Saturday, January 12, 2019

Aquaman

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Escaping from an arranged marriage down under, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) is washed ashore into the arms of a mortal man. Years later she bears a son, but the ghosts of her past come back to catch up with her. Growing up without a mother, Arthur (Jason Momoa) has always despised his Atlantean heritage, which also explains his reluctance to help Mera (Amber Heard). Betrothed to his half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), she warns of an impending war between land and sea. She also believes that the only way to prevent such catastrophic event is for Arthur to retrieve legendary King Atlan’s trident and usurp the throne, but he just isn’t sold to the idea of serving a kingdom responsible for his separation with his mother. When his father’s life is put in danger, he finally comes to his senses and decides to claim his birthright, but can he really defeat an incumbent monarch who trained his whole life to be Ocean Master?

Are DC’s new films enjoyable because they are well-crafted or do they come across as decent because the movies they followed, with the clear exception of Wonder Woman, sucked? That will probably be the constant question nagging the DCEU, but what really sparked my curiosity about Aquaman is how director James Wan, best-known for his box office horror flicks, will craft an underwater world from scratch without making it look artificial and worth laughing at. In my opinion, he succeeds. The guy is a visionary.

What’s so exciting about the rendering of this underwater world is how it can become a good precedent for future films set in the depths of the ocean. The Little Mermaid? Namor the Sub-Mariner, maybe? In this regard, Aquaman sets the bar high enough, although there is still a lot to improve on in the years to come. If anything, it’s a start. As for the other plot elements, there is still a hint of DC tropes here and there, but this film shows that DC, like Marvel, is also capable of presenting something fun and presentable to watch.

The storyline is similar to Black Panther, except that the challenger to the throne is the rightful heir who needs to work his way up the royal ladder. Underdog angle, check. Aquaman has always been maligned through the decades. He can’t fly. He talks to fish. His kingdom has sharks with lasers attached to their heads. Absurd, I know, but James Wan makes it work somehow. Or maybe it’s because we are not yet tired of seeing so many onscreen iterations of Aquaman unlike Batman and Superman?

Mera makes the story more colorful, and we’re not talking about her red hair or her green costume. She can be pretty in an underwater jellyfish gown, but she can also kick your ass. In a way DC got this formula right. On one hand the nerds will still have someone to ogle. On the other hand, she also sets a good example for little girls in showing them that they can be stunning and kickass at the same time. The last thing we need is another damsel in distress. This movie, luckily, doesn’t have one.

But perhaps the really touching story here is that between Arthur’s parents. The film begins and ends with the two of them, giving the satisfaction of a love story coming full circle. Yeah sure, most of the two-hour screen time revolves around the quest for the throne, but this particular angle of the story added a poignant element to it, making the film a legit family affair that many can enjoy. In that sense, we can be forgiving. Wonder Woman was a good start. Aquaman is a reasonable follow-up. Here’s hoping that DC could perfect their template in time.

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