Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman

“Permission to come aboard?”

For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.

The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).

Fast forward to present day, and we see a grown up Arthur being visited by Mera (Amber Heard). Turns out that the new heir is Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who wants to rage war on humans above (you know, for all the stuff we have done to the ocean in the past). One of the kingdom’s long time subjects (and Arthur’s former teacher) Vulko (a nicely cast Willem Dafoe) works behind Orm’s back to prevent such a war from occurring. For Arthur to succeed, he must find the long-lost trident that would prove his worth. There is also the subplot of Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), out for revenge on Aquaman after an event at the start of the film.

There are some rather wonderful underground imagery here, but it would be even better if the script had not been so ridiculously predictable. The movie is basically if Thor (or even Black Panther) had lived underwater (claiming a birthright, evil family member villain, etc) . All the fights were nice to look at, but no points in knowing the outcome: you can see it the moment they announce it. By the end, we do get another CGI battle that seems almost off the shelf.

It should also come as no surprise that superhero flicks need a good villain, and the DCU has not been the best at that (though Michael Shannon was good as General Zod and Margot Robbie was really effective as Harley Quinn). Sadly, Patrick Wilson does not measure up, and his villain is nothing short of forgettable.

Parents, the movie should be fine for kids (some swearing and action/violence, but nothing they have not seen in superhero flick before). Middle School and up.

In a year that gave us Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the best was clearly not saved for last (despite some moments I liked, especially where Arthur got his idea of how to use a whale for escape). Still, rather than giving us a breath of fresh air, Aquaman leaves us gasping for it.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

The Danish Girl (2015)

The Danish Girl

Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”.

 

The Danish Girl is a well intentioned bio pic that delivers two great performances but does not seem to be anything beyond what we expected. Perhaps it is ironic that a movie about someone trying to do something new does not do something very new in itself.

That does not mean I did not like the movie. I just expected more of the tale of married couple Einar and Gerda Wegener, married artists in the 1920s. One day, Gerda’s (Alicia Vikander) friend Ulla (Amber Heard) is unable to pose for one of her paintings, so she recruits her husband Einar (Eddie Redmayne). Ulla surprises them, and names Einar “Lilly”. This eventually leads to Einar wanting to become one of the first known in the transgender community.

As shown in The Theory of Everything (which he recently won the Oscar for), Eddie Redmayne is proving he is one of the best actors of his generation. He delivers another fine performance here as Einar/Lilly. However, it was Alicia Viander I was most impressed with. Her Gerda is one of the most devoted wives in recent movie memory. The key is that she is not one to just sit back and let it all happen. She has a fire in her that says don’t mess with me, but also an inner gentleness that is evident if she wants to show it. It is clearly an Oscar nomination for both actors.

Parents, the R rating is justified. There is not much swearing and little violence (just in one scene) but there is a lot of nudity (not just in the art pieces).

In the end, I wish the film was not just another straight bio pic, and tried to be a little more (though I did enjoy the score by Desplat). Still, it is worth seeing for Redmayne and Vikander , both giving award worthy performances.

Overall: Three Stars ***