Aquaman

Directed by James Wan Publishing House: Warner Bros. Released: 12.21.18 Review by | January 4, 2019 at 1:00 PM
6
Grade: C

Basically: Underwater shenanigans with Jason Momoa—no one is mad.

Let’s start off with a bit of truth: I like Aquaman. I’m also a huge DC Comics fan. I’m not saying it’s a great movie or that it’s the savior of the DC cinematic universe, but it is a lot of fun. As my good friend and fellow entertainment journalist Devon Sanders says, “It’s a bizarre but weirdly effective movie.” I can’t put it any better than that.

I can, however, give you a few more details. We begin with a new version of Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) who feels more like an aquatic vigilante than the deep sea prince we’re used to. Arthur’s rogue hero lifestyle leads him into a faceoff with a group of high-tech pirates. The pirates are lead by David Hyde (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his father Jesse (Michael Beach), who just so happen to be in the middle of stealing a submarine. You know, because why not. This leads to one of the most emotional scenes of the movie and after it’s all done Arthur has his first enemy in Hyde AKA Manta.

Photo © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The enemies don’t stop there. Arthur also has an Atlantean brother by the name of Orm (Patrick Wilson) although he’d probably prefer King Orm—because he’s pretentious that way. I mean, this guy is the quintessential bad-news-sibling who might want you dead or imprisoned or just lost somewhere bleeding.

To counter the forces rising against him, Arthur has a great dad (Temuera Morrison), and a mom (Nicole Kidman) who loved them both deeply before she had to leave because, you know, Queen business ain’t nothing but work. He also has a potential crime-fighting partner and a love interest in Mera (Amber Heard) the princess of another underwater kingdom.

So Arthur’s life is fun…because he loves danger…and he’s a total bad boy…but he has a lot to learn about compassion and what being a hero means. Which is what this movie is about.

So, shall we go with the good & the ugly? Let’s do it.

Photo © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Good
Jason Momoa is glorious. He’s funny, charming, and tough. That’s what you want in an Aquaman and it’s what’s been missing from DC movies—other than Wonder Woman. As his foil, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is the perfect counterbalance. His Manta (formerly Black Manta) is ruthless, charming, and relentless. I’ve got nothing but applause for these two and I’ve got big hopes for their rivalry to continue in future films.

Secondly, DC has found a formula I believe will work well for them as they redevelop and revamp their live action movies. Aquaman (2018) plays to Arthur Curry’s origins in Adventure Comics #229 (1956) by referencing the action-adventures movies of that decade. The movie is a mix of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), a little bit of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), part The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) with just a touch of The African Queen (1951)—you know, without all the problematic stuff…yeesh.

Also, the cod pieces. Wow. Not since Labyrinth (1986) have we seen such magnificence.

Photo © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Ugly
It’s all too much. Rather than specifically reference each of those 1950s action-adventures, Aquaman would’ve done better if it were an homage to the genre in general. Why? Because it’s overwhelming to watch that many storylines and characters battling for the crown and for our attention.

The computer generated imagery is cheesy at times and not in a campy way that feels intentional. The characters and their hair [see: tresses] move more like they’re flying through air than gliding through water.

Also, the wigs. Nope. Particularly, Amber Heard’s copper-on-crystal-meth-while-dropping-acid wig. Party City called…

Still…It’s a fun movie. Jason Momoa makes everything better. And this represents a first step in DC finally giving their characters and their fans the movies we want and deserve. So, I say cheers to Aquaman—his pilsner glass may be far too flashy but at least it’s filled to the brim with good stuff.

In the End: This new Aquaman is the ultimate DJ for the Aqua Boogie, baby! And Manta is a perfect hype man.