I feel like I’m beating a dead (sea) horse (don’t troll me on social media: it’s an expression). But with the exception of “Wonder Woman”, DC continues to be unable to do the superhero genre “justice”. As anticipated, “Aquaman” swims with the fishes.
Jason Momoa’s title character had a cameo in 2016’s “Batman v. Superman”. His screen time got beefed-up in last year’s “Justice League”. Finally(?), Arthur/Aquaman gets his own movie, which is both an origin story and present-day adventure.
Arthur is half-human/half-sea creature, the result of a love relationship between his lighthouse keeper father and Atlanna, the queen of Atlantis, who washed-up on his Maine doorstep. She’s played by 2018’s busiest actress – Nicole Kidman.
Patrick Wilson plays Arthur’s half-brother, King Orm. He’s on a quest to take the reigns of all things H2O and become the (wait for it) “Ocean Master”. The first time that phrase is spoken it’s accompanied by a “duh-duh-duh”. I bet Wilson can’t wait for friends and family members to greet him over the holidays with, “What’s up, Ocean Master?”
So what we have here is “Clash of the Titans” all over again, as these two squabbling siblings square-off for the throne. There are even a couple of Kracken-like creatures. “Aquaman” borrows from other movies, including “Jurassic Park”, “Batman v. Superman” (Kidman gets to resurrect the whole “Martha” thing) and even “Ant-Man”, with the menacing Black Manta as another of Aquaman’s foes. It’s all ridiculous.
Aquaman’s obligatory love interest is Ariel… I mean Mera. But Amber Heard looks way too much like Disney’s “Little Mermaid”. And speaking of the Mouse House, none other than the original Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews, lends her voice to a key character. Andrews opted out of a cameo in “Mary Poppins Returns” out of respect for Emily Blunt. She should have opted out of this out of respect to her fans.
But the person I feel the worst for is Willem Dafoe. The acclaimed actor plays Arthur’s childhood mentor, Vulko. Dafoe is so deserving of the praise he’s getting for his performance as Vincent van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate”. And that’s where I’m sure he wished he was instead of starring in “Aquaman”. But hey, indies don’t pay the bills. A scene late in the film in which Dafoe strikes an unintentionally hilarious expression sums up his contribution.
The endless action scenes are not only dull but stretch the running time to nearly 2 1/2 hours. The undersea visuals are murky. And director James Wan (“The Conjuring”, “Furious 7”) rarely lets the camera tread water – it’s constantly moving.
The script is goofy, highly explanatory and lacking any element of excitement or fun (a cameo by “SpongeBob”‘s King Neptune would have helped tremendously).
Alas, “Aquaman” is not the male savior franchise Warner Bros. and DC were hoping for. The movie will be a financial hit (it’s already made a boat load of money overseas). But when it comes to quality, you can’t sink much lower.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Aquaman” gets a D-.
Running Time: 143 min.