*** ½ out of five stars
DC Comics’ well-known sea-dwelling superhero finally stars in his own solo big screen adventure.
Arthur Curry/Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa, and by several other actors at younger ages in flashbacks) is a man of two worlds. His father is a lighthouse keeper named Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) and his mother was Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the Queen of Atlantis. But since Arthur was conceived when Atlanna fled from an arranged marriage with another Atlantean, he is rejected by the undersea kingdom as an illegitimate half-breed.
Arthur eventually becomes a local hero around the seafaring community of his hometown in Maine. One day Mera (Amber Heard), the princess of Atlantis’s neighboring kingdom Xebel, enlists his help. Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson), Arthur’s younger half-brother and the current ruler of Atlantis, is about to wage war with the surface. Orm forms an alliance with Mera’s father Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), and if he unites all the major aquatic kingdoms he will lay claim to the mighty title of Ocean Master.
Arthur and Mera’s only hope of stopping Orm is to find the legendary Trident that belonged to Atlan (Graham McTavish), the first ever ruler of Atlantis. At the same time, third-generation mercenary pirate David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) wants revenge on Aquaman for the murder of his father Jesse (Michael Beach).
Aquaman is the latest entry in DC’s current film universe (which includes films like Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Justice League). And thankfully it is one of the better chapters from that world, perhaps even the best so far aside from the acclaimed Wonder Woman.
The film has many thematic similarities to several other contemporary superhero movies, like Black Panther, the Thor series and the aforementioned Wonder Woman. Common threads found in these movies include superhero royalty, family, revenge, betrayal and questions of patriotism, nationalistic isolationism and war. Aquaman’s villain Orm can be compared to Black Panther baddy Killmonger in that both want to annihilate the outside world, and both are related to their respective films’ heroes. Arthur and Orm’s extreme sibling rivalry also calls to mind the relationship between Thor and Loki in the Marvel movies.
Perhaps the biggest area in which Aquaman differentiates itself from the rest of the pack is its setting. The undersea world and the battles scenes that take place there are something of a breath of fresh air (pardon the pun) due to their unique visual effects, cinematography and choreography. Even when the film takes place above the surface, things still look interesting. The fishing town that Arthur hails from has a wonderful foggy quality, and Arthur and Mera’s international treasure hunt for the Trident takes them from the Sahara Desert to a town in Sicily and beyond. The acting and characterization are reasonably engaging. Arthur and Mera have a predictable but charming love-hate relationship, and the rest of the cast all turn in fine performances.
Aquaman is not the most original of comic book movies that currently flood the market, but if you have any interest in undersea adventures or just want to see the character get his cinematic due, than this is a very fine kettle of fish indeed.