January 17, 2020

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Comic-book universe visits an octopus's garden with its watery superhero

Aquaman takes deep dive into mega-budget nonsense

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/12/2018 (392 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The movie Aquaman feels like a distracted student doodled fantastical sea creatures and superheroes on the margins of his Intro to Marine Biology notebook... and then successfully had it optioned as a screenplay.

One hoped for more. In the noir-heavy DC universe, there was a flicker of hope that Aquaman would be DC’s Thor: Ragnarok, an effort to leaven the increasing heaviness of the overall franchise with an absurdist comic touch.

That was necessary. As a superhero, Aquaman carries some baggage as a particularly far-fetched figure from the days he was embodied by an Aryan blond ubermensch given to riding dolphins like horses. It is no wonder the idea of an Aquaman movie was a running joke on the cable series Entourage, with underwater geek James Cameron assigned the task of bringing the Justice League’s dampest member to the big screen.

Aquaman is unrestrained and campy, registering as a high contrast to the doom-and-gloom esthetic of most DC movies. (DC)

Aquaman is unrestrained and campy, registering as a high contrast to the doom-and-gloom esthetic of most DC movies. (DC)

Here in the real world, the task fell to director James Wan, a filmmaker who cut his teeth on low-budget horror (Saw, Insidious) before graduating to mega-budget nonsense (Furious 7), of which Aquaman is a gold-card member.

At least it was smart to cast the Hawaiian-born Jason Momoa in the role of Aquaman/Arthur Curry. The actor, who previously played Conan the Barbarian and Khal Drogo in the first season of the HBO series Game of Thrones, brings a formidable presence, danger and a necessary sardonic tone to the proceedings.

He has already been seen in Batman V. Superman and Justice League, so this film provides his origin story, which is decidedly romantic. Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), a princess of Atlantis, runs from a disagreeable arranged marriage and into the arms of a human lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison), with whom she falls in love. They have a child — little Arthur — before Atlanna is forcibly taken back to Atlantis to marry and sire another son. Orm (Patrick Wilson) grows up to be a king and resolves to wage war with the "surface dwellers" over legitimate concerns, such as ocean pollution. At the same time, Arthur grows into a badass superhero, not-so-secretly battling pirates and other seagoing malefactors.

Another rebel princess, Mera (Amber Heard), compels Arthur to challenge half-brother Orm for the throne of Atlantis as the only way to head off a global civil war. So while she and Arthur head off seeking a powerful gold trident, Orm sets about on a mission to consolidate the other underwater tribes to join the war.

Jason Momoa brings a formidable presence, danger and a necessary sardonic tone to Aquaman. (DC)

Jason Momoa brings a formidable presence, danger and a necessary sardonic tone to Aquaman. (DC)

You almost have to admire the way director Wan goes for broke on the kitsch-y elements, which include a drum-playing octopus and jellyfish dresses. The film’s look is as unrestrained and campy as a Busby Berkeley musical, and that registers as a high contrast to the doom-and-gloom esthetic of most DC movies.

But despite the abundance of eye candy, the movie is not authentically funny in the way Thor: Ragnarok was. You may blame the movie’s four credited writers, or, to give discredit where it’s due, you can point out that Amber Heard’s flat delivery of her lines tends to deflate the repartee between her and Momoa.

All in all, it amounts to the most campy DC outing since Joel Schumacher helmed a couple of Batman movies in the ‘90s.

That’s not a recommendation.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Oh yes, there are sharks. (DC)

Oh yes, there are sharks. (DC)

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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