Movie review: 'Aquaman' offers an awesome Atlantean adventure

Fred Hawson

Posted at Dec 16 2018 01:56 PM

Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Handout

People who grew up knowing Aquaman as the hero with the orange scaly shirt, green tights and talked to fish on the "Superfriends" TV cartoon would never dream that the role would go to an actor who looked like Jason Momoa at all.

However, if you had seen the Aquaman in "Justice League Unlimited," he had long blond hair and had a kingly costume, sporting his trident and bare torso. Momoa's casting was probably based on that more serious version of Aquaman.

Momoa's Arthur Curry is a big brawny guy, but fun-loving and happy-go-lucky -- a guy much like the actor himself, it seems. He is aware that he has powers underwater and he uses these powers for good. He has a great sense of humor and has a knack for witty repartee and wacky improvisation.

Momoa gave Aquaman a likable personality that lifted the King of Atlantis out of any stuffy reputation it had from the past. We only got a hint of Momoa as Aquaman in "Justice League" but now we get his full back story.

We first meet lighthouse keeper Tom (New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison) and Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis (an always regal Nicole Kidman) -- how they met in 1985 and how they were parted three years later, but not before having a son together whom they named Arthur -- proof that the worlds above and underwater can indeed co-exist.

We see Arthur growing up from infancy, to a 9-year old (Kaan Guldur), 13-year old (Otis Dhanji), 16-year old (Kekoa Kekuman), slowly learning his true nature and abilities, until adulthood (Momoa), who has beem getting media attention as the anti-piracy vigilante of the high seas Aquaman.

In one of these rescue missions, Arthur encounters and makes enemies with submarine pirate David Kane (Yahya Abdul Mateen II), who one day would become Aquaman's arch nemesis Black Manta.

Meanwhile in Atlantis, we meet King Orm, younger half-brother of Arthur (but actor Patrick Wilson is actually 6 years older than Momoa), conferring with his vizier Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe) and fellow royal King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) about uniting the seven undersea kingdoms and declaring war on the surface.

A scene from 'Aquaman.' Handout

Nereus's daughter Mera (Amber Heard), a spirited red-haired Atlantean princess, goes to find Arthur to tell him about this threat and to help the first-born of Atlanna, half-breed as he is, to claim his rightful birthright as King of Atlantis.

As the origins movie for this superhero, there were several threads going on and many characters being introduced, hence the lengthy fully stuffed 143-minute running time. However, director James Wan gave us a rich cinematic visual spectacle to make every minute worth our while, something clear from the trailers alone.

Arthur and Mera have superpowers both above and below water, so their adventures will take them (and us) from the icy depths of the oceans (where we will be introduced to other Atlantean races) to the scorching heart of the Sahara Desert. The thrilling fight scenes, both on land and underwater, were also very well-choreographed with all the special creature effects.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in 'Aquaman.' Handout

The story was complex but solid, and well-executed by Wan and his crew, especially his team of computer-generated artists who created the fantastical world of Atlantis. It was great to see some aspects of the Aquaman we knew from the early cartoons, like how he rode on the back of a giant seahorse, or how he communicated with the fish with visible "ripples."

Wan also slyly included a few Easter eggs from his horror franchises for sharp fans to catch, like Annabelle and Leigh Whannell. An underlying message about how the surface dweller have been polluting the oceans all these years was also delivered loud and clear.

There were some pretty campy and cheesy moments for sure (especially towards the ending), but Momoa and Heard managed to pull these scenes off with their effusive charm and chemistry, to give us a thoroughly entertaining action-adventure film to cheer about. This DC fan is very happy about it. The extra scene in the middle of the closing credits promises a sequel I am definitely looking forward to.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."