The latest DC effort, Aquaman, is middling fun for about 20 minutes before it becomes one of the worst films of 2018.
It’s the typical DC garbage can of a film and proof that Warner Brothers has learned next to nothing when it comes to making a good comic book movie since Christian Bale took off the cowl (Yes, Wonder Woman was good—the lone exception).
Jason Momoa returns as big, tattooed, beefy Arthur, the dreamy son of a Lost City of Atlantis queen (Nicole Kidman) and Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), a lowly lighthouse keeper. Fett finds the queen washed up on the rocks and takes her home, where she promptly eats his goldfish. (What a laugh riot! She ate his pet fish!) She gives birth to Arthur, and the origin story part of the movie is well on its way.
We see a few more moments in the fish man’s young life. Arthur is bullied in an aquarium, where he gets a tiger shark all riled up to the point that it almost breaks through the glass and kills his entire elementary school class (That would’ve made for an interesting twist). Momoa eventually shows up in full party mode, and it looks like we could be on our way to some goofy fun.
Alas, like Zack Snyder before him, director James Wan doesn’t know how to keep a leash on his epic, and this things goes bonkers in a bad way. After teaming up with Princess Mera (Amber Heard), she of the Little Mermaid hair, Aquaman goes on some sort of intercontinental trek to find a lost trident, with haphazard locations constantly being captioned at the base of the screen (Rome, The Sahara Desert, The Valley of the Brine, Atlantis, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., etc.).
The search for the powerful trident that will make Arthur king of Atlantis is but one of the many, many insipid plotlines. There’s also King Orm (Patrick Wilson, looking like he placed last in a Colorado Rockies mascot costume contest)—Arthur’s half-brother and a full-time asshole—who is trying to claim the Atlantean throne and threatening war with the Surface People (that would be us). Orm has some sort of alliance with pirates led by the one who will become Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
Black Manta is one of Aquaman’s main adversaries in the comics, but here he is basically a side note, with Wan straining to make the character meaningful among all of the chaos.
The movie has a formidable enough villain in Orm, but Wan feels the need to make Manta a factor, hence, the nearly two and a half hour run-time of this movie, with way too much going on for it to make any sense at all. As for Manta, I thought Steppenwolf was the worst looking DC villain of all time. Manta looks like a reject from Sigmund and the Sea Monsters rather than something fitting a big budget Aquaman movie.
Visually, this is yet another movie that thinks it’s Avatar, and that’s never really a good thing. So, you get a lot of blue intermixing with fluorescent colors. (I did like the Great White sharks with horse saddles on them.) It’s yet another Warner Brothers DC movie with spasmodic, cheap looking CGI sneaking into many of the action scenes.
An embarrassed looking Willem Dafoe shows up as Vulko, Arthur’s mentor, and is saddled with the film’s silliest line ("The king has risen!"). Dolph Lundgren gets another late 2018 role (after Creed II) as another underwater king who just sort of stands around as his special effects hair waves in the water. Julie Andrews has a “fall asleep and you will miss it” voice cameo.
Aquaman can’t decide if it wants to be Avatar 2, or The Mummy Returns … again! or I Got Muscles, Attitude and I’m Underwater 5 or Creed III: I’m Old and Wet Now. The undeniable charms (and, admittedly, glorious hair) of Momoa can only go so far in this unholy mess.
When it comes to comic book movies, as evidenced by the likes of Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Marvel still reigns supreme.