Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
“…Aquaman is an absolute blast.”
Mythical kingdoms with advanced technology; powerful weapons that can only be wielded by those worthy of them; feuding brothers battling over their royal lineage; a rightful king who doubts his right to rule; potential battles that threaten the entire planet…geez, Aquaman feels familiar, but it’s also so utterly entertaining, wickedly inventive, and insanely paced that it comes spinning into cinemas like a breath of fresh ocean air. Don’t worry that it practically tells the same story as Thor and Black Panther (and has more than a few echoes of Wonder Woman too): Aquaman is too much of a goofy stand-alone to be called a rip-off, and it’s also playing with decades of comic book lore that likely predate its more recent cinematic predecessors.
One of the highlights of the unfairly maligned Justice League (come on, it wasn’t that bad), the character of Aquaman really gets his due here in a massive two-hours-plus epic that hurls just about everything at the screen, with most of it well and truly sticking. Much of the credit must go to young Australian director, James Wan (who made something truly emotional out of Fast & Furious 7 after terrifying audiences with Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring), for his bravura filmmaking here. He creates a wonderfully dense cinematic world of undersea kingdoms and warring tribes replete with monsters, myths, and madness, all across a stunningly colourful visual palette that has a feel and tone all of its own.
Also deserving credit, however, is director, Zack Snyder, who helmed Justice League (or at least most of it, before leaving…or getting pushed) and made the initial call to cast Jason Momoa (TV’s Frontier and Game Of Thrones) in the role of Aquaman in that ensemble superhero mash-up. Physically imposing, ridiculously handsome, inherently likeable, and boasting fine comic timing, Momoa is brilliant in the role, and he truly makes it his own here when given plenty of room to move. Far different from the Aquaman of DC’s comic books, Momoa is so good that even hardcore fans will likely forgive the transgressions made in the name of cinema.
A classic origin tale in every sense (and one happily free of “set-ups” for anything that might be happening in the DC Extended Universe in the future), the film follows the emotional plight of the super-powered Arthur Curry (Momoa) – the illegitimate son of Nicole Kidman’s undersea Atlantean queen and Temuera Morrison’s nice guy lighthouse keeper – as he struggles to find his place in the world. Though living on the surface, he has been trained by Willem Dafoe’s Yoda-like Vulko, and all of his powers come into play when his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), threatens to unite all of the ocean’s undersea kingdoms and then stage an attack on the surface. Though aided by Amber Heard’s regal warrior princess, Mera, Arthur Curry (who also has a vengeful hi-tech pirate – played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – on his trail) soon finds that he’s, ahem, a little out of his depth when it comes to a battle of this extraordinary scope.
From its spot-on casting (Amber Heard is occasionally a little stiff, but she and Momoa share a lovely Romancing The Stone kind of chemistry), breakneck pacing (this film literally does not take a breath), clear narrative (the plot is simple, but the greater story, so to speak, is enormous), and mind-blowing visuals (undersea warriors riding sea horses and sharks!), Aquaman is an absolute blast. And, hopefully, it will turn Jason Momoa into a superstar.