This One Floats

Aquaman may not be 2018’s best movie but it’s the most movie

Film Review | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Aquaman
Now Playing
3 out of 5

A lot has been written about the DC Comics cinematic universe’s problems. Even the company’s success stories (Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad ) create problems because their existence prevents Warner from executing a full reboot.

In these circumstances, the strategy seems to be to drop the universe-building and focus on individual adventures. Aquaman toes the line, and how. Arthur Curry’s first solo outing includes an origin story, a quest and confrontations with two classic arch villains — his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) and the mercenary Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) — plus a massive undersea monster voiced by Julie Andrews.

Describing the plot is a thankless task. All you need to know is that Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is pushed into challenging Orm for the throne of Atlantis. Orm is a warmonger who holds a grudge against mankind for their crimes against the oceans (fair enough). Given his mixed parentage and I suppose his general sense of decency, Aquaman can’t stay on the sidelines.

Directed and co-written by James Wan (Furious 7), the film’s hyperkinetic nature makes it impossible to be less than entertained. Aquaman also has a penchant for the weird: even when it wallows in clichés, there’s always something to keep you at least mildly interested. The dialogue, however, doesn’t help: It’s hard to keep a straight face with lines like “where I come from, the sea carries our tears away.”

Because Aquaman is always go, go, go, there’s not much room for character development. This is a shame, considering this has to be the best-cast DC film since Zach Snyder took over. Jason Momoa keeps things light as Aquaman. Never mind the number of Shakespearean tragedies he’s at the center of, the hero’s easygoing nature and self-awareness make him more relatable than the other Justice Leaguers. Nicole Kidman lets loose as his mom and her pairing with Temuera Morrison is inspired. Dolph Lundgren gets more lines here than in his two Rocky movies combined

Even though James Wan knows how to build an action scene, the sheer amount of computer graphics is off-putting. The main set-piece feels too fake and confusing to become invested. Here is hoping when the sequels come, they realize their best special effect is Momoa’s gameness for anything.

Lastly, Julie Andrews is the master of shade. She refused any involvement with Mary Poppins Returns but lends her voice to another movie opening on the same weekend? That’s cold, Fraulein Maria.