Last Saturday, I finally got a useful benefit out of my Amazon Prime membership: a chance to see “Aquaman” before the rest of humanity. I was understandably nervous. I love the DC characters. I wanted to love this movie. But I saw “Justice League.” I did not leave the theater disappointed.
This movie is awesome! It has everything you want in a superhero movie: mythic origin story, sibling rivalry, great visuals, epic fight scenes and a dash of humor. It even has Willem Defoe riding a hammerhead shark! How can you NOT love that?
Making an “Aquaman” movie was certainly a challenge. Which is probably why it took so long to finally hit the theaters. Aquaman isn’t exactly the sexiest member of the DC franchise. Dude doesn’t even have his own show on The CW (although I would LOVE to see that pilot they made with Justin Hartley.) He’s even been the butt of lame jokes on “The Big Bang Theory.” How bad is a superhero when even Raj doesn’t want to dress up like him? And how do you make “talks to fish” a sexier superpower?
Well, you cast Jason Momoa as your lead character, that’s how! To quote my friend Tracy, “I would pay to watch him read the phone book.” (But she’s currently out cruising the Caribbean, so I went without her.” And let’s just say, he knows how to make an interest. “Permission to come aboard” may be the next “I’ll be back” of movie quotes. His screen presence is so riveting that when you finally see him clad in his iconic orange and green suit riding a seahorse, it’s epic, not corny. This Aquaman also has superhuman strength and an apparent immunity to bullets. He’s also sporting a bunch of tattoos (which we get to see repeatedly as he removes his shirt.) Not only is he smoldering hot, but Momoa shows surprising acting range in this movie.
The plot? Yes, it actually has one! Atlanna (Queen of Atlantis, not the capital of Georgia) flees arranged marriage and falls in love with a lighthouse keeper, gives birth to son Arthur and abandons both to protect them. Now Arthur must go on a quest to find the Trident of Atlan in order to challenge his half-brother Orm for the throne of Atlantis and save the world. Simple enough to follow and yet engaging enough to hold your interest through a 2 hour feature. it helps that they speed you through the origin story and show Arthur’s growing up in flashback so that the movie doesn’t bog down on it (you know, like in “Suicide Squad” where they have to get you through so many origins that you lose track and quit caring.)
In my opinion the movie only has 2 week spots: the love interest and the villain. I can’t put my finger on exactly what I didn’t like Amber Heard as Mera. Maybe it was the fake orange hair. As for the villain, one criticism in DC movies has always been that the villains outshone the heroes. You probably don’t remember which actor played Batman in “Batman Forever,” but you sure remember who played The Riddler and Two-Face! Well, they solved that problem here by casting Patrick Wilson as Aquaman’s half-brother Orm, who keeps pleading “Call me Ocean Master.” They should have cast Dolph Lundgren as Orm’s father instead of Mera’s because that guy KNOWS how to play a villain. Yahya Abdul-Mateen was better as the Black Manta. He doesn’t get nearly enough screen time here, but looks like he’ll be back in the sequel.
This movie borrows heavily on mythology, from Arthurian legend to Lord of the Rings. The scene where young Arthur discovers his ability to communicate with the fish while on a school trip to the aquarium is a total ripoff of Harry Potter talking to the snake at the zoo. But it was still fun to watch.
I doubt this film will collect a lot of awards in the next few months. It still makes for an entertaining trip to your local cineplex. So, if you want to enjoy a good superhero flick over the holidays, come on in! The water’s fine.