If you’re tied of green screen superhero movies, at least you’ll enjoy Jason Momoa rolling his eyes at one in Aquaman. Your mileage may vary how far that goes during the two hour, 23 minute run time.
Whenever Aquaman comes to life you can see what kind of movie it could have been. The above water fights give Momoa a chance to be an action hero without too many special effects. Momoa relishes throwing dudes around and saying the one-liners with a wink.
They have some fun with the Atlantean commandos’ dependence on water. Mera (Amber Heard) uses any liquid nearby as a weapon.
Queen Atlanta (Nicole Kidman) has one fight that doesn’t even try to make you think it’s Kidman doing it. You can excuse it as a live-action splash page, and at least it’s a brightly lit one.
Underwater action is obviously going to be more effects driven, but Aquaman makes the effort to come up with diverse creatures and underwater geography.
Underwater, Atlanteans just talk. They don’t need air pockets, they just have full dialogue scenes underwater.
That’s seamless, but they can never quite not look like actors hanging on wires in a green screen stage. At least they’re surrounded by flamboyant underwater creatures and in Imax it fills even more of the frame.
There are moments of magic with Arthur and Mera looking for mythic artifacts, and showing their water magic to children. Young Arthur’s connection with the aquarium tank is a wonderful bit of E.T. pathos.
There are certainly plenty of crazy, outrageous moments in Aquaman, eight paragraphs worth to be exact. Every time they pay any attention to the plot though, it just lost me.
Even Arthur seems to know this is all “find the maguffin and save the world” but the film can’t have that much fun with it. The screenwriters have to play through the typical save the world/fulfill your destiny plot with predictable twists.
Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen)’s backstory is that Arthur let his father (Michael Beach) die. Manta and his father were both pirates, so this could be a poignant exploration of how they face consequences for their crimes, yet still blame Arthur, not themselves.
This isn’t Tony Stark in Civil War though, or even Whiplash in Iron Man 2. Or Harry Osborne in Spider-Man. Arthur has one moment of reflection on it, that’s it.
That’s only the subplot too. King Orm (Patrick Wilson) wants to declare war on the surface world, and he stages a submarine attack to convince his people. This is essentially the Iraq War and Orm is George W. Bush.
That could also be an interesting parallel to explore, but the movie doesn’t. It just means Arthur has to claim the throne so as king he can not declare war.
I’m glad people are enjoying Aquaman. It’s gonna be huge so I hope the sequel can be more of the ridiculous and less of the spinning wheels. I want to live in the world of Aquaman when they’re not trying to save the world.
Aquaman is now playing in theaters.