Aquaman Review

Director: James Wan

Cast: Jason Mamoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren, Patrick Wilson, Temuera Morrison

Runtime: 2hrs 23min Rated PG-13

Release date 12/21/18

Watch the trailer

As a card carrying DC fanboy, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Aquaman, hopeful that it would be a home run for my favorite comic publishing house. The DC cinematic universe has been on shaky ground basically since it first began with Man of Steel in 2013. I have honestly enjoyed most of the films released, but Warner Bros just hasn’t been able to capture the hearts of the masses in a way that comes close to competing with Marvel.


Now, multiple rumors and reports that the studio may have officially killed the cinematic universe in its present form have left the future in question. Unfortunately, it seems like Warner Bros wants to continue making solo films, but is reluctant to make any promises towards continuing a shared universe of any kind for the time being.

However a big reason I was hopeful for Aquaman was the movie has had a lot of positive buzz from early screenings. If nothing else mobs of drooling women looking to stare at a shirtless Jason Mamoa for 2 hrs will hopefully help drive the box office numbers up. I don’t blame them at all…I get it. He’s dreamy…whatever.

Hopefully though, if the studio can get a couple wins under their belt like Wonder Woman, maybe they’ll put another Justice League movie back on the table down the road. They just desperately need a solid plan, take their time, and stick with it.

I got a chance to see the film about a week early, thanks to my incredible pregnant wife who saw the tickets go on sale through an Amazon Prime deal in the middle of the night while she couldn’t sleep. Yes, she is one of those drooling women I just mentioned, but I like to tell myself she bought the tickets thinking of me as well .

What you should know before watching Aquaman.

How the overall public will react to the movie remains to be seen, but I really had a fun time and enjoyed the heck out of Aquaman. It’s not a perfect film, but it is an entertaining over the top, fantasy adventure epic that is a worthy counterpart to 2017’s Wonder Woman.

I’ve seen people online trying to rank or compare these two solo films and now having seen both I don’t think that’s necessarily fair. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are polar opposite films that will resonate with people differently, depending on what they are looking for in a movie. I put them on equal footing; each for their own charm they bring. I will say though that I definitely had more fun watching Aquaman than I did Justice League.


To make sure you go into Aquaman with the proper mindset, make sure to check reality at the theater door. This movie is pure escapism with ancient under water civilizations and creatures who do fantastic things. I know that may be obvious from the trailer, but movie goers are used to Marvel heavily grounding most of their heroes in reality to make them relatable to the average Joe. DC usually takes the opposite approach and Aquaman is prime example.

This feels more like a comic book story with all the stereotypical comic book troupes you can imagine. That isn’t a bad thing; because frankly I don’t want all of my superhero movies to be exactly the same. Sometimes I want to watch a superhero figure out how he’s going to juggle paying his bills and fighting crime, but other times I’m just in the mood to watch Khal Drogo ride a giant seahorse into battle and kick some underwater ass.

While there are still some noticeable differences, Warner Bros has definitively changed the tone of their superhero films since Batman v. Superman, inching as close as possible to the lighthearted Marvel brand. Aquaman feels even lighter in tone than Justice League but still maintains a good balance of dramatic and comedic moments that I think more people will respond positively to.

Mamoa’s Arthur is quite different from the comics; with a personality closer to a surfer, bar hopping, biker bro than a royal king of the seven seas. He also has several one liners that are somewhat reminiscent of a Schwarzenegger movie; most are corny or only funny because of how lame they are such as the “permission to come aboard?” line from the trailer. That line has to win the award for most shameless double entendre in a comic book film.


Many of the film’s dramatic moments work but some are pushed so far over the top that I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness. For example, you can tell that director James Wan really likes to use slow motion; it is used entirely too much throughout the movie. Often times you can tell the movie is trying to use slow motion to make a particular shot more dramatic, but it only succeeds in making it so ridiculously campy that you can’t help but laugh.

Another minor issue is the pacing of the movie and how it incorporates some of the flashback scenes near the beginning is a bit jarring. It’s a bit confusing how Arthur is trained by  Willem Dafoe’s character when he’s clearly not allowed to have contact with Atlantis. Eventually enough scenes go by where you finally piece together that he’s been sneaking to the surface to train Arthur, but it’s just poorly communicated.

