Movie Review: Aquaman

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After the critical acclaim and popularity of “Wonder Woman,” a lot was riding on “Aquaman.”   Aquaman (Jason Momoa) was first seen in “Justice League.”  DC, playing catch-up with Marvel, has had its rushed shared universe misfired or resulted in mixed reviews.  It needed another strong, standalone superhero movie.

One stormy night a lighthouse keeper (Tom Curry, Temeura Morrison) spotted a wounded woman ashore, which turns out to be Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), an ocean queen who fled an arranged marriage.  A cute, fish-out-of-water scene follows.  They soon fell in love and had a son, Arthur (Jason Momoa).  An incursion into their peaceful life made Atlanna realize that she would have to return to Atlantis in order to keep her family safe.

Arthur is raised among humans but secretly trained on land by Vulko (Willem Dafoe), a royal adviser.  As a boy, Arthur learns that he can breathe underwater and communicate with fish.  A grown-up Arthur uses his abilities to do impressive rescue at sea.  The beer-chugging chap prefers to work alone, although fame finds him after his submarine-saving act makes news.  Momoa has the imposing physicality and laidback dude persona that makes the lighthearted character work.

Beneath the sea, battles are brewing. King Orm (Patrick Wilson), Arthur’s ambitious half-brother seeks power over the other realms and intends to wage war against humans, in return for their polluting the ocean.  If he succeeds with his alliances, war would rage on and mankind would be in peril.

PATRICK WILSON as King Orm in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “AQUAMAN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Mera (Amber Heard), a hydrokinetic-powered princess betrothed to Orm, seeks out Arthur and asks him to return to Atlantis to take his rightful place on the throne.  He’s the firstborn son of Queen Atlanna and the only one who could unite the seven seas and prevent the war between the ocean denizens and surface dwellers.  Orm doesn’t take kindly to Arthur’s intention and challenge him into a duel.  When it appears clear that Arthur is out of his element, Mera takes matters into her own hand and shows that she’s every bit a heroine.

AMBER HEARD as Mera in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “AQUAMAN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

An averse hero, Arthur doubts that he would be able to do what’s required.  For one, his identity as a half-breed would not allow Atlanteans to accept him as their king.  Moreover, he admits that he doesn’t typically lead or work well with others.  Mera believes otherwise; he’s precisely the connection between land and ocean.

A key for Arthur to show Atlanteans that he’s the rightful ruler is to obtain the hidden Trident of Neptune, thought to be held by the first king of Atlantis and lost when the society submerged ages ago.  Arthur and Mera team up to find the mythical weapon and save both worlds.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Atlantis’ ancient architecture, futuristic tech, and ocean occupants such as armored shark, warrior sea horses and war drum-playing octopus are richly rendered and luminously lit.  Its citizens are regally dressed befitting the colorful underwater environment and movements are fluid as liquid.

The nearly 2.5 hours of running time does feel long and the all-CGI epic battle scenes could be cut back a bit.  Also, for those who don’t read the comics, a second villain feels unnecessary, although it seems that this subplot would carry on in a sequel.

All in all, director James Wan has created an over-the-top world-building that is distinctly different from other superhero movies.  “Aquaman” is a superhero origin story with an aquatic Avatar, Star Wars war and Indiana Jones treasure-hunt adventure rolled into one.  It’s got a surprisingly touching love story, family-bonding and kingdom unity.

“Aquaman” makes a seaworthy splash amidst all the superhero fares.  It’s a swimmingly rollicking, action-packed fantasy adventure.

Copyright (c) 2018. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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