Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) sometimes known as Aquaman, is a half-Atlantean and half-human who lives in a coastal town in Maine. He has certain powers which he uses when he performs heroic acts. Although he occasionally saves people at sea and battles teched-up underwater supervillains, he does so only on his terms. He does not seek the mantle of super-hero. The fact he is heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, does not interest him either. As much as he performs good deeds using his marine super-powers, he is a land-dweller who doesn’t like being told what to do and prefers to continue his hard-drinking and partying ways.
The story starts a year after the Steppenwolf Invasion (as shown in 2017’s JUSTICE LEAGUE). Arthur fights pirates who attack a Russian nuclear submarine. This kicks off events that lead Atlantean princess Mera (Amber Heard), to the surface world to persuade Arthur to fulfill his destiny as the true king of Atlantis. She is betrothed to the current leader, Orm (Patrick Wilson), Arthur’s half-brother. Taking the throne is not a simple mission and involves finding the magical trident that once belonged to Atlan, the first king of Atlantis.
Orm has problems and challenges of his own. He despises his land-lubber half-brother and refers to him as a half-breed. He is power-hungry and wants to rule over the seven Kingdoms under the sea. And he wants them to combine their forces and attack the surface world who has disrespected the oceans through over-fishing and pollution. He wants more than anything to go to war. No wonder Mera is having second thoughts about their wedding day.
AQUAMAN is the sixth movie in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It is directed by Australian director and SAW franchise co-creator James Wan. The screenplay is by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall. The movie is based on the well-known DC comic character who was first conceived in the 1940s, but came to greater prominence in the 1960s as a founder member of the Justice League. This third appearance and first solo outing for Aquaman is an origin story told in flash-back episodes as the current-day struggle against Orm intensifies.
Wan and team have elected to cover so much story material, that the movie feels packed with events and action. Like JUSTICE LEAGUE there is a tsunami of computer generated visual effects and green-screen sequences shot on sound stages. The look is less busy, but many of the action sequences reveal dazzling arrays of fish and under water craft swirling around impressively, but somewhat confusingly. The movie has gone for visual bigness and frames filled with super abundant fish people, underwater vehicles and dangerous crustaceans. At times, the visuals looked like the Tron and Avatar worlds colliding in a fish tank.
Momoa is funny and physically imposing as Arthur/Aquaman. Amber Heard does a nice line in regal self-righteousness undercut with humour. The pair work well together in what are essentially buddy scenes with a light romantic undertone. Veterans Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Patrick Wilson as Orm and Dolph Lungren as Xebel all deliver in thinly-drawn roles. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a suitably bad-ass Black Manta. Australasians will enjoy seeing Temuera Morrison playing Arthur’s father Thomas, the lighthouse keeper and Nicole Kidman playing Arthur and Orm’s mother, Atlantean queen, Atlanna. Although neither are given many scenes, they both do a great job carrying the film’s main emotional strand.
Overall, the film is an entertaining entry into the DCEU. The three-movie project to get the non-comic reading public to forget about clean-cut, 1970s TV cartoon, seahorse-riding, blonde Aquaman has been a success. We are all on board with ripped-biker-rock-god Momoa-Aquaman. He’s the aquatic Thor the DCEU movies need. Look out for the exciting rooftop chase sequence in Sicily. It’s like something from a modern Bond film. And SAW fans keep your eye out for that franchise’s co-creator Leigh Whannel, in a cameo as a pilot.
USA | 146 minutes | (7/10)
This review also appears on AccessReel.com