The sights and sounds of Aquaman.

Visually, the movie looks incredible and reminds me of an underwater version of Avatar in many ways. Colors are bright and varied and your eyes constantly roam the screen trying to take in all the details. Yes, the movie is about 90% CGI, which may be a turnoff to some, but it’s done well and there’s honestly just no way to do this type of movie with practical effects.

The most interesting visual elements are seeing how underwater animals have been adapted into mounts for the different armies to ride. It was an interesting mix of traditional animals such as seahorses and sharks along with more fictional creatures.

One effect that is slightly annoying is whenever someone talks underwater; the voice has a sort of muffled, distorted sound. I get why they did it, and hearing it sounds cool in theory, but it also made it hard to catch what people are saying at times. This is especially true for Patrick Wilson’s Ocean Master who has the most Shakespearean lines out of anyone by far. I can appreciate the “realism” of what talking underwater sounds like but in a movie that takes so many liberties with reality I don’t think it was necessary or maybe could have had a little less of a distortion.

The movie does a decent job “de-aging” a few of the characters for flashback scenes. I think Marvel has done a slightly better job using the technology, but it’s still very believable here.

The fight scenes look great and are convincing, especially the minimal CGI fights that take place on land. The movie does a great job of mixing CGI with practical that makes for some great visuals you might see in a video game or comic book. I also enjoyed how many of the scenes zoom out and pan around to let you see all the action in a single shot. There’s some particular scenes in Italy that come to mind that were really fun to watch.

I was pleasantly surprised at how comic book accurate the costumes were in the movie, especially Black Manta. That guy has a gigantic helmet in the comics and it’s spot on here. The movie hilariously tries to hint at a plausible reason as to why the helmet is so big, however the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. It doesn’t matter the reason though; I’m glad they kept the designs as faithful to the comics as they did. Hinted in the trailer, we also get to see Aquaman’s traditional orange and green armor towards the end and it looks fantastic. I’m sure they will change it, but I’d be happy if he kept this look for future films.

Check out pics of the costumes on screen vs how they look in the comics:











The music score throughout the movie was excellent and paired well with the scenes. However, there’s a couple times where artist recorded songs are mixed in, such as a weird version of Toto’s Africa by Pitbull and it just comes across as silly and forced. You can tell these songs are only in the movie because they were required to be fit in somewhere.

Casting

The casting choices were all excellent. I can’t think of anyone that felt out of place or stands out as a poor choice. The only performance that was borderline for me was Yahya Abdul-Mateen as Black Manta. It wasn’t a horrible performance, he was just playing a very 1 dimensional comic book villian who did comic book villain things. His killer Black Manta suit though more than makes up for it though.

Jason Mamoa is without a doubt the best choice to play Arthur and exactly what the character needed to go from the most “useless” Justice League member to a bad ass warrior king.

I liked Amber Heard’s performance as Mera. She looks spot on with the comics as already mentioned; the only slight negative is her red hair is very obviously a wig; it could have been done better. I can get past that though (wink wink). Dolph Lundgren also did a great job as Mera’s dad, King Nereus.

Patrick Wilson carried himself well as the dick step brother villian Ocean Master and Nicole Kidman was a nice surprise as Arthur’s mom Queen Atlanna.

On a side note, it’s funny to me how many times in Marvel movies the villains don’t go by their comic book names or don’t really talk about it. However 9 times out of 10 in a DC movie you can bet the villain is going to tell you their name: “Now I’m (dramatic pause) BLACK MANTA” or “call me (more dramatic pause) OCEAN MASTER.” The only thing missing in these moments is the dramatic music afterwards “dun dun DUUUN.” I think it’s ridiculous and corny and I love it.

The after credits scene is “meh.”

There is one mid credits scene, and while it does hint at the possibility of a sequel, there is absolutely no mention of anyone outside of Aquaman’s story. Actually, the only mention to anything in the entire movie is a quick mention of Steppenwolf at the beginning of the film.

