Momoa is a credible Aquaman. Pantene needs to sponsor him STAT.
Arthur Curry (played by Jason Momoa) is the son of a human lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and an Atlantean princess (Nicole Kidman). Growing up with his mother (who returned to sea) Arthur soon becomes the hero known as Aquaman. But when an Atlantean, Mera (Amber Heard), seeks Arthur's aid to save the world, it'll mean returning to Atlantis and battle his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson) for the throne.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
Let's get this out of the way: Aquaman is a joke. Has been for several years. Since his appearance in Super Friends to being lampooned in South Park (as Seaman, hur-hur), Aquaman hasn't gotten the break he deserved. That is until Jason Momoa. This is how Aquaman got his groove back. It went from this dude…
… to this dude.
This version of Aquaman is similar to Chris Hemsworth's Thor: this hirsute biker-looking mensch who can drink you under the table and yet have your back. Because that's the kind of dude that he is. Aquaman marches to his own beat that he wears denim while he's underwater. Screw you, functional clothing! Momoa's portrayal of Aquaman can come off a little 'surfer-douche' but the character does display its own failings and vulnerabilities at being the king or hero that everyone is making him out to be.
Mera is a strong character, who takes control of her own destiny. Sure, it looks like she's waterbending whenever she manipulates liquids but that's beside the point. She might be wearing a red wig but when Mera emerges from the water, her wet hair looks realistic—stringly, untamed. So, relatable.
We also like the depiction of the seven seas; each of them possesses their own personality and politics: Atlantis is shown as a futuristic city; the Brine is a kingdom filled with 'crab-people'; the Fisherman domain is inhabited by actual merpeople. Our favourite kingdom is the Trench, which is modelled after the Marianas Trench; the deepest known point of the sea. It is so deep that sunlight cannot reach its depths and the pressure is crushing. So, the creatures that occupy the area for, possibly, millions of years are just your worse nightmares mixed in with Roman Fedortsovs Instagram feed.
What we didn't like
We did not buy into Aquaman and Mera's romance. Not one iota. I buy their camaraderie but as lovers… eh, not so much. Tone-wise, the movie felt uneven. There's this one stretch of a moment where Aquaman and Mera are in the Sahara Desert and it felt like I'm watching some distant cousin-twice-removed version of Romancing of the Stone. This was, of course, the director, James Wan's intention—a romance that's supposed to have a modern approach but it didn't take.
And it's a shame of what they did with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's character, Black Manta. It started out with promise—Aquaman refusal to save Black Manta's father becomes a driving force for revenge. But that particular sort of revenge is justified. But that character arc devolved into a ham-fisted two-dimensional villain portrayal that failed to find any resolution with Aquaman's culpability into murder.
(There is a moment on a boat to find the Trench, where Aquaman talks about not saving Black Manta's father. We were afraid that this would never be confronted but it was good to see some acceptance of blame on his part. But if only Black Manta was there for that. Maybe for the sequel, Aquaman and Black Manta would attend group therapy?)
It's cheesy. I mean, most superhero movies have some level of cheese but some of the tropes were too much: the scene-chewing, the winking at the camera. That the story would overshadow these infractions but… meh. I would love to see Aquaman and Orm delve into their contentious relationship but they didn't go far enough.
(Maybe for the sequel, Aquaman, Black Manta and Orm would attend group therapy.)
What to look out for
Being a veteran of the horror genre, James Wan placed an Annabelle doll in the movie, so keep an eye out for that. But we can tell you that Dame Julie Andrews adds her vocals to the Karathen. Sadly, the leviathan doesn't sing though.
Aquaman is out in theatres.