If “Aquaman” came 10 years ago, I would probably be more generous to it. Sure, it has several spectacular sequences to be enjoyed on a big screen, and it has more sense of fun and humor compared to that solemn dreck called “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), but it unfortunately suffers from its overlong plot stuffed with too many elements to my distraction. Besides, it does not bring anything particularly new to its increasingly familiar genre territory, and I often found myself rather distant to its story and characters even though I appreciated its more enjoyable moments.
In the beginning, the movie establishes the background of the birth of its superhero Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa). During one stormy dark night in some seaside area of Maine, 1985, a lighthouse keeper named Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) happened to rescue a mysterious woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), who was running away from her underwater kingdom Atlantis because she did not want to marry its king. As spending more time with each other, Thomas and Atlanna quickly fell in love, but, sadly, their days of happiness with their young son Arthur did not last long, and Atlanna had no choice but to walk away from her dear husband and son and then go back to Atlantis for saving them.
Around 30 years later, Arthur is now a hulking muscular dude with superpower as previously shown from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” (2017), and we behold his power and abilities during an action sequence where he swiftly rescues the crew of a Russian submarine from a bunch of ruthless pirates. Once his job is done, he comes back to his hometown for spending some time with his old father at a local bar, and we get an amusing moment when he happens to be recognized by a group of tough guys.
Not long after that, Arthur is approached by Mera (Amber Heard), an Atlantean princess who is urgently looking for him for a very serious matter. Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is Arthur’s half-brother and also going to marry Mear soon, recently becomes the ruler of Atlantis, and he is about to gather Atlantis and other several underwater kingdoms, including the one ruled by Mera’s father King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), for starting a big massive war on the humanity. Mera asks Arthur to stop Orm before Orm causes too much damage on both sides, but Arthur is not so eager to do that because he still feels resentful about what happened to his mother after she went back to Atlantis.
Of course, once he comes to see that he cannot ignore the situation anymore, Arthur agrees to help Mera and Vulko (Willem Dafoe), the counselor of Atlantis who was also, as shown from a couple of flashback scenes, Arthur’s longtime mentor. As he arrives in Atlantis along with Mera, the movie serves us with visually epic and enchanting shots full of big, shiny, and colorful details in underwater landscapes, and they are certainly lovely to watch although they are essentially derivatives from “Avatar” (2009) and “Tron: Legacy” (2010).
Vulko informs Arthur that he must find and obtain a mythic trident which is far more powerful than the one he inherited from his mother, and the middle part of the movie mainly revolves around Arthur and Mera’s bumpy journey around various spots including a hidden underground city located somewhere in the Sahara. As they advance step by step through several clues on their way, you may be reminded of “National Treasure” (2004) and other similar films, and I must confess that I particularly like a complex device which requires a certain kind of liquid substance for operation.
While pursuing after Arthur and Mera, Orm continues to focus on having the underwater kingdoms under his control, so we get to know more about several other underwater kingdoms besides Atlantis. There is a kingdom populated by humanoid creatures who may be related to the one shown in “The Shape of Water” (2017), and then there is also a realm filled with big talking crustacean creatures. In addition, the movie has 1) a big herd of very nasty creatures with sharp teeth, 2) various prehistorical creatures inhabiting in an ancient subterranean world, and 3) a humongous and fearsome creature voiced by a certain legendary actress, who is certainly the last one you can imagine voicing that creature in question.
Despite all these fun stuffs presented on the screen, the movie frequently stumbles and trudges as losing its narrative pacing, and the weak aspects of the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, which is based on the story by Beall and his co-writers Geoff Johns and director James Wan, become more evident. As trying to do too many different things together during 143 minutes, the movie eventually comes to lose its balance and focus especially during its last act, and I felt exhausted instead of enthralled when the movie went all the way for lots of flashes and explosions during its obligatory climactic action sequence.
Anyway, the main cast members of the movie deserve to be commended for their game efforts. While Jason Momoa, who drew my attention for the first time via his striking supporting performance in the first season of HBO TV series “Game of Thrones”, is well-cast in the title role, Amber Heard is sexy and feisty as holding her own place well next to Momoa, and other notable performers including Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren. Willem Dafoe, Temuera Morrison, and Nicole Kidman are adequate in their functional roles.
While it is not entirely without fun and excitement, “Aquaman” still feels relatively less memorable and entertaining compared to what was achieved in “Wonder Woman” (2017), “Black Panther” (2018), and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018), which is probably the best superhero film of the 2010s. Unlike these distinctive superhero films I am willing to watch again and again, “Aquaman” fails to engage and invigorate me enough, and I can only hope that I will be more entertained by whatever will come next after this.