The credits scene is fine and I won’t spoil it but it’s difficult not to be disappointed that they wasted such a great opportunity to further tease the “Legion of Doom” angle we saw at the end of Justice League. I really wanted to see something along the lines of Lex Luthor and Deathstroke meeting Black Manta and welcoming him into the fold.

Having the individual villains of each Justice League member slowly band together to form their own league over the course of multiple solo movies is not only a fantastic idea, it’s also one of the few plot ideas Marvel hasn’t brought to their cinematic universe yet and would give them the edge they’ve been looking for. It’s honestly further proof the Warner Bros execs have no idea what they are doing with the DC brand and are sadly still trying to piece together a game plan.

Final Verdict

Aquaman is a flawed but entertaining superhero fantasy adventure. This is a visually stunning popcorn movie where you can enjoy the ride as long as you take it for what it is and not over analyze its flaws. Most notably are the times the movie takes itself so seriously it crosses over into unitentional comedy. At the end of the day, this is a fun comic book movie that Warner Bros will hopefully be able to count as a successful step to getting the DC cinematic Universe back on its feet.


Cinematic Quality: 3.5 out of 5

Fun Factor: 4.5 out of 5

Worth the price of admission: 3.5 out of 5

Re-watch Value: 4 out of 5

Overall Score: 3.8 Aqua-bro’s out of 5



Justice League Poster Now Includes Superman

Remember that cool Justice League poster that was inspired by the work of iconic artist Alex Ross?

Well it was updated today on the movie’s Facebook and Twitter page, along with the official website…and Henry Cavill’s Superman is finally included:

Damn, this looks good. I understand the reasoning behind why they didn’t publicize Superman is in the movie, but that was a huge mistake. It’s not the Justice League without Superman and re-releasing the poster nails that point home.

As I said in my review, you should definitely go see Justice League in the theater. It’s a fantastic and historic movie, bringing the members of the JL together for the first time on screen.

And in case you were wondering, here is the artwork that the studio drew it’s inspiration from. Alex Ross is without a doubt one of my favorite artists. You should check out his other work if you haven’t heard of him.

Justice League Review

Directed by: Zach Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, J. K. Simmons

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

Justice League is now out, and while it does have a few issues, including a rushed story, those issues don’t prevent the movie from being a fun and enjoyable superhero flick. It also does a good job of injecting humor without harming the overall gravity of the story.

While I seem to be in the minority with this opinion, that was Thor: Ragnarock’s biggest weakness: it force-fed so much slap stick comedy that all of the darker elements of the story lost their weight. I was worried that Justice League would try to do the same thing in order to mimic the current trend in Marvel movies and it is a relief they did not.

The Critics got it wrong

Critics are currently having a grand time bashing the movie. Many have been quick to point out how low the Rotten Tomatoes critc score is sitting. However, one thing that is being conveniently overlooked is the audience score:

jl While these numbers are only valid to a certain extent, it shows that overall, movie goers are enjoying the movie, which is a huge win for the DCEU. The audience score for BvS is only 63%. Hopefully, ticket sales will hit close enough to the mark to keep the franchise moving along, as Justice League shows us that there are some great things in store for the DCEU. Right now its on track to hit well below expectations for opening weekend. It will be interesting to see how the movie performs over the next few weeks as more people see the movie and word of mouth, good or bad, spreads. Regardless of how you feel after watching, this is a historic movie that sees DC’s greatest champions come together for the first time on screen.

The story is fairly simple (which isn’t a bad thing): Steppenwolf, one of the New Gods, has come to Earth looking to do something evil. Batman get’s wind of his arrival and realizes he needs to assemble a team to stop him. That’s pretty much it. However, in the studio’s frantic effort to do things differently than the last movie, they hinder Justice League with abridged storytelling to fit a pre-set runtime. The film would have benefitted from more explanation of Steppenwolf: his background, and what his motivations are. We get what we have to have for the story at hand, but unless you’ve read the comics, some of the gravity is lost. More on the movie’s weaknesses in a bit.

