The reviews for Aquaman are in, and while you couldn’t quite call them universally ‘glowing’, Justice League would have given an arm and a leg for them.
Having gone from the movie DC Comics fans were perhaps least excited about on its announcement back in 2014, it could be – along with the forthcoming Wonder Woman sequel – the one that turns things around for the ailing DC Extended Universe, at least tonally.
Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at a respectable 76 percent ‘fresh’, having aggregated the reviews so far, but as ever, when a three-out-of-five review counts as a glowing tomato, it really doesn’t tell the whole story.
Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry, the reluctant half-human heir to Atlantis, appears to carries the show for director James Wan, as he struggles with his responsibilities and rivalry with Patrick Wilson’s Ocean Master, his half-brother.
“Aquaman’s as formulaic, excessively thrashy, and mommy-obsessed as any other entry in the DCEU, but its visual imagination is genuinely exciting and transportive, and dare I say, fun,” reckons Vulture, with ‘fun’ not a word that’s been much associated with the DCEU so far.
“If you came for the Aquaman mythos, you won’t be disappointed, but if you’re just here for the creatures of the deep, you’ll be more than satisfied.”
“Aquaman needs its smirking, beer-loving, roadie-looking, Chippendale-chested hero — not to save the day, but to remind us that this is stuff is about as goofy as it gets,” per AV Club, dubbing it ‘big, cheesy and fun’.
“Notwithstanding the inevitable formulaic dialogue and a superabundance of boilerplate superhero action sequences, Aquaman turns out to be, almost despite itself, an engaging undersea extravaganza,” says the LA Times.
Adds Empire: “Imagine if someone cut together all the biggest action sequences from the last few decades of Hollywood, resulting in a mash of Tron, Avatar, Clash Of The Titans, Superman, Jurassic Park, and Gladiator. Imagine a film where an octopus gets a drum solo, and it isn’t among the top ten weirdest moments. Welcome to Aquaman, where you won’t have a clue what’s going on, but you won’t be able to look away either.”
But it’s not all plaudits with huge caveats.
“This is a let-down,” writes The Guardian. “A laborious, slow-moving and dripping wet film, barnacle-encrusted with solemnity and with a ripply-underwater production design that looks like a giant version of the kitschy items that you put in fish-tanks.”
Adds Us Weekly: “Take away Momoa’s steady presence, and you’re looking at an overstuffed mess that provides entertainment purely in an OMG-this-is-a-disaster kind of way.”
Entertainment Weekly reckons: “[James Wan’s] conjured an intriguing world, but populated that world with dramatic cotton candy and silly characters, including a hero who’s unsure if he wants to make us laugh or feel – and winds up doing neither.”
“The majority of the time the action set pieces seem quite arbitrary… This saddles the overlong film with a ponderous, grinding feel, one driven by a sense of obligation more than the glee of inspiration,” says The Hollywood Reporter.
Variety adds: “It doesn’t suck, but only if you’re willing to sit through two hours of waterlogged world-building before the movie finally takes off.”
Also starring Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren and Nicole Kidman, it’s out across the UK from today.