Directed by James Wan
Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
It’s a net win!
Not long ago the idea of an Aquaman film was a wellspring of jokes on HBO’s “Entourage.” But the tide has turned and Jason Momoa, his abs, his tattoos and his smile make a huge splash in this fresh catch of an adventure film.
Unlike the unfocused “Justice League” or the overly serious “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” this latest chapter in the DC film universe is peppy, colorful and dripping exuberance. It revels in its superhero lore — the journey of half-Atlantean Arthur Curry living on the surface before taking his rightful place on the undersea throne — but isn’t sunk by excessive weight. (There’s also hardly any connection to the other DC films; it’s a clean filet.)
The best thing about “Aquaman” are the leads. Momoa and Amber Heard (Princess Mera) are the best movie star couple of the year. He’s drenched in charisma, following in the footsteps of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Heard is gorgeous with spunky red hair and outfits like a regal gown with a high collar made from jellyfish. She’s not just there to bat her eyelashes; she’s got just as many powers as he does, and when the time comes to defeat the evil Ocean Master (Patrick Wilson) or evade the vengeful Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) both actors quickly trade their quips for fists.
The action sequences crib from video games and WWE, more fun than intense. The villains’ costumes are practical suits, adding a tactile element that pops on-screen. (As in the recent comics, Black Manta is somewhat inspired by “Star Wars’” Boba Fett.)
The Kingdom of Atlantis has an outer space quality to it, and the imaginative creatures found there (and in other realms, like the Brine Kingdom) grow increasingly impressive as the film continues. “Aquaman” does something the other DC movies doesn’t do: it surprises you.
Sure, it’s not an Oscar contender, but if you grew up watching “Jason and the Argonauts” on Channel 11 or caught “Krull” in theaters, this movie will take you back. There are also clever winks for fans of different eras, yes, even those who know Aquaman mainly from “Superfriends.”
As the year comes to a close, how could anyone not want to see Nicole Kidman as a Queen wearing fish scales, or Willem Dafoe shouting “Surface-dwellers?!” or, most importantly, Jason Momoa riding an iridescent sea dragon toward his destiny? Hollywood has given us the greatest, goofiest holiday gift in a long time.