DC continues to try and catch up to Marvel’s movie dominance with their latest offering, Aquaman. We got to see Jason Momoa in this role in Justice League, and now he gets to be the star of the show. Personally, I think it was a lot of fun, although not without flaws.
A common failing of DC’s movies is trying to cram too much in at once, and there’s a lot of that here. We get Arthur’s origin, the introduction of Atlantis and several important characters, two villains, and a struggle for the throne. It’s no wonder the movie was over two hours long, trying to fit all that in. To its credit, it didn’t feel that long.
We see the love affair of Tom Curry and Queen Atlanna, which eventually leads to Arthur/Aquaman. When Atlantis comes for the Queen, she gets a great fight scene before taking off for Tom and Arthur’s safety. Arthur grows up with a few odd incidents, one being a great scene at the Boston Aquarium, and we eventually get to today. One of the first scenes shows Aquaman in action, saving a pirated sub, and that scene also becomes Black Manta’s origin story.
The movie has a sense of humor, which we see in a great spin on “toughs in bar approach hero.” Then things start kicking up a gear as Mera shows up, telling Aquaman of a coming war. Arthur wants no part of it or Atlantis, blaming the sunken kingdom for the death of his mother. But when his half-brother Orm, eventually Ocean Master, attacks the surface world and almost kills Arthur’s father, well, now it’s personal.
We get a trip to Atlantis, a fight, a quest for a lost relic, and an initially hostile relationship between Arthur and Mera that we all know will change in time, even if you don’t know they’re long-time lovers in the comics. They tour the world as they go on a treasure hunt, while Orm gathers his forces for his own agenda. Black Manta eventually gets an upgrade to become a much more credible threat. Mera is running around in a white outfit for a while, which makes me wonder both why she changed and where her green costume went. Superman prowling around would attract attention, Mera just plain isn’t that well known. She didn’t need to go incognito.
Eventually, we meet more of the undersea kingdoms, and a place that could have been DC’s hidden world of Skartaris, although it gets a different name here. If it’s not Skartaris, there are a lot of similarities. Arthur goes through his trials, defeats his villains, and finds a few things he didn’t expect to along the way. At the end of the movie, finally, he dons the classic orange and green suit for his big final fight. I’m really amused in the final battle that Orm, or at least Patrick Wilson who played him, looks a lot more like the classic Aquaman than Momoa.
What I liked: First off, this was just plain fun. It had lots of action and a great sense of humor. Mera (Amber Heard) and Queen Altanna (Nicole Kidman) are both kick-ass heroines who get some great fight scenes in. Momoa makes a great Aquaman, and Wilson is a suitably menacing villain. Willem Dafoe is a good Vulko, adviser to the throne and yet another actor who has now done roles for DC and Marvel. They incorporate bits of Aquaman lore from classic characters like Mera and Vulko to newer concepts like the Trench and Dr. Shin, and make it all fit. The brief bits of tv news we saw were GBS, a long time DC news organization, long before the Channel 52 on the CW shows.
What I didn’t: As I said before, and with every movie DC has done but Wonder Woman, they tried to cram too much in at once. Marvel takes the time to do a nice slow build of their world, and DC seems to feel the need to rush to catch up. Mera’s fight scene with some of Black Manta’s thugs had a few major flaws in it. I mentioned Mera’s wardrobe issues.
It was a fun ride, issues and all. It’s definitely worth seeing. I’ll give it a high 3 out of 5.