Aquaman is a colorful, action-packed spectacle with a somewhat feeble plot. It is thankfully more upbeat than the usual melancholy of the DC Universe. Jason Momoa gives our hero a sardonic smile and punishing physical presence. His epic battles with gnarly undersea monsters gives the film a Clash of the Titans vibe. Horror guru James Wan delivers an angst free experience. The film offers no surprises, but entertains from start to finish.
Aquaman begins with the origin story of Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa). The beautiful Queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), is rescued on a stormy night by a gentle lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison). She bears him a child and they live happily, until discovered by her jealous betrothed. Young Arthur grows up aware of his Atlantean powers, but shuns his birthright for the human world.
Arthur's fame as Aquaman grows after the events in Justice League. He's admired on land, but considered a half-breed to his people. Tensions in Atlantis reach a boiling point. Arthur's power hungry half brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), wants to unite the Atlantean kingdoms and attack the humans. He's sick of the garbage, chemicals, and sewage that pollute the oceans. Meera (Amber Heard) begs Arthur to return home and challenge his brother for leadership. Arthur's struggle for the Atlantis throne is further complicated by a bloodthirsty, bitter adversary (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
Aquaman looks fantastic. Arthur and Meera go globetrotting in their efforts to topple Orm. The underwater scenes are intensely hued. The creatures, machines, and background characters are mostly CGI, but look crisp and detailed. Then you have the completely opposite environment in the desert. The blue and green spectrum transforms to vivid brown. Renowned cinematographer Don Burgess (Forrest Gump, Spider-Man) varies the color palette with great success. Aquaman is easily the most vibrant film in the DC Universe. It's a change of style that adds tremendous energy to the film.
Arthur Curry is the only character with any depth. Even so, it's kiddie pool deep. The female leads, Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman, do nothing but look pretty and constantly remind Arthur that he's destined to be king. Tremendous actors like Willem Dafoe, who plays Arthur's mentor, and Patrick Wilson are also entirely one-note. The screenplay is too simplistic. I think this is a kind of backlash against the brooding and inner turmoil of the previous Justice League characters. Wonder Woman is the only stand-alone DC Universe film that strikes the correct balance with character exposition.
Director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) shoots Aquaman straight as an arrow. His films usually have a hitch or twist, so I honestly expected something out of the blue to pop up. Not this time, I'll guess Warner Bros. didn't want any anxiety in the tentpole Aquaman film. The plot is vanilla. The outcome is explained and assured from the first act. That said, James Wan does a good job shooting the fight scenes. He uses a variety of camera angles to add oomph to the duels. Aquaman's showdown with Black Manta is pretty awesome. Stick around during the credits.