We’re now 10 years deep into superhero origin story movies. There are no new introductions that won’t walk on well-worn territory.
DC Comics’ “Aquaman” is basically an underwater version of “Thor” that embraces the absurdity of the character rather than treats it with false gravitas.
Arthur, the titular character played by Jason Momoa, is in a fight for the underwater throne of Atlantis with his brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson, treating each line like he’s fight announcer Michael Buffer).
The schism between them: Arthur is the son of a human and Atlanna, the queen of Atlantis, also Orm’s mother. Orm is a full-blooded Atlantean.
After the two brothers have a gladiator-type brawl for the throne in front all of Atlantis, Arthur gets beat to a pulp. His confidence is shaken and it’s up to Mera (Amber Heard, sporting a hilarious red wig) to help him regain it as they track down a coveted trident.
The first superhero movie from horror writer-director James Wan, you can sense him ambling around as he tries to find his footing with Arthur’s journey.
While the visuals in the first half are beautiful, as we’re introduced to the shimmering, colorful underwater environments of Atlantis, the story and script are as dry as a desert. A fun game to play during that first hour to keep your attention: try to find a line that’s not something that’s been repeated a thousand times over in other superhero movies.
The movie picks up in its second half as it starts to embrace Aquaman as a meatheaded, but well-meaning, doofus who is in need of guidance from people like Mera and Nuidis (a sometimes distractingly CGI’d performance by Willem Dafoe).
By the midway point, Wan comfortably meshes his “Insidious”-like horror sensibilities, most notably in a beautiful wide show of Arthur and Mera involved in a low-lit, underwater chase with toothy trench monsters, with the absurd.
By absurd, I’m talking about a Dr. Evil-like fantasy of sharks with laser beams on their heads fighting crab people and King Orm yelling out to his minions “Call me Ocean Master!”
There also are multiple conversations that end with explosions, a cover of Toto’s “Africa” by pop star Pitbull and a villain who looks like a second-rate “Power Rangers” character.
It’s what I think the “Venom” movie wanted to achieve, but was too unfocused to do.
It’s not a necessary superhero film, but you likely won’t regret the fun it delivers.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live