- Movie Rating -

Aquaman (2018)

| December 25, 2018

Aquaman is quite possibly the most ridiculous big-budget movie that I’ve seen in at least the last five years and I swear I mean that with affection.  Yes, it is ridiculous but in a common-sense sort of way.  I mean, this is the the story of a displaced half-human, half-Atlantean ruler of an undersea kingdom who is known on land as Arthur Curry.  Given that, a serious dramatic template is a little difficult to attach here.  For heaven’s sake there’s a battle scene in which the good guys ride giant seahorses and the bad guys ride giant sharks.

It took a lot of skill on the part of director James Wan and his crew to make a movie this big, with this much technology and with a deft blend of comedy and drama to make it work.  The comedy is just enough that it doesn’t become overbearing and the drama is just enough that it doesn’t become 500 pounds of oppressive dead weight like Batman v. Superman.  Aquaman belongs in a special, but sadly underappreciated category of superhero movies with a goofy lightness of touch, like Spider-Man Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok and the Ant-Man movies.  Those are the ones that I look forward to the most because I can always feel that they are trying to entertain me.  They cast off any intention of being broody and deep and just want to be fun.

The silliness of Aquaman begins in its opening scenes.  In a scenario fit for porn, a lonely lighthouse keeper (Temura Morrison) runs out of his house during a storm and finds a beautiful woman lying unconscious on the rocks.  She is Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Atlantis’ exiled queen with whom he falls deeply in love after nursing her back to health.  Offscreen they discover that mating between Atlanteans and humans is cooperative in the reproductive function.  Thus, they produce a son they name Arthur.  He’s half-human, you see, and as he grows up, he finds himself an outcast at school when it is discovered that he can talk to undersea creatures.  The scene in which young Arthur goes on a field trip to the aquarium and is rescued from bullies by a shark had me shaking my head – you have to see it to believe it.

Of course, there’s the typical plot about a displaced ruler regaining his rightful place as ruler of his kingdom.  And, of course, there’s the adversary, Arthur’s hate-mongering half-brother named Orm (Patrick Wilson) who wants to destroy the surface world in a massive plot of ecological vengeance.  And there’s a sideplot about a pirate named Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) whom Wikipedia helpfully describes as  “A ruthless treasure hunter and a high-seas mercenary with a flair for creating deadly technological innovation.”  Basically, he’s a pirate who is ticked off at Aquaman for not saving his dad so he builds a laser helmet thus becoming Black Manta.  I’m not sure about this character.  After a pretty dramatic opening he disappears from the film only to turn up for a fight in the film’s mid-section.  It’s as if he’s visiting from another movie – or waiting for a sequel.  Either way, it didn’t really seem connected to the main plot in any significant way – when he turns up you just kind of say “Oh, this guy again!”

What does work is the film’s visual look – it’s a wonder to behold.  The set design, the visual effects and the different locations both on land and under the sea are breathtaking.  This is a cinematic experience, so I will seriously recommend that you not wait until home video to see this – it was made to be seen on the biggest screen that you can find.

I had so much fun that I wish that this was where DC and Warner Brothers had started.  Aquaman and last year’s hit Wonder Woman are proof of a positive trek for the studio with regard to these characters.  Both films regard the character on their own ground, based around their personality.  The story of Wonder Woman worked because, until that terrible ending, the movie was about the unpinning of Diana Prince’s perception about human beings and the wars they wage.  Aquaman walks a different path.  It’s a standard story about birthrights and rulers and kingdoms and lost talismans and sins of the father, but it mercifully doesn’t trap Jason Mamoa in a hard-bound set of plot elements.  The movie allows him to be relaxed and funny.  He occupies the title role with a wink and a smile.  He’s a beefy actor who could easily let his muscles do the talking, but he understands the character that he’s playing.  He’s serious when he needs to be and can throw out a one-liner when the moment calls for it.  His screen presence and his sense of humor remind me a lot of what made Arnold Schwarzenegger a movie star.  He knows that his looks and his physique can be comical and so he plays the comedy, and he does it quite well.  He kids himself, and that’s refreshing.

At the risk of sounding redundant, Aquaman is not to be taken seriously for one solitary moment.  It has enough to keep you interested dramatically and entertained comically.  James Wan knows the kind of movie that he’s making here and the character that he’s dealing with.  It is probably about half an hour too long and the dramatic predictability gets a little frustrating, but it’s not so much that you get restless.  Aquaman is fun, colorful and again, very silly – in a good way.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2018) View IMDB Filed in: Sci-Fi/Fantasty