It is interesting to note that Justice League essentially has two directors: Zach Snyder worked on the majority of the film and then Joss Whedon was brought in to wrap up the film after the tragic death of Snyder’s daughter. Whedon was even given a credit as a writer for the movie. Ironically, Whedon is the director behind the first two Avengers movies, as well as creator of popular shows including Buffy and Firefly. Many feared that Justice League could feel like two different movies, because of this: Whedon usually being much lighter in his tone than Snyder is. However, this is not the case. Aside from a few scenes that feel like there’s probably an extended version that was cut, everything flows well and the comedic moments that were added, fit.

Justice League, assemble!

The heroes all meshed and played well off of each other, bringing different personalities to the team. There isn’t much to say about Gal Gadot, other than she continues to shine as Wonder Woman. She is without a doubt one of the best things going for the DCEU right now.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman was a fantastic choice. My wife thinks Momoa without a shirt for most of the movie was also a fantastic choice. He does a great job of finally making the character interesting. It would have been nice to know more about his background and personality going into Justice League. This is the overarching feeling the movie leaves you with: wishing there was more.

There’s a lot of talk right now on whether Ben Affleck will be sticking around as Batman. Hopefully, he will, as this is one of the best takes on the character we have seen in a movie. Whenever he moves or fights as Batman it’s like watching the comics in motion. I said it in my BVS review, but it’s clear Zach Snyder understands this character; I would even guess Batman is his favorite. He nails it again here, plus Bruce is back to his rule of no killing…people. Aliens are a different matter.

Ezra Miller is getting rave reviews as Barry Allen/ Flash. He is very funny, and some of the most entertaining moments of the film are when he’s using his super speed. However, I’m still not sold on him overall yet. He is a much younger, inexperienced version of Barry, and is very immature and socially awkward. It was difficult to believe that this Barry is intelligent enough to make his suit or work as a CSI forensic scientist. It’s also hard not to compare him to the CW’s television Barry, Grant Gustin. This Flash does have some great moments, including some screen time with is dad, so maybe Ezra will grow on me after his solo movie.

Ray Fisher was a solid choice for Cyborg, however his character suffers the most from a rushed introduction. The movie hits all of the essential points, but his own solo movie would have been a great way to introduce the least familiar League member to viewers. It was also surprising how bad Cyborg’s CGI is in places. For the most part it’s passable, but there are one or two scenes that make you focus a little too much on how fake it looks.

Spoiler alert, but not really because you already knew it was coming: Superman returns! I wont spoil how that does happen, but it fits in well with the overall DCEU. Henry Cavill is really hitting his stride as Superman. Overall, this is the hope-filled and inspiring Man of Steel that most people have been waiting to see. There are a couple shots of his face that may look…weird as you watch the movie. If you haven’t heard, that is because when Justice League was sent back to do some reshoots, Henry had already started working on his next movie, Mission Impossible, in which his character has a mustache. Paramount Studios refused to let him shave it for the reshoots, so Warner Bros was forced to hide it with CGI. It’s funny to look for once you know about it, but it doesn’t ruin the movie.

For the list of supporting characters: Jeremy Irons is still great as Alfred and J. K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon is a good fit. I’m ready to see more of Gordon in the solo Batman movie. Amy Adams and Diane Lane are fine, they just aren’t really given time to do anything except be there.

So much backstory, so little time

There are a few external factors that contributed to the movie feeling rushed in places. All of it stems from the long list of behind the scenes drama with studio executives during the production process. Among other things, Warner Bros imposed a runtime restriction on the film in an effort to prevent one of the complaints with BVS from being repeated: that it was too long. However, this was a poor decision as the root of the issue wasn’t the runtime itself, but how much was forced into that runtime. Justice League’s story has the right amount of complexity to it, it just needs to be fleshed out more. A longer runtime would have allowed for this. Hopefully there will be an extended cut of the film released on Blu-ray, as even another 30 mins of well executed plot and character elaboration would improve the film dramatically.

