December 2018 saw the UK release of this latest addition to the DC Universe, giving Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa) his own adventure and origin story. Unfortunately, while a refreshingly lighter tone for DC and an impressive cast had the potential to make waves, a seriously limp plot made this latest 143-minute instalment feel more like an elaborate shampoo advert than an underwater epic.
It begins with the inter-species romance that brought Aquaman into being. A lighthouse keeper called Thomas (Temuera Morrison) falls in love with the queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) when she washes up injured on land. The story follows their son’s journey coming to terms with his man/fish hybrid identity, guided by his mother’s friend Vulko (Willem Dafoe would you believe). When the action finally moves underwater the plot follows Aquaman’s efforts to stop his evil brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) from declaring war on humanity and gain his rightful place on the throne, sparkly gold trident and all.
The narrative flops along like a wet fish, helped along by slightly forced but well-intentioned sea-themed humour. The film’s redeeming feature is its impressive visual effects – particularly the underwater landscapes – which are cool if you can get over the unnecessary stairs (they swim everywhere!?)
It doesn’t meet the current standard for superhero films.
In terms of characters, Jason Momoa ticks all the boxes for a good superhero and plays the part well, but the perpetual shirtless swaggering and dramatic hair-flips (think “because you’re worth it”) do nothing to arrest this film’s damp descent into silliness.
The other major characters are somewhat lacklustre. A compelling villain is essential for any superhero film but King Orm is uncomplex and unsatisfying, though Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is more promising. Aquaman’s love interest, Mera, (Amber Heard) is a ballsy but one-dimensional Little Mermaid lookalike, and their romance is cringeworthy at best.
The pace picks up towards the end of the film with some interesting surprises, and the climactic battle scene is as action-packed and visually spectacular as you could want. Overall, if you’re looking for light-hearted fluff then Aquaman is entertaining, but it just doesn’t meet the current standard for superhero films.
Last modified: 19th February 2020