AQUAMAN: 3 ½ STARS. “every frame is decorated with eyeball entertainment.”
‘Tis the season for big budget Hollywood entertainments. “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bumblebee” and “Welcome to Marwen” are all large dollar enterprises with hopes of raking in even larger box office cash. Add one more to the list. ‘Tis also the SEA-son for “Aquaman,” the sixth instalment in the DC Extended Universe.
Jason Mamoa plays Arthur Curry, the half-human, half-Atlantean superhero also known as Aquaman. With his father Thomas (Temuera Morrison) working hard at the lighthouse and his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Queen Of Atlantis, feared dead, he is an outcast reluctantly drawn into some crazy underwater action by kingdom of Xebel warrior princess Mera (Amber Heard). Just so we’re clear,” he says. “I’ll help stop this war then I’m done.”
Together they hunt for the mythical Trident of Atlan, an all-powerful weapon that can only be used by the true King of Atlantis. It’s hidden in the deepest, darkest part of the ocean and is the only weapon that can put an end to Arthur’s half-brother King Orm’s (Patrick Wilson) reign of terror and vendetta against the good people of earth. “The war is coming to the surface,” shrieks Orm, “and I am bringing the wrath of the Seven Seas with me!” With the fate of the world at risk Arthur teams up with Mera; high tide or low tide, they’ll be side by side.
Let’s face it, the character of Aquaman is ridiculous. The son of the sea, protector of the land talks to fish, rides dolphin jet skis and was a running joke on “Entourage.” “Aquaman, baby!! It is Spiderman… underwater. Boooom!” Director James “Furious 7” Wan has crafted a film that embraces some of the kitsch aspects of the character while form-fitting the story to sit alongside other DC superhero flicks like “Wonder Woman.”
From an octopus drummer to a dress featuring a collar of iridescent jellyfish the spirit of Hanna-Barbera’s TV cartoon “Super Friends” is very much alive in “Aquaman.” Add to that the usual save-the-world superhero plot and some big action and you have a DC movie that is equal parts peculiar and pleasing.
At the centre of it is Mamoa, a hulking presence with a light touch. The “Game of Thrones” veteran is comfortable in the action scenes but also seems in on the joke. Less comfortable is Willem Dafoe as Aquaman’s mentor, and speaker of endless pages of expoisition. Heard, as an underwater being who, inexplicably, is also a master of woodwind instruments, is a good foil in the buddy action comedy she and Mamoa have going on. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta is a suitable villain in a silly suit who I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of in the inevitable sequels.
“Aquaman’s” biggest achievement in a world crowded with superhero movies is its sheer size and spectacle. Wan decorates every frame with eyeball entertainment that grasps the sublime and the silly of the “Aquamen” origin story.