Film review: ‘AQUAMAN’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Even by superhero film standards the latest DC offering, Aquaman is ludicrous. With its convoluted plot, ridiculous characters, strange casting and outrageously over-the-top visuals, Aquaman is a little like the dream – or perhaps nightmare – someone might have after consuming a dodgy pizza before bed time but that’s not to say this garish, lumbering monstrosity of a film doesn’t offer some campy fun.

In part an origin story, the film introduces us to Arthur Curry the child of an unlikely tryst between lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temeura Morrison) and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) the woman he discovers injured on a beach who just happens to be the queen of the no-longer mythical undersea kingdom, Atlantis. Fast-forward 30 years and young Arthur has transformed into the exceptionally muscly amphibian warrior Aquaman who spends his time slapping the piss out of submarine pirates. When Arthur is visited by an Atlantan, warrior princess Mera (Amber Heard) he discovers he’s the true heir to the watery kingdom’s throne, one that is currently being usurped by the nefarious Orm (Patrick Wilson). As Orm prepares to launch a largely understandable attack on the ocean-polluting surface dwellers, Aquaman steps in to protect us landlubbers.

With a tone somewhere between cheeseball and hilariously self-important, this film is almost impossible to take seriously. We’re talking about a movie that features the disturbing site of Willem Dafoe as an Atlantan Mr Miyagi with a man-bun riding a hammerhead shark.  Right alongside him is Dolph Lundgren on a giant seahorse…I’m not making this up.

The plot is also a mess as characters flit about the ocean and surface worlds and encounter an array of undersea tribes, oddball characters and monsters. Despite all this, the story is really just a loose framework for a series of battles between Aquaman and Orm and their respective minions. Unfortunately, because of silly looking combatants and outrageously extravagant, eyeball-searing but often unrealistic-looking CGI, the battles just aren’t thrilling.

Thankfully, though, director James Wan has ditched the grim, grey monochrome look of most DC films for a more vivid and luminous colour-scheme, a choice that’s particularly refreshing during the film’s best sequence, a running battle between Aquaman, Mera and expendable baddies through a sun-lit Sicilian village.

Remarkably, the leads Jason Momoa and Amber Heard, emerge from this film with some degree of credibility intact and actually deliver enjoyable performances. Like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Jason Momoa is likeable as the grinning, goofy man-mountain, despite the fact that he appears to have attended the Rob Zombie school of grooming. Amber Heard does the feisty warrior woman routine well and delivers a few laughs as the (pardon the pun) fish out of water when she’s forced to hide out among the us land-dwellers. Other cast members don’t fare so well. In a strangely subdued performance, a miscast Nicole Kidman looks as if she’s been zapped with a stun gun. Patrick Wilson, who is fine in other films playing laconic characters, looks uncomfortable playing a scenery chewing villain as King Orm.

With its bizarre Wagnerian pomposity and computer game visuals, Aquaman is a bit of a headache-inducing experience but it throws so much at the camera it’s inevitable that it occasionally hits the mark.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Superhero/ action/ adventure.

Classification: M.

Director(s): James Wan.

Release date: 26th Dec 2018.

Running time: 142 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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