I went to see Aquaman last night with some friends, and it was pretty fun. Maybe it’s because I went into it with exceedingly low expectations, but it feels like maybe DC is finally getting their film act together.
Granted, the storytelling is crude, and the levels of pulpy contrivance and cheesy dialogue reminded me of The Mummy — i.e., recognizably dumb, but not so dumb that it ruined the viewing experience. Momoa has really grown as an actor and manages to exude a decent amount of charisma, and Kidman and Dafoe bring their heavy chops to bear. Unfortunately, I found Heard about as compelling as a hatrack, but she still manages to be a decent heroine.
But, really, the big draw here is the visuals. Unlike most other DC films, Aquaman is not endlessly drab — there’s even a whole fight scene shot in bright daylight! All of the underwater sequences are gorgeous, with beautiful world and character design. The big battle sequence at the end, for me, made everything in every Star Wars movie look like Plan 9 from Outer Space.
And, best of all, the film actually makes Aquaman look cool. I mean, after decades of “talk to the fishies” jokes, this film makes that power look so goddamn epic that you’ll never mock Aquaman again.
The only thing I will say felt outright dumb to me was Black Manta. He starts out as a decent cliche, but then in the second half of the film, he gets ridiculous. He’s given a cache of advanced Atlantean weaponry and a time-sensitive mission to go after Aquaman, but instead of doing that he has to head to his secret lair, paint all of it black, and assemble it into power armor with a GIANT BOBBLEHEAD OF LASER DOOM that looks so ridiculous that I basically wrote him off. It’s like someone dropped an extra from Spectraman into the middle of the film.
Anyway, while this is still not even in the ballpark of the MCU, it’s a solid popcorn flick. I was pleasantly surprised.