Aquaman (AU - M/UK - 12A/US - PG-13)

In a Word: Ambitious

Aquaman

Jason Momoa stars as Aquaman. PICTURE: Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

 

"At its best, Aquaman delivers epic action in exotic locations, while at its worst, there is dialogue far below the calibre of the talent delivering it."

The DC Universe has had a mixed success with its cinematic superheroes. There has been the excellent (the Dark Knight trilogy and Wonder Woman), the mediocre (Man of Steel, Suicide Squad) and the embarrassing (Batman Vs Superman, Justice League). Aquaman flaunts a star-studded cast and is loaded with special effects, but is that enough to keep this hero afloat?

While other superheroes have the luxury of armoured suits and fancy costumes to simulate their over-exaggerated muscles from the comic books, Aquaman spends much of the screen time shirtless. Hence it was a prerequisite to cast an actor that had the physique of a superhero. Fortunately for DC, Jason Momoa, the model turned actor best known as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, has more than enough muscles to flex as he ripples the waves. Momoa is supported by scream queen, Amber Heard, playing love interest, Mera, while Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe bring their credibility to the table - Kidman as Aquaman’s mother, Atlanna, and Dafoe as his mentor, Vulko.

The plot of the film follows well-established high fantasy tropes. Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, is of royal birth but wants nothing to do with the throne. When his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) claims the throne and threatens to declare war on the surface, Arthur is forced to challenge his brother in combat to prove he is the true king of Atlantis and bring peace to the world. While the story may feel a little too familiar (Black Panther and Thor both sported similar dynamics) Aquaman attempts to bring something new to the genre with its spectacular underwater environments.

Bustling underwater cities, ancient ruins, decaying shipwrecks and hidden kingdoms are all marvelously rendered and make original locations for the underwater battles. Adding to the spectacle are CGI tsunamis, lava flows, storms, hordes of soldiers and the occasional giant monster. Then there are nods to Aquaman’s past including the iconic Superfriends cartoon from yesteryear where he ridiculously rode a pink seahorse. Somehow, they managed to get Momoa to ride a giant seahorse in the final battle and make it look cool which is a testament to the high level of special effects on display.

But all this visual splendor can only mask the flaws for so long and it is clear that despite the sumptuous visual effects and award winning cast, the real enemy here is the shallow script the actors fight against. Decades of comic book backstory, exposition and rivalry are crammed into this single film. Tackling so many allies, enemies and kingdoms into this two-and-a-half hour package is an ambitious undertaking that only partially succeeds.

At its best, Aquaman delivers epic action in exotic locations, while at its worst, there is dialogue far below the calibre of the talent delivering it. While DC may not be taking the cinematic crown from Marvel anytime soon, Aquaman makes a noble attempt to rule the seven seas.