Aquaman (2018)
Aquaman (2018)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 23 min.

Release Date: December 21st, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: James Wan Actors: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin




ne tempestuous night in Amnesty Bay, Maine, lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) finds an injured woman washed up on the rocks. After taking her in and tending to her wounds, he discovers that she is Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the betrothed queen of Atlantis, who fled from an arranged marriage. The two soon fall in love and have a child.

A few years later, the jealous Atlantean king’s soldiers finally locate and attempt to reclaim the missing bride, forcing Atlanna to realize that the only way to save her family is to leave them. Her son, Arthur (Jason Momoa), grows up to become a local legend nicknamed “Aquaman,” who rescues sailors who run afoul of the sea’s many dangers. When Atlantean princess Mera (Amber Heard) confronts Arthur to reveal a brewing threat from his usurper half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), the reluctant heir to the throne is drawn into a cataclysmic clash for the fates of both the undersea world and his home on land.

It begins with a Jules Verne quote, which is a lofty aspiration for this epic nautical fantasy. This segues, however, into a series of terribly generic, phonily philosophical observations, such as, “Life, like the sea, has a way of bringing people together.” Moments later, when the Queen of Atlantis gets her introduction, the silliness increases; it’s evident that “Aquaman” isn’t interested in trying to gently ease audiences into its fairy tale world. Instead, it assumes everyone will automatically be onboard for a collection of extremely bland myths; there’s not even a meager attempt at preserving any semblance of realism or sincerity.

Right from the start, Tom doesn’t seem concerned about the mysterious presence of Atlanna; as long as he can sleep with her, it doesn’t really matter if she raves about a hidden kingdom under the sea. Of course, just as quickly as Aquaman’s origins are revealed, the film pummels the screen with action. In these kinds of formulaic ventures, it’s wise to interrupt exposition with a flurry of violence. Hilariously – and quite by accident – this technique is reused numerous times; characters speak, calmly, only to be vehemently cut off by a sudden explosion. It happens so often that it soon becomes downright comical.

Perhaps this is for the better, considering that the character development is so simplistic that spontaneous destruction is the only thing that might jar audiences out of hypnotic bewilderment. Antagonists remove their helmets ominously, with deep bass tones resonating in the background, to signal their villainy. Or they’ll execute a random extra, just to reiterate that they’re the bad guys. The worst offender is Black Manta, a brute so ridiculously designed that he looks like an unwieldy bobblehead doll, lumbering about as if always on the verge of tipping over. “You killed innocent people. You ask the sea for mercy.”

It doesn’t help that the heroes of the picture are all invincible, which means that they’re not only immune to true danger, but also devoid of sympathy. A shirtless Momoa, repeatedly striking a poster-worthy pose, simply isn’t an effective way to generate an emotional investment. And the continual posing by nearly every main character accentuates the pitiful physics of a predominantly CG-rendered world – made more obvious by anticlimactic slow-motion in all the wrong spots.

Fortunately, several of the creature designs and ideas are moderately amusing, including seahorse dragons, alligator monsters, and sharkback riding. Plus, the Kingdom of the Brine is engaging, if for no other reason than the preposterousness of its name, which seems more suitable to a civilization of sea cucumbers or some pickled entity. But every time a modicum of wonderment is created through intricate visuals, “Aquaman” restates its goofiness by employing horrendous dialogue (“You will be ordained Ocean Master!”) or borrowed components from countless other sci-fi extravaganzas (not only is the film repeatedly akin to a live-action “The Little Mermaid” – from Mera’s Ariel-like styling to an octopus drummer to an Ursula counterpart to combat with tridents – but it also steals generously from “Clash of the Titans,” “The Abyss,” “Pacific Rim,” and many more).

As it floods the screen with flashbacks, detonations, fight sequences, vivid costumes (a jellyfish dress is one of the more laughable), special effects, crescendoing background opera singers, evil grimaces, stern expressions, and conspicuous sidelong glances, the story eventually shifts into something along the lines of “National Treasure” or “The Da Vinci Code,” with globe-trotting quests based upon ancient recordings, treasure maps, and oft-told legends. It’s at this point that “Aquaman” feels as if it was written by 20 different people, or perhaps co-directed by a dozen. The tone and script are so messy that it can’t help but to seem as if each scene was penned as it was being filmed. “Are you invoking the combat of the kings?”

One meaningless battle after another assaults the senses, until even the action sequences appear dull. And with such one-note characters, none of the adventure, destruction, romance, or peril have any impact. At one point, when Mera comments, “It’s a long story; I’ll tell you later,” viewers will wish the same was true of the entirety of this movie.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10

The DC Extended Universe

Man of Steel (2013)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Suicide Squad (2016)

Wonder Woman (2017)

Justice League (2017)

Aquaman (2018)

Shazam! (2019)

Birds of Prey (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Black Adam (2022)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

The Flash (2023)

Blue Beetle (2023)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)