2 Hrs., 23 Mins.
Aquaman December 31, 2018
quaman, DC's latest cinematic offering, is so comprehensively waterlogged that, after walking out of the screening I attended a few days ago, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about it at all. The movie, which runs for two and a half hours but feels like, as noted by the New York Times’ Wesley Morris, two and a half years, is among the most flavorless products to come out of the superhero-movie
woodwork in recent memory. It stars Jason Momoa, the impossibly pugilistic, long-haired actor, as the titular hero. In the film, he's caught up in an anticlimactic battle with his half-brother, the Malfoy-esque Orm (Patrick Wilson), for the title of King of Atlantis.
Aquaman is an origin story, too. It begins by delving into the forbidden love story between the Queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), and a resilient lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison), who rescues the former after a storm leaves her washed ashore. (Once she is inevitably forced to return to her watery home, shortly after giving birth to a son, Arthur — aka Aquaman — Atlanna is allegedly executed.)
The film goes on, albeit vaguely, to chronicle Arthur’s upbringing, which is flecked with training sessions led by his concerned Atlantian mentor, Nuidis (Willem Dafoe), which enables him to work as a semi-vigilante as an adult. The aforementioned, rather Homeric plotline comes after Orm and his plethora of embittered followers consider waging war on their fellow land-dwellers, which is something Arthur, who technically is the rightful heir to Atlantis' throne, opposes. There’s a subplot concerning Arthur and a pirate (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who bills him a nemesis early on, too, but it’s not worth getting into here, since the film doesn’t evince much time to either.
All superhero movies are, by design, a flood of clichés. But most of them — usually released by DC’s adversary, Marvel — manage to be amusing as an effect of their subversions and surprising sophistication. But Aquaman, which is mechanically directed by James Wan, doesn’t venture outside cliché, unless the topic of the day is the kitschy visuals, which many think are inspired. (I think they're ugly.) The humor, so ripe to undermine the plasticky, pulped-out presentation, is curiously anodyne. When the film is funny, it’s unintentionally so: in the theater, the audience roared when Wilson announces, without a whiff of camp, his preferred villain name — Ocean Master — for the first time, for instance.
Because the performers have been provided with platitudinous material, and because the characters do not bear discernible inner lives or narrative-unrelated ideas, they are given little opportunity to do much besides enliven stock. Mera, the Amber Heard-portrayed, red-hot-haired heroine and love interest, epitomizes the screenplay’s shortcomings: the writers have forgotten to give her motivations, a significant backstory, and a substantive personality. I would continue by further discussing the whirpool that is the storyline, or the in-large-part monotonously traditionalist action sequences. But since I suspect this review is beginning to read like a laundry list of complaints about this empty fish tank of a movie, I’ll cap it here. D