The stunning visuals keep you invested before the movie gets bogged down amidst a tempest of CGI action.
With the DCEU sinking deeper and deeper, the onus was on James Wan’s Aquaman to keep it afloat. The movie does start on a promising note with some eye-popping spectacle. After a lengthy prologue laced with exposition, the action kicks in when Aquaman torpedoes into a submarine. Some of the action sequences are decidedly corny and Bollywood-ish, but it’s still fun watching the beefed-up Jason Momoa kick some ass.
Once the backstory is laid out, the movie largely plays out like a video game, with action sequences interjected by plot lines resembling cutscenes. The second act is very much like a chapter from Unchartered, with Arthur and Mera embarking on a quest across the Sahara Desert to find a long-lost trident. It’s a long arduous journey fraught with National Treasure-style puzzles, murderous goons, and English-speaking sea monsters.
While Arthur and Mera are busy playing Unchartered, Arthur’s half-brother and principal antagonist, King Orm has a parallel quest of his own. Before he can declare war on the surface dwellers, he needs to unite the various tribes. The movie skips back and forth, and by the time Orm has reached the last tribe and Aquaman has fought his way out for the umpteenth time, you find your interest finally start to sag. When the last 30 minutes becomes one huge CGI extravaganza of more battles, you stop caring about who is fighting whom.
In comparison with the other DCEU movies, Aquaman takes a rather respectable second position behind Wonder Woman. Aquaman continues the trend of DCEU movies moving away from the Zack Snyder template of dark and brooding superhero movies. While my earlier beef with DC was that it had tried to cram in as many superheroes (and supervillains) into team-up movies without any aforethought, the issue here is that there is barely any hint that Aquaman is part of the Justice League, let alone a part of a much larger extended universe.
The stunning visuals and the charismatic leads do enough to keep you invested in the movie until the final act before it gets bogged down amidst a tempest of CGI action. In the end, Aquaman ends up being so trippy that it trips over itself.