Another decision made that hindered the movie was at the very start of the DCEU. In order to play catch up with Marvel, DC and Warner Bros decided to release only a limited number of solo movies before jumping ahead to the “all in” Justice League movie. One of those movies, Suicide Squad, didn’t even add something substantial to the overall foundation of the universe. This was a mistake Justice League is paying for now as precious amounts of the restricted screen time had to be used to introduce heroes that we haven’t seen before in the DCEU. This abridged story telling does what it needs to but could have been much more meaningful elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if it would be copying Marvel, but a solo Flash and Aquaman movie before Justice League could have added some lead up to Steppenwolf and even Darkseid to lay some foundation ahead of time.

Final Verdict:

8 super-mustache cover ups out of 10

Overall, Justice League is far from perfect, but is a good movie that is well worth your time. Its biggest issue is that you will leave wishing there had been more. Make sure you stay through the credits as well, as there are two scenes and one in particular that will have you even more excited for the future of the DCEU.

Let me know what you thought after you see it!

Geek to the PAST Review: Batman v Superman

In preparation for Justice League, I decided to re-watch 2016’s controversial Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It holds a dismal 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. With early reviews for Justice League looking much more positive, let’s take another look at its predecessor before opening day. There are spoilers throughout this article, so if for some unacceptable reason you haven’t seen BvS; turn back now.

First, let me say that I am a fan of the movie and think it deserves more credit than it has received. I really enjoyed it in the theater and contrary to most, think that the tone was perfect. Not all superhero movies need to be as light as the Marvel formula to be fun. The tone needed to be darker to have the necessary impact. That being said, the movie is definitely not without its flaws.

I would argue that the movie’s biggest problem is not the lack of humor or lighthearted moments. Instead, it just has too much going on. Take away all of the unnecessary characters, story layers, and numerous references to various comic stories and I think the overall movie would have hit closer to the mark. Part of the excess came from an over-passionate director, the other was DC rushing to try to catch up with Marvel.

However, that’s only one of the movie’s flaws. Let’s take a look at everything that didn’t work and then what did.

What didn’t work

An overcrowded script.

One of the things that should be a credit to Zach Snyder directing BvS is that he is a huge comic fan. However, instead of using that knowledge to craft one fantastic story about two heroes going toe to toe, he acted like a child who was allowed to play with all of the toys in the toy box. Snyder literally tried to shove as many comic book arcs, references, and themes as he possibly could into one movie: Doomsday and the Death of Superman, Dark Knight Returns, A Death in the Family, Injustice, the role of Superman and his place in the world, Batman’s morality, and the introduction of the Justice League. I’m sure there are a couple more I’m forgetting. It’s just too much.

On top of all that, there are too many unnessesary characters and sub plots such as the amputee guy, the Russian guy, the senator, and CIA Jimmy Olsen just to name a few. There is no way to do everything justice (no pun intended) in 2 1/2 hours. Even with the extra scenes in the “Ultimate Edition,” which is honestly the better, more cohesive version, it still ends up feeling rushed and over complicated.

batman-v-superman

Snyder’s storytelling style is unique, but not for everyone.

Snyder is a visual storyteller. Instead of telling the viewer what is going own, he prefers to show it through his cinematography. It makes for a cerebral movie; one where the viewer is required to decipher what is being shown. As a result, the movie almost certainly requires multiple viewings to catch everything. The problem is most moviegoers, many who only have a limited knowledge of comic history, are not interested in investing that level of analysis into a superhero flick. This is the polar opposite approach of Marvel, who has mastered making comic book movies that require no prior experience with comics.

The perfect example of this visual storytelling is the Martha scene… Ah that infamous scene that has sparked a firestorm of online meme’s. This scene will either resonate or will seem completely absurd. It’s meant to be Bruce’s great epiphany: when he realizes that this alien from another planet he’s been so obsessed with killing isn’t an uncaring god. He’s not the enemy. He’s just as human, maybe even more human than we are. And the only thing that is strong enough to break through Bruce’s stubborn hate and recklessness, allowing him to come to the realization? The love he has for his mother. The problem is, none of that is verbally stated or explained. So if the scene is taken only at face value with only the info specifically given then Superman and Batman put aside their differences because both of their mom’s are named “Martha.”

Batman breaks his one rule…

This Batman gets so many things right about the character. However, there is one thing that is difficult for people to forgive. Batman breaks his one rule. The cardinal rule that makes the modern Batman who he is: no killing. Batman doesn’t just kill in this movie, he straight up slaughters some folk. This was a huge issue for many fans and could not overlook it.

