I saw Aquaman last night, and as expected, it was big dumb action fun.
The best thing about the movie, I thought, was the immersive visuals of the seascapes, from immense glowing underwater cities to abandoned gathering places with giant decaying statues. That’s why I was glad I saw it in the theater, even if it is too long (2 1/2 hours, almost) and could have been more tightly edited. Putting in both Ocean Master (Orm, Arthur’s half-brother, played by Patrick Wilson) and Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) was a lot, although they were nicely fitted into the same overarching plot.
There are many elements included here, which sometimes gives the feel of flipping pages through a big ol’ book of history, with some things unnecessary or deserving more followup time. And some — motivations, lines of dialogue, lots of exposition — are definitely cheesy.
Some of the details, though, were great. Mera (Amber Heard) wears a dress with a jellyfish inspired collar which is perfectly suited to the royal setting and gorgeous.
The worst thing was Mera’s wig.
The most confusing thing was wondering how the Atlanteans developed so many laser weapons. And I kept wondering how they got out of the desert.
The most disturbing thing was how shiny everyone looked during the childhood flashbacks, with digital facelift technology aging down the actors (Nicole Kidman as mom Queen Atlanna, Temuera Morrison as lighthouse keeper dad, and Willem Dafoe as counselor Vulko).
The most satisfying thing was seeing, for once in a major DC superhero story, the mother be more important to the backstory than the father, although he had some nice influence as well. And the women get some kick-ass fighting scenes!
I liked Jason Momoa’s performance, Aquaman as Water Bro, just a dumb lug who likes drinking and fighting and knows that about himself. A line from the movie sums this up well. Mera and Aquaman have gone on a quest, and they need a small amount of water for something. She concentrates and draws a glowing, floating drop from his sweat, demonstrating her abilities and control, to which he responds, “I coulda just peed on it.”
The most surprising thing was finding out who did a voice-over I would never have expected. And I didn’t recognize that was Dolph Lundgren as an Atlantean king until the credits rolled.
I’m also finding it interesting to see so many people beginning to repeat as different characters in superhero movies. Dafoe was the Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie. Kidman was one of Batman’s girlfriends. Wilson was in Watchmen. I guess it makes sense to hire people who know what it means to be part of one of these green-screen blockbusters.
Overall, the film is firmly in the standard superhero genre of “origin story”, showing us the powers, history, and formation of a hero. It’s not breaking any new ground, but the performances are good, and it’s an enjoyable movie ride.