Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. DC may own some of the most recognisable superhero ‘brands’ but ever since the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, its lagged woefully behind its rival. Which is strange because, in many ways, DC have always been more prepared to push the envelope. From the get-go, they’ve given fans movies with female leads, strong BAME characters, and darker, more adult storylines. Yet too often something there’s woefully underwhelming about the results.
Maybe the problem is that DC only have seven films in their cinematic universe, while Marvel have 22 (so far). Not only are audiences hugely invested in the larger franchise but there’s a well-oiled machine behind the scenes working to a well-tested formulae. DC? Well, Remember Superman Versus Batman? A perfectly good film that could have been great if an hour had been left on the cutting room floor. Aquaman suffers from the same excesses. DC continues to feel the need to give their audiences 50 years of backstory where broad brushstrokes and chutzpah would have done the trick. And while that does mean action and plot aplenty, you’ll find yourself counting every minute past that bum-numbing two hour boundary.
And then there are the visuals. Yes, they’re stunning. Aquaman’s undersea kingdom is beautifully and daringly realised. But they rely too much on other franchises rather than the comics that inspired them. Star Wars Episode One, Hellboy: Golden Army, Conan Doyle’s Lost World, Godzilla. It’s all there—an embarrassment of riches—and it’s too much.
Aquaman is messy, over-long, ponderous when it doesn’t need to be, and can’t decide if its lead is an heroic meta-human or a dumb-ass. But it is fun. Just buy plenty of cola and plan your bathroom breaks accordingly.