Aquaman (2018)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 12/30/18
Director: James Wan
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is the son of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman). He's a metahuman that the media has dubbed "Aquaman", and he has super strength, can breathe underwater, and can talk with the creatures of the sea. His carefree life is shattered when his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) riles up the leaders of the undersea kingdoms to wage war against the surface world. The only way to defeat Orm is for Arthur to recover King Atlan's legendary trident and challenge him to the throne of Atlantis. With the help of Grand Vizier Vulko (Willem Dafoe) and Princess Mera (Amber Heard), Arthur treks around the globe looking for the fabled artifact, while a vengeance-seeking Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) tries to stop him.

The film is totally bonkers and unabashedly entertaining. Jason Momoa is devilishly charming and somehow manages to pull off the seemingly impossible task of making Aquaman a serious bad-ass. He also appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself, which nicely complements the campy tone of the film. Amber Heard is also very charming, but as is often the case, she suffers from a bad wig and too much blush. The visual effects are stunning, and the underwater scenes are beautiful. The kinetic action scenes are as exciting as they are ridiculous, and seeing Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard in combat is thrilling. For the most part, character movement is fluid and looks natural, but there are about a dozen shots that made me bristle with their physics-defying awkwardness. But considering how much action takes place underwater, the results are extremely impressive. The music is bold and heroic, which matches the tone and pace of the film. The story lightly touches on environmental issues and the graveness of pollution, but doesn't allow such weighty topics to derail the plot or tarnish the action. The dialog is tolerable, but often dips into cringe-worthy territory with the constant bickering between Arthur's blunt frat boy mentality and Mera's eye-rolling disdain. The film's misplaced attempts at humor are unnecessary and fall flat, and should have been left out.

Overall, the film is a rollicking good time and a lot more fun than it has any right to be. It's also considerably better than the trailers made it out to be, so my expectations were exceedingly low going into it. The film proved to be a big hit for DC, which they desperately needed after the critically panned "Justice League" (2017). It will be interesting to see what direction DC decides to take with the success of the film, and whether they'll pursue a sequel.