Plot: After a power struggle in Atlantis leads to her leaving her home, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) washes up on shore and is discovered by a lighthouse keeper, who nurses her back to health. The two have a shaky start, but soon find a connection and even start a romance, which leads to the birth of a son and Atlanna tries to forge a new life, secret from her enemies. But after some time passes, her location is discovered by Atlantis’ powers that be and after a brief altercation, agrees to return in order to protect her beloved and her son. Years later, her son Arthur (Jason Momoa) still lives with his father and tries to lead a normal life, but his mother granted him some unique powers and he sometimes uses them to help those in need. But he is called to fight for a much grander cause when Princess Mera (Amber Heard) arrives and requests his assistance to restore Atlantis to a peaceful state. As a war looms that could devastate both the surface world and Atlantis, Arthur must decide if he will take a stand and in the process, accept who and what he is.
Entertainment Value: Aquaman is a wild ride, a drastic change of pace from the usual serious, even dark narratives from the DC Comics realm, but the formula works and the movie is a lot of fun. The film presents Aquaman’s origins, but does so in kinetic fashion, so it doesn’t feel slowed down by the exposition and even in those story heavy moments, the stylish visuals and sharp humor shine through. The movie can be serious when it needs to be, though the emotional beats aren’t all that effective, but at least it tries to earn them, unlike Marvel’s output. So the story is perhaps forgettable, but Aquaman more than compensates with sheer spectacle, visual spark, and a b movie inspired camp vibe that is immense fun. And that is what Aquaman feels like to me, a b movie with a massive budget, as it focuses on dynamic, if low end visual effects, wacky dialogue, and some beyond over the top performances. The visual effects have an almost painted look, which makes for striking sights to soak in, so while the CGI isn’t great, at least it is stylized in effective ways. The action scenes are plentiful and well staged, again infused with b movie style moments that make this feel like Roger Corman was given a massive budget and let loose. I do think the movie runs long and has some slow stretches, but the film is never dull and for fans of colorful superhero movies, Aquaman is one of the more fun, creative entries in this genre.
The cast of Aquaman is remarkable, stacked with big name talent that extends even to some of the more minor roles. As I said above, the film’s b movie texture extends to the performances and most of the cast seems to embrace the campiness, which results in some fun turns. I’ve never been much of a fan of Jason Momoa’s acting skills, but this role works well for him, as he isn’t asked to do much beyond looking cool and rattling off some liners. The material protects his limitations and that was a wise approach, as it lets him do what he does best and his emotional moments are brief, often just a facial reaction and little else. Patrick Wilson channels an 80s sci/fi b movie villain and is hilarious to watch here, often stealing scenes and taking over the top to a new level. I think he was a great foil for the wooden Momoa, as Wilson is just wild in the role and chews up scenes. I also loved seeing Dolph Lundgren, as he makes just about any movie a little better. The cast of Aquaman also includes Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Randall Park, and Temuera Morrison.
The Disc: Aquaman’s visuals are one of the film’s strongest elements, so I was thrilled to see this 4k presentation looks as good as I’d hoped. The image looks razor sharp, with incredible detail and depth, with even the tiniest textures on full showcase. This proves to be a little of a double edged sword when it comes to the visual effects, as the lesser elements are made more obvious, but that is unavoidable and you can’t blame the transfer for poor special effects. The colors are ridiculous, just insanely rich and vivid, a true feast for the eyes that rarely relents. I would say the visuals are the main draw of Aquaman, so fans should be pleased with this treatment. The extras are a series of brief, promotional featurettes that explore the visual effