Action Adventure

Review: Flawed but Fun, ‘Aquaman’ Achieves the Near-Impossible

December 18, 2018Ben MK

Much like Wonder Woman's crowd-pleasing first appearance in Batman v Superman, Aquaman's introduction in Justice League teased great things ahead for the character. But does the Atlantean hero's long-awaited standalone adventure have what it takes to endure the scrutiny and stormy waves of comic book fandom?

Directed by James Wan (best known as the mastermind behind the Insidious and The Conjuring franchises), Aquaman enters the box office fray at a time when the DC Extended Universe needs it most. For while the critically-lauded Wonder Woman indeed worked wonders for boosting the DCEU's credibility as a serious contender against the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, neither the much-maligned Batman v Superman, the anti-hero team-up Suicide Squad, nor the much-hyped Justice League fare quite as well.

Enter Jason Momoa, who made more than just a mere splash when he first stepped into the boots of the "half-breed" Arthur Curry. Born to a human lighthouse-keeper father (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of the legendary lost city of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), Arthur's ability to communicate with the creatures of the sea and to breathe underwater were what got him shunned as a child. However, now that he's a man, what makes him different is what makes him the only hope for preventing a deadly conflict between Earth's underwater kingdoms and the humans who dwell on land.

When Arthur's half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), sets out at all costs to unite the armies of Atlantis' seven disparate kingdoms in order to wage war on humans, a reluctant yet quick-to-learn Arthur is recruited by the Atlantean Princess Mera (Amber Heard) to stop him. But as the pair travel to some of the planet's most exotic locations in search of the fabled Trident of Atlantis' former king, Atlan, they're not only hunted by Orm's soldiers, but by an equally fearsome foe — a mercenary turned vengeance-obsessed killing machine calling himself Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who's made it his personal mission to put Arthur's head on a platter.

Throw in laser-wielding sharks, an Assassin's Creed-inspired rooftop pursuit, and a third-act battle that evokes an undersea version of The Lord of the Rings' most epic moments, and what you get is a film that oftentimes feels cheesy and tonally inconsistent. Yet, despite its shortcomings, you'd be hard-pressed to deny that Aquaman isn't at least fun, with Wan, screenwriters David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, and the cast doing a commendable job convincing moviegoers that riding a giant seahorse into battle isn't that silly — not as long as you give your best manly war cry while doing so.

Suffice to say, the concept of a superhero who converses with fishes is inherently tricky to translate to the big screen. And that's considering that Marvel has already laid much of the groundwork with their more fantastical outings. That said, Aquaman still manages to achieve the near-impossible — making its titular character cool — and that's something of a superheroic feat unto itself.

Aquaman releases December 21st, 2018 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 23 min.

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