Imagine a script development meeting where everyone involved in making Aquaman sat down to solve one all-important question: “How do we make Aquaman cool?” Now imagine if the answer was, “What if we don’t?” After the DC comics cinematic universe failed to take off as confidently as Marvel’s, Aquaman seemed doomed to failure.The character is simply too silly to take seriously, and Justice League‘s attempt to jazz up a guy whose superpower is talking to fishby making him an Ed Hardy muscle bro played by Jason Momoa was one of the more excruciating elements of a terrible movie. But there was a genius move in director James Wan’s arsenal: Lean in.
There’s Dolph Lundgren riding a seahorse, and before you’re over that, there’s Nicole Kidman fighting off soldiers in bioluminescent armor with a trident — and look now, there’s an octopus playing the drums, followed by an army of crab people fighting an army of shark-riding fishmen.
Teetering on the verge of camp but never falling into ironic winking, full of visual invention on a design level, and barely slowing down even through endless expository dialogue, Aquaman is shockingly fun. Something ridiculously amusing is almost constantly happening: There’s Dolph Lundgren riding a seahorse, and before you’re over that, there’s Nicole Kidman fighting off soldiers in bioluminescent armor with a trident — and look now, there’s an octopus playing the drums, followed by an army of crab people fighting an army of shark-riding fishmen. Momoa even manages to recalibrate his character as an arrogant loner rather than a jock douchebag, even if his King of the Seven Seas spends most of the film wearing khakis with a wallet chain. Honestly, what’s not to like?
More importantly, Wan carries the whole thing off with aplomb, hurtling through endless plot nonsense by staging it alongside some delirious bit of design or by interrupting some boring speech with an explosion (a device employed at least five times). His action sequences feel loose and rambunctious rather than pre-vized, frequently unfolding in long CG-assisted takes with the camera flying from one battle to the next instead of parallel cutting (especially during a terrific chase at a hillside Italian village). Almost too much fun, Aquaman is one of the dorkiest, dumbest movies to cross screens in ages, and a total blast.