AQUAMAN (2018)

By Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: James Wan
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren
My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 63%

PLOT: Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.

Take the best parts of Tron: Legacy, Tomb Raider, and Disney’s animated Atlantis, and you’ll get an idea of how much fun Aquaman is.  For some people, saying it’s one of the best of the films set in the DC Universe isn’t saying much (peep that mediocre Tomatometer score), but speaking as someone who thoroughly enjoyed Justice League and Man of Steel and Wonder Woman, I had LOADS of fun watching an aquatic Dr. Doolittle kick some serious ass.

Admittedly, some of the underwater scenes are a little tricky.  It’s hard to take some of the weighty dialogue seriously when the people doing the talking are floating instead of standing, with their hair moving around like seaweed.  It’s the kind of thing that works great in animated movies or comic books, but to see it onscreen…it takes a little getting used to.

Once you get past that initial hurdle, though, this movie really cooks.  Jason Momoa was the best possible choice to make the much-maligned Aquaman character relatable to mass audiences.  He may not have the cocky delivery of a Robert Downey Jr. or a Chris Pratt, but he throws a mean glare, and, bro, dude is CHISELED.  When THIS guy emits sonar waves to talk to whales, it’s not a joke.  Hell, I wouldn’t laugh at a guy who looks like that.  “You talkin’ to fish?  Ping away, Muscles!”

The story is as ancient as Atlantis itself.  Arthur Curry returns to the land of his lineage to reclaim his birthright, but first he must overcome several trials before he can emerge triumphant.  Ho hum, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.  But this movie really dresses it up and dazzles us with phenomenal sights.  Atlantis itself looks like someone mashed up Pandora from Avatar with the digital cityscapes in Tron: Legacy.  The various fight and battle scenes are handled extremely well, balancing clarity with incredibly elaborate CG fireworks.

(It was also nice to see one of Aquaman’s nemeses, Black Manta, rendered in a way that was EXTREMELY faithful to the source material, big head and big eyes included.  Of the actor portraying him, let it be said he was extremely adequate to the task, without really transcending the role he was given.)

Whatever gripes people may have, I would imagine it’s with being tired of overblown superhero movies, or the relatively few story gaps in the movie. (How did they get out of the desert?  How did Black Manta contact the Atlanteans in the first place?  If this is a sequel to Justice League, why are there no appearances or mention of the other members whatsoever?)  I can understand those gripes, but for me, the spectacle and the fun cancelled them out.

It’s not a perfect superhero movie; I wouldn’t quite rank it with the best Marvel films. But I gotta be honest: I had a blast.

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