Aquaman movie cast: Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul Mateen-II
Aquaman movie director: James Wan
Aquaman movie rating: 1.5 stars
When is ‘aqua’, ‘aah-qua’? Maybe when you have a mouthful of water. True or not, this minor DC character’s solo big-screen outing is remarkable for those two things: that strange pronunciation, and a whole lot of water. Plus, a bizarre storyline that skips the most fun part of a superhero origin film — his or her discovery of his powers. Yes, Jason Momoa is one of the best bare-chested bods to occupy silver screen for this length of time in a film, despite all those tattoos (and the rest of him isn’t bad either), but the most striking scene in the film remains Aquaman as a young bullied boy standing against an aquarium glass wall, as marine life rallies behind him.
At other times, director Wan seems in an incredible rush, not lingering over any important characters or vital plot points but diving head first into yet another undersea clash. Maybe his brief was more bang for the buck, but how many of those encounters can you enjoy where characters you know little about, their hair floating about, riding an array of sea animals, deploying an astonishing range of light-shooting weapons, clash in a confusing flurry?
It doesn’t help that Wilson, who plays Aquaman’s nemesis, Orm, is completely out of his depth here. Wilson has served Wan well in The Conjuring series, but as a man who seeks world dominance, he neither has the drive, nor the villainy, nor the charm, to rally the undersea forces. The film’s production design has given the actors a deliberately washed-out look under water, and that makes things even worse for Wilson. Even Nicole Kidman, who plays the mother of both Aquaman and Orm, can’t survive this treatment with grace.
The story goes like this: Once, the queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (Kidman), escaping an arranged marriage, washed up on shore and met and fell in love with a lighthouse keeper. Out of that union was born Arthur, later to be known as Aquaman. The King of Atlantis sent forces after her, brought her back to sea and there she bore him a son too, Orm. Many years later, the surface world already acknowledges Aquaman, somehow, without really bothering with him much, while Orm is dreaming world domination by bringing the kingdoms of the seas together. The heir of one of those kingdoms is his betrothed, Mera (Heard). Then there is a pirate seeking revenge against Aquaman, for having, rather mercilessly, let his father die. He will later become Black Manta (Mateen-II). Also, an Atlanna loyalist, Vulko (Dafoe) has been training Arthur in warfare, without his father batting an eyelid. About the surface world, Aquaman doesn’t get to do much there except rescue a pirated ship and click a few selfies.
Aquaman gets almost none of those parts right, especially what would happen if a long-haired, golden-bodied, twinkly-eyed and good-humoured stud like Arthur popped up to save the world. Oh, the thought of it!
The film even spots a potential in making the story about a marine world furious at what the surface dwellers are doing to its waters, and about “pure bloods” vs “half-breeds”, but then lets that slip away too.
Towards the end, there are a few rousing battle scenes. But by then, Aquaman is so deep under, the only one keeping head above water is its title character.