It’s a Christmas miracle. I finally enjoyed a film in the DC Extended Universe.
“Aquaman” has nearly perfect storytelling, impressive acting across the board and an ample amount of visual appeal. It has the feel of an epic and the familiar warmth of the superhero genre at its best.
Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a product of two worlds. His mother is Queen Atlanna of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), believed to have been killed for having conceived a half-human son.
Orm (Patrick Wilson) rules Atlantis and seeks to expand his power to the entire underwater. He’s planning revenge on the human world for our callous treatment of the oceans.
The big problem for Orm is that he’s neither the destined leader of Atlantis nor the underwater. Arthur is, but he has overwhelming doubts about his ability to rule. Orm would just like to have Arthur permanently out of the way.
Arthur requires the Trident of Atlan to defeat Orm. Naturally, he must undergo a journey to find it. Accompanying Arthur is Mera (Amber Heard), an undersea princess engaged to Orm.
Would it surprise you to know that Arthur and Mera spend much of their time gently bickering? What if I told you that every accidental handhold is treated as a significant moment?
You know the rules. If holding hands requires amazed reactions, then kissing requires slow motion and pyrotechnics in all directions. “Aquaman” is happy to oblige.
Apparently free from the obligation to be a game-changer, “Aquaman” revels in reverence.
We don’t really need to see young Arthur learning the ropes underwater or with a trident. On the other hand, this isn’t a backstory that’s as well-known as Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent’s, so I’ll let it slide.
I was also delighted by the gloriously over-the- top dialogue. Sometimes it’s earnest, sometimes it goes for the easy joke and sometimes it toes the line between meaningful and meaningless. Either way, it’s delivered by every cast member as if they’re eating the first ice cream sundae of summer.
“This isn’t a competition, it’s an execution,” states Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe) as the brothers prepare for a fight skewed in Orm’s favor.
Wilson, Dafoe and Dolph Lindgren (as King Nereus, Mera’s father) seem to be having a blast. Their characters are fun and engaging to watch. I wish I could say the same for the secondary villain.
David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a pirate, seeks to avenge his father’s death. Already allied with Orm, he receives specialized water-based weapons.
Kane never exists as a credible threat to Arthur. He seems to be there to stitch together loose ends.
How does Orm succeed in manipulating the trust of fellow rulers? Largely through Kane.
How does Arthur pull off his transition from tough guy to lovable tough guy? Because he feels guilty for having killed Kane’s father?
How does DC indicate it can be as socially relevant as “Black Panther”? By including a ham-handed introduction scene for the Kanes, revealing racism led to the family’s life of crime.
Director James Wan (“Saw,” “Furious 7”) shares story credit with Will Beall and Geoff Johns. Beall co-wrote the screenplay with David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. The quartet succeeds with both action-packed sequences and intimate moments.
It’s been a dynamite year for blondes from the ‘90s “Batman” movies. We’ve got Michelle Pfeiffer in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and now Kidman in “Aquaman.” Kidman is sensational, getting her share of dense dialogue.
“A king fights only for his own nation,” Atlanna tells Arthur. “You fight for everyone.”
The film also features Tainui and Tamor Kirkwood, plus Denzel Quirke as Arthur as a toddler; Kaan Guldur as elementary-aged Arthur, Otis Dhanji as teenage Arthur and Kekoa Kekumano as an older teenage Arthur. Besides the Arthurs, there’s Randall Park as Dr. Shin.
I give “Aquaman” my Recommended rating.