Film Review: Aquaman

Fun action scenes and visual effects keep “Aquaman” entertaining despite a confusing plot and an unnecessarily lengthy run-time.

Earning over $822 million worldwide, “Aquaman” has the second highest global earnings of any DC movie, behind “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” This is especially notable considering it hasn’t left theaters yet. While the movie boasts of ambitious special effects and entertaining action scenes, but the plot is too convoluted to hold the viewer’s attention for the nearly two-and-a-half hour runtime.

The movie’s introduction centers around the story of how Aquaman’s (Jason Momoa) parents, Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) of Atlantis and lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), met and and gave birth to Arthur Curry, their half-Atlantan, half-human son. The introduction continues on to show how Arthur discovered his ability to communicate with sea creatures while being bullied at school. From there the film cuts to an adult version of Aquaman saving the crew of a Russian submarine from pirates, having fully developed his powers. This is when he meets the man who will later become the movie’s first villain, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul Mateen II).

Meanwhile, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) of Atlantis, Arthur’s half-brother, decides to wage war against the surface world for polluting the ocean and killing innocent sea creatures. In order to build a strong enough army, he must gain the support of at least four of the seven nations under the sea. He sets out with the Atlantean army to win over the other nations.

Meanwhile, Orm’s fiancee, Mera (Amber Heard), travels to land to recruit Aquaman and convince him to take his place as the king of Atlantis, as is his birthright. After almost losing a battle to Orm, Arthur and Mera escape to search for the fabled all-powerful triton that once belonged to the first king of the seas.

Meanwhile, Orm recruits the villain introduced at the start of the film — Black Manta — to find and kill Arthur and Mera on land while the duo search for the trident. Orm continues to try to gain the support of other nations under the sea.

This all happens in the first half of the movie. There’s another story, which begins with the search for the ancient trident that takes up the second half of the film, which includes a few more “meanwhiles.” Although the film stays fairly accurate to the comics, all of the combined storylines and the inclusion of two powerful villains, each worthy of their own films, distract from the dialogue and ruin the pace of the film. There’s also a few flashbacks about Aquaman’s childhood interspersed throughout the multiple storylines, which make the movie even harder to follow.

However, Jason Momoa shines in the role of Aquaman, and it’s hard not to believe that he’s essentially playing himself. Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard compliment Momoa well, but Momoa ultimately steals the show. Unfortunately, between the action sequences, flashbacks, and the frequent shifts between storylines, there wasn’t a lot of time for character development or much witty dialogue. Since Disney will certainly make a sequel after the success of the first audiences will hopefully see more of the character’s sarcastic comments and jokes in future movies.

Despite its drawbacks, one of the best aspects of the film is its visual effects. Director James Wan does a great job of making the underwater movement seem realistic, and the worlds he creates in the depths of the ocean are unique and beautiful. Despite much of the film taking place deep underwater, past the reach of sunlight, the lighting of the scenes is natural. Wan strikes a balance between capturing the beauty of the cities and creatures that exist underwater and preserving the mysterious qualities of the deep. Wan’s previous works include “The Conjuring” and “Fast and Furious 7,” and his experience with action scenes is easily evident in “Aquaman.” The visual effects used in these scenes when the characters are underwater keep the movie entertaining, and they’re what make the movie memorable long after audiences have forgotten all the things that actually happened.

Grade: B
Directors James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Willem Dafoe, Temuera Morrison
Release Date: December 21, 2018
Rated: PG-13

Image courtesy of IMDb