In what may be the first superhero film to mention human culpability in pollution and global warming, James Wan (The Conjuring) takes on DC’s “Aquaman” with verve and delight. The film, although not perfect, has enough movement and charm to be entertaining and humorous. It makes some socially conscious points without being too heavy or boorish.
Arthur Curry AKA Aquaman (Jason Momoa) gets a vibe that pirates are taking over a Russian sub. Our Atlantian hero muscles in and takes care of the armored scavengers tossing them about like so many shrimps in a salad with his tanned bare hands.
After the battle, an enraged pirate vows to avenge his father who was fatally wounded during combat. Aquaman shrugs his massive shoulders and moves on.
Later, Mera (Amber Heard) visits Arthur during a violent storm accident involving his father. She tells Arthur that his half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) intends to become king, dominating the ocean and destroying humankind, or at least humanity as we know it. Orm is acting as a demagogue and Arthur is the only one to stop it.
The film is served well by Momoa, Heard and Nicole Kidman (as Queen Atlanna). They ground the film and give it some human depth. Without such connection, the plot of the film would blur under the special effects and become so much phosphorescent fluff.
A running joke in the film is that Arthur is purely a muscle-man and not very smart. He also swears a bit. But this doesn’t make him off putting; his salty language gives him an off-kilter charm that is endearing.
The action sequences are top notch. Each scene has a whimsical quality combined with some apprehension which gives the sensation of an actual comic. There is one particular segment set in Sicily that is quite thrilling in the realm of Asian sci fi that pokes fun of the Bourne Identity franchise and Donkey Kong / Mario games with all of the running and hurtling through walls and windows.
The aggressive soldiers are armored a blinding white or a glossy black, having the look of figures in a Japanese Anime or Manga book. This is no accident. These warriors are both campy and fearsome.
Although the special effects are stunning depicting ornate aquamarine robes flowing astride golden seahorses or gun-metal gray sharks, the war scenes are too bright, noisy and repetitive. Such undersea carnage waterlogs the senses and makes what was once sensational soggy.
Aside from this, Aquaman himself has enough spirit and substance to carry the film. The dramatic pull is how this being feels towards his mother, his brother and the kitschy supervillain Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). The main concept is that Aquaman cares, posessing a quality of self deprecation, regardless of whether humanity respects this hero, or for that matter, our inter-connected oceans.
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