Lex Luthor

This version of Lex is very different than what we are used to seeing. He isn’t charming or classy…he is straight up insane. He also isn’t the same Lex. He’s actually Lex’s son, Alexander. Again, this was a decision that fans either liked or hated. There was no middle ground. Snyder probably should have played it safe and gone with a more traditional version of the character, instead of someone that reminded people more of the Joker.

What did work.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was easily one of the best elements of the movie. While she received mixed reception before BvS released, she overwhelmingly proved herself as the perfect choice for the role. She brings a great balance of strength and beauty to Diana. Hearing her tell Bruce that he has never known a woman like her still brings a smile to my face.

DC’s trinity together on the big screen

No matter how much you disliked the movie, the moment Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman line up together to fight Doomsday is something special. It’s the money shot of the film, similar to the same moment in Avengers, when the camera circles around the full group for the first time. I’m hopeful for a similar moment in Justice League.

Batman-v-Superman-trailer-easter-eggs

Affleck’s Batman got more right than wrong.

Despite him murdering people, this is by far the most comic-accurate Batman we have seen in a movie. The grey and black suit, complete with a Frank Miller inspired Bat emblem is spot on, Not only that, but the gadgets, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and Bruce’s paranoia that Superman could one day become the world’s greatest threat…it’s perfect.

One final element of Batman’s character that is accurately displayed is his fighting ability. The warehouse fight scene was epic, and showcased just how brutal he can be in close combat. Proving again that Snyder does know his source material, the scene is instantly reminiscent of the hit Arkham game series. I think I’ve watched this scene more times than the movie as a whole.

The visuals

As I already stated, the movie is gorgeous. The cinematography and imagery is incredible, even if it is confusing at times. Snyder is a master of imagery and knows how to put a scene together to give the biggest impact. The two best examples of this are the Wayne family’s death at the beginning of the movie and Superman’ s funeral montage at the end.

Final Verdict:

BvS looks great visually and has a lot to offer, but is overcrowded by so many story layers and references that only certain comic fans will enjoy the chore of watching more than once.

The last thing DC wants to do is repeat the same mistakes with Justice League. The future of the DCEU is literally riding on this movie. I can’t wait to see what direction they take the story after the events of BVS.

What are your thoughts about the movie? Let me know!

Justice League: Early Reactions!

Critics have gotten a chance to see Justice League and are now allowed to reveal their opinions via social media.

The general consensus seems to be more positive than expected: while not perfect, the movie was fun and a step in the right direction for the franchise. Which basically means the movie is lighter than Batman v Superman. Most also agree that Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman steal the show, while Cyborg is the weakest link.

In the aftermath of movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, the trend in superhero films right now is that to be good (and for the movie’s flaws to be overlooked), it must be funny and lighthearted. I don’t agree with this view as a one size fits all standard, but understand where it’s coming from. After a decade of success, the superhero genre almost certainly needs to evolve to stay relevant. We’re also living in an incredible time where nerd culture has become mainstream. Naturally, studios are going to make movies that will make them the most money possible.

I might write about this in more detail after I review Justice League. However, for now, I’m excited the movie is enjoyable and can’t wait to see the League finally together on the big screen this Thursday.

https://twitter.com/ConnerWS/status/929030929523154944

Justice League Soundtrack Now Streaming

You can now stream the soundtrack to Justice League on Spotify. You will need to download the free app if you don’t already have it or you can check out a preview of each track below. Spoilers, beware! The track titles could give minor story point spoilers, but looks like nothing significant. Browse at your own risk!

Danny Elfman scored the film; the composer behind hundreds of movie soundtracks over the years. There are definitely some riffs in a couple tracks reminiscent of the 1989 Batman soundtrack. I can’t say I’m upset over that.

While there are some definite stand out moments here, I can’t help but be reminded of the army of drums in Hans Zimmers score for Man of Steel. The majority of Zimmer’s tracks were by far more interesting to listen to.

Justice League is out next week on the 17th, and I will be here to let you know how it is!