Aquaman (dir. James Wan, 2018) – To preserve peace between land and sea, Arthur Curry must find the trident that will prove his worth as the King of Atlantis.
The Atlantean King’s first solo outing gets inundated with one too many villains, including a leaden script.
It was never Arthur’s intent to vie for the throne. But he soon finds his hand forced when the next heir in line threatens to wage a dangerous war. Having left his world behind at a young age, the late King’s firstborn son must find a sacred weapon, which will prove his worth to rule a world in disarray.
The to-be King is no heir of Camelot, but borne of the Atlantean Queen and a mortal lighthouse keeper. As the son of star-crossed lovers from two worlds, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) knows better than anyone about unity. It takes little convincing for him to get his quest for peace started, as his initial reluctance quickly washes off to make room for explosive underwater action.
Villainy floods in unending waves. On land, David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) takes on the mantle of the Black Manta, bent on revenge against the hero responsible for his father’s death.
In the sea, sibling rivalry brews a bitter battle between Arthur and his half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), the latter intent on war against the surface world. Most of the damage unfortunately comes of cringe-worthy proclamations and awkward banter. Even Jason Momoa could not make “I call it an ass-whooping” sound as cool as it must have been in the writers’ heads.
The nemesis of many comic book movies Exposition also makes a return. Watch Arthur struggle to maintain his calm, while enduring the fusillade of origin stories in frustratingly dull monologues. You know there is a serious mistake when Willem Dafoe as Vulko may just qualify as the dullest Merlin in Arthurian history.
Loud action attempts to drown out the flaws of the screenplay. A fiery set piece in Sicily sees Princess Mera (Amber Heard) reveal her superpowers in parkour, and turning wine into powerful Super Soakers. Back in the ocean, the threat of vile sea creatures places James Wan back into effective horror territory.
The background of which is Atlantis, gorgeous and almost impressive enough to distract the audience from the unconvincing romance between Arthur and Mera. Almost. Given how difficult it is to connect with the leads emotionally, there remains little to care about.
But this turbulent storm births a silver lining for the DC cinematic universe. Jason Momoa shines as Aquaman, making the character his own and breaking further away from the campy iteration in the comic pages. While the script does him few favours, there is no superhero more fun to watch than his grinning, beer-chugging metalhead.
Besides, where else in the world would we ever get to witness an octopus, unleashing his drumming magic with all eight freaking limbs? That’s right – this damn movie. You go, Topo!