestly something I can say for a lot of superheros in all honesty. Oddly enough, this one I heard nothing but good things about - which struck me as odd, because the trailer told me this was gonna be a CG fest, and some of these good tidings were coming from people that usually crap on CG. Although rave reviews for something that one would have expected to sink like a rock are pretty impressive, the lightness of my wallet always keeps my movie-going attention in the aftermarket deals. Now that the fish is swimming in the ocean of cheaper costs, it’s about time the tide comes in for my viewership so I can find out how much I hate myself for deciding to watch a two and a half hour long superhero movie the weekend before I go and watch and even longer super hero movie. Splish splash I was watching an Aquaman.
So it’s a long story, and I bet you that you can take a wild guess why. Yes, it’s because it’s an origin story and a movie with lots of traveling. It’s like the double whammy of “get on with it!” with at least half of it giving you something majestic to look at while the other is trying to progress. For the most part, the movie never feels to grind the brakes until they don’t exist and the pacing suddenly has to gain pace until the wheels start falling off as it hurtles down the hill at lightspeed without an ability to slow. When it does start feeling a bit rough, it’s largely because it seems to be restating something - particularly something we already know because it’s stated it before. It can still be an enjoyable scene to see or watch, but all those little moments add up to that long run time that might make you second guess watching it in the first place - not that we don’t have these over-two movies ever so prominent at this point that most probably aren’t as much a grumpy old man about it as I. The plot itself is a lot of what you’d expect - a perhaps reluctant hero who has to do a heroic thing to save us all, with some glimpses into the past to show us how they got there before we hit the climactic head of knowing that they will probably win because they are the hero and all.
As a vehicle to the scenes, it works great. There really isn’t any thought of “why are these characters where they are” as the plot dictation lays it’s train tracks in very obvious ways and urges you to keep limbs inside the ride at all times regardless of you throwing your hands above your head and yelling “Wheee!” Hero gets his hand forced to do what needs to be done through looming danger, and each point connects from there in a typical adventure-quest way. While that’s going on, bad guys amass their forces by also going from A to B to C, picking up forces through “diplomatic” options as they go along. At a few junctions, the adventure and the power quest step on each others feet and the two get into a fist fight over whose better and right, until they can go their own ways again. At the end, the two end up dragging the entire bar into the scuffle, and the bartender is sitting back enjoying the show hoping that someones going to pay for the damages. That’s all, if you couldn’t guess, an analogy of what’s actually happening with the plot, not what actually happens in the plot and it’s pacing - just to make sure that’s clear.
The characters within the train ride are fun. It’s hard to necessarily say there is a ton of depth to the nautical screen gracers, but they do have a few threads across them that could be called arcs as long as you aren’t expecting these complete character upheavals. Our lead has a commanding presence despite his comical actions, and those in turn help him feel much more endearing to the watcher as it’s far more entertaining than it could have been had he played it all stoic. His sidekick kicks as much butt as he does, but also ends up being the entire brains of the operation when it comes to the adventure side of the movie. Both end up playing into the fish out of water roles as the movie sees fit. On the opposing side of the fence, our main villain is very single minded in his role, never quite feeling like he steps out of the shallow water of eventual dictator even when he has a point to some of what he says. The sub-boss below him, on the other hand, almost feels like he has more to him given a more personal feeling interaction with our hero at the start, but learns a lot less from his interactions than the main villain does. Side characters fill plenty of voids as they see fit, from mentor to family to just endearing moments fodder for the main cast.
The actors do a pretty good job with what they have. Now and then you might get a subpar line delivery - or perhaps it was just some less than stellar ADR or something, I really can’t say for sure, but it’s by and large good enough for enjoyment. Some of it is somewhat strange, given the underwater nature of a lot of the movie, there is a lot of floating and swapping between real and not that could make a person have a hard time of following what their minds are trying to make sense off - not because it’s particularly difficult to follow the movie, but perhaps more so the body acting and it’s effects on conveyance. Largely, no lines are found lacking in audibility however, even with a few of the more voice-changer moments or action heavy bits. Even if there are moments that might not feel as awesomely delivered as you might want from some of the characters, the movie shot around them still will make it endearing, exciting, or funny as it sees fit, picking up any slack that might be given. All of that, of course, is when any slack is being given between the actors flapping them jaws with some impressive merit.
Audio in general is pretty well done, but there are a few questionable moments. Is it my sound system? Is it the mixing? I don’t know. There’s a scene early on with a tidal wave crashing towards a truck the hero is driving, and he just rocks that pedal to the floor - but there’s no audio from the vehicle at all, just music and a little bit of wave sound. I’m not sure if it was going for dramatic effect or, like alluded to, perhaps it was left from the final mix or just dropped from my audio device (which would be equally weird). It’s really the only moment that it happens to a noticeable extent to me, but it’s certainly worth pointing out. Musically, there’s a lot of fun here if you like that retro throwback soundtrack that’s been going on ever since Stranger Things got big - which I do, so that’s cool. Beyond that, DC movies tend to do very well with having noticeable themes, and despite nothing ever quite getting stuck in my head as much as that Wonder Woman theme, I do notice a couple of character themes popping up throughout the run time of the movie. It also has a few whimsical sounds mixed in there now and then again, which invoked a bit of a Fifth Element vibe for me - and I can’t complain about that because I love that movie. I guess having some adventure movie in you really helps to let you play around with the music - but the battles and all their laser sound effects certainly tie nicely with that retro track selection as well, and is balanced pretty nicely.
Of course, the other big kraken in the sea - the visual effects. This thing looks good through and through. There are moments where it’s pretty obvious things are CG, or that stuff is getting juiced up by machines, or that there’s an obvious green screen getting chroma’d out. For all of the instances though, the most grievous thing I witnessed was the beginning movies de-aging on the father character that made his face feel a bit like a mask to me - or perhaps it was applications or just something about makeup or how it was lit, I wasn’t around for the making off it so I wouldn’t know for sure. All I know is that I kept going “why does this man’s face look fake?” - only later to just not care about anything “picking” because I was having fun. The people who said “it’s like watching a Saturday morning cartoon” really weren’t far off when talking about the movie, especially the bigger battle scenes. Colors are all over the place, plenty of artistically done variations on mechanical sea life for ships as well as aquatic armors for person and fish alike - and the actual creatures and fish and sets themselves. The thing is all the right things for the eyeballs of someone wanting a fun action adventure, and at one point there’s this beautiful side-shot of the characters diving down and racing away from hordes of creatures with a flare, and it’s quite striking. If I had to pick a strong point to the movie, the effects and the scenes that most showcase them would certainly be it for me hands down.
I’m not sure why this movie needed to be as long as it was, and surely I could cut a bunch of scenes to trim it if I had to although it would unfortunately skim a lot of my favorite stuff - the beautiful effects work and cinematography that goes with it. If spending the time doesn’t bother you, and action adventures are totally your thing, I’d be hard pressed to find a reason for you to not go out and check this one out. If it seems like it’s a bit long in the tooth, it still could be worth watching because of the entertainment value given within. I enjoyed mostly everything the movie had to offer in all honesty, and I have no connections to (nor do I honestly care any more for) the character of Aquaman - so perhaps this is one that I should think about pursuing as either a 3D or 4K purchase down the line - I might just do a bit more skipping around than on the first viewing.