“Aquaman” is another in the DC Comics ‘Extended Universe’ of movie adaptations. But this one hits on some strong notes, as opposed to the other DCEU ones they have created. “Wonder Woman” was an exemption and a template for doing this right, and they have (mostly) followed along in a similar way. It is not dark and brooding like the recent DCEU movies were dark and (mostly) humorless. But with help from director James Wan, this new movie does not jump the shark – it uses the shark as a friggin’ undersea taxi service. If you don’t tip well enough, the driver might eat you…
Since every superhero needs a back story, Aquaman becomes a love child between a lighthouse keeper from Maine, and the Queen of Atlantis. Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), escapes to the Earth’s surface. She meets and falls in love with the keeper and they have a child. The little boy has unusual powers (being half-human and half-Atlantean). Atlanna is forced back to again be Queen of Atlantis, and there she and King have another boy child. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is the half-breed, and his younger (fully Atlantean) brother is Orm (Patrick Wilson). Arthur is named after a king, because, well – you know…
Arthur is fine with staying on land, and getting some good things done – under the name ‘Aquaman’. He works to save a Russian sub from a band of pirates. But one of these bad guys is named David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and he blames Aquaman for his father’s death. Kane is working secretly with Orm, to try and make the sea-people rise up and fight the land-people. Aquaman is staying out of this fight, until he gets visit from Mera (Amber Heard), an Atlantean princess and warrior. She knows that something bad is going to happen, and she is soon to be married to Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother. Awkward!
Mera’a father is King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), an ally of Orm. As a child Arthur was being trained by Vulko (Willem Dafoe). Vulko and Mera both convince Aquaman that he the only one with the special powers to challenge his brother Orm. Aquaman is brought to Atlantis and there is a challenge to the death. It is between him and his brother Orm, and he must fight in the “Ring of Fire”. But Johnny Cash does not show up to save him. Mera helps to get him out so they both can go on a world-wide quest to find the lost Trident of the First Atlantean King. They go to sandy African deserts and scenic islands off of Sicily. David Kane (I’m sure you all remember him) shows up with some modified Atlantean technology and calls himself Black Manta.
Aquaman fights Black Manta and throws him off a cliff, where he surely dies (unless they want another villain for ‘Aquaman 2’). Aquaman and Mera escape and they know the location of the special Trident. It is hidden in a dreadful placed called ‘The Trench”. It is where Aquaman’s Queen mother was brought years ago and sentenced to die (for treason, after the King found out about the ‘Arthur Curry incident’)
But you still need to strap in at this point, because you have much more to see. There is much more in the story, including scary ugly monsters that look like sea monkeys on steroids. There is a Lost Kingdom with secret hiding places for a special Trident. There is Arthur who pulls the Sword Excalibur from the stone… No – I mean, Aquaman who takes the Golden Trident from the guardian hands of the dead King.
There is a major underwater battle that is brewing when Orm and his minions decide to destroy any resistance in the other Kingoms, and then take the fight to the land-dwellers. Only the One True King would be able to prevent Orm from taking over and proclaiming himself and the Ocean Master. Can’t have that now, can we?
Other than a slightly too-long run time, this movie is a fine example of a fun and adventure-filled comic book turned into the visual treat. A lot of the visual effects are like cotton candy for the eyes. The actors cast in the movie do a credible job at making a fantastic display of an interesting world come to life. The sub-plot with David Kane and the Black Manta could have been cut and it would be perfectly fine. There are shades of the classical saga stories in the plot and the final battles are epic.
Wan directs this comic book classic with zeal, and Jason Momoa takes the lead role and makes it his own. An adventure story with lot of spectacle and a lot of humor. Definitely ‘see’ worthy!