In the second and third seasons of HBO's Entourage, lead character Vincent Chase starred in a big-budget, James Cameron-directed Aquaman movie. Although this fictional film ended up becoming a massive hit, the show treated the idea somewhat jokingly, like Ha, ha, who would ever make a movie about this lame superhero? (That's the program's take on him, not my own.) Now, more than twelve years later, we've actually gotten Aquaman, although it's directed by James Wan, not James Cameron. No joke here -- together with Wonder Woman, it's another example of DC getting a handle on how to adapt its non-Batman/Superman heroes to the big screen.
Jason Momoa plays Aquaman, also known as Arthur Curry. He's half-human, half-Atlantean. As a child, his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) was torn from his lighthouse-keeper father Tom (Temuera Morrison) and forced to return to the underwater world she abandoned. Still reeling from this, he long ago turned his back on that side of his heritage.
The adult Arthur receives a visit from Mera (Amber Heard), who informs him that his step-brother, the evil King Orm (Patrick Wilson), has a plan to become the supreme leader of all the sea's kingdoms. This will be very, very bad. After some convincing, Arthur agrees to help prevent it from occurring. First, he must find a rare trident that will hopefully give him the power to defeat Orm.
Willem Dafoe plays his trainer Vulko, and Dolph Lundren is Nereus, the king of one of Atlantis's many tribes. Then there's Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an enemy from Aquaman's past. Orm enlists his help in trying to get rid of Arthur.
I don't know if I'd say that Aquaman is a great movie in any conventional sense, but it's most definitely an enjoyable one. Wan and screenwriters David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall have decided to go for broke in the crazy department. Perhaps realizing that Aquaman is a weirdly-conceived superhero to begin with, they have crafted a work in which you never really know what you're going to see next. There's no point trying to describe any of it, except to say that when Dolph Lundgren riding a giant seahorse is the least bonkers thing in a movie, you know it's taking you to some outrageous places.
There is a hypnotic quality to all the insanity that is difficult to resist because it's presented so enthusiastically. The kingdoms of Atlantis are colorful and sleek. Aquaman encounters various creatures, some of which resemble actual aquatic life and some of which most definitely do not. The action sequences start with a few basics, then pile on additional elements that come out of nowhere, yet surprisingly work within the context. It's almost as though the film wants to keep you continually off-guard so that it can delight you with the succession of rabbits it pulls out of its hat.
Jason Momoa has been the lead in other films. In Arthur Curry, though, he finds a character that allows him to showcase his charisma to its fullest degree. Because of the overall tongue-in-cheek quality, the actor gets to earn laughs with humorous line readings and occasional sarcastic dialogue. With the subplot about Arthur's mother, he gets to demonstrate a little emotion. And with the abundant action scenes, he gets to prove his chops as an A+ badass once again. Momoa may not resemble Aquaman on the pages of the comic books, but shaping the role to fit him was an inspired idea.
Visually, Aquaman is stunning, with an elaborate undersea world created. Heard, Kidman, and Dafoe all deliver good supporting performances. The story is a bit all over the place, and the 143-minute running time is on the long-ish side. While not the best superhero movie by a longshot, enough works to deliver the kind of escapist entertainment that we all crave every once in a while.
Aquaman comes to 4K UHD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD on March 26. A complimentary copy of the Blu-ray was provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review.
The supplementary materials run for about 100 minutes and are consistently excellent in their production. They provide an outstanding look at just how logistically complex making the film was, which serves to increase one's appreciation for it.
Going Deep Into the World of Aquaman - This behind-the-scenes segment takes viewers through the making of the movie's most notable sequences. Footage of the actors in the elaborate rigs that allowed them to perform “underwater” stunts is especially amazing to see, as is the look at how the crew built a perfect recreation of a neighborhood in Sicily for the Black Manta scene. Director James Wan and several of the stars show up to talk about how much they enjoyed the process.
Becoming Aquaman - This focuses on Jason Momoa. Some of his physical training techniques are shown so you can see how he got himself as ripped as possible for the role. The segment also shows him as a devoted family man. Momoa talks about missing his wife and children while on location in Australia, and there are shots of him video-chatting with his son back home in the States.
James Wan: World Builder - The director explains how he brought his vision for Aquaman to life and tried to deliver something audiences hadn't seen before. Wan is a very enthusiastic filmmaker, so he talks about his work with great passion.
Aqua Tech - The manner in which the filmmakers created a credible undersea world without being able to actually film underwater is examined here. It's a useful look at Aquaman's most ground-breaking accomplishment.
Atlantis Warfare - If you want to know how the movie's weapons were designed, both practically and via CGI, your questions will be answered here.
The Dark Depths of Black Manta - Actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen hosts this look at the comic book origins of the character he plays, in addition to how he was modified for the big screen.
Heroines of Atlantis - The characters of Mera and Atlanna are front and center this time. Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman offer their perspectives on the strong women they portray.
Villainous Training - Patrick Wilson speaks on his work as Orm and how he aimed to create a character who would be seen by the audience as a viable threat to Aquaman.
Kingdoms of the Seven Seas - Dolph Lundgren is the host for this short look at the various underwater kingdoms glimpsed throughout the movie.
Creating Undersea Creatures - This is a piece on the CGI used to create the film's seahorses and other aquatic life.
A Match Made in Atlantis - Momoa and Heard have a good-natured conversation about making Aquaman, while also sharing some outtakes.
Scene Study Breakdowns - Three of the most notable sequences – the submarine attack, the battle in Sicily, and the Trench scene – are examined in closer detail.
Finally, there's a 3-minute sneak peak of the upcoming DC movie Shazam!
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are superb.
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out of four
Aquaman is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language. The running time is hours and 23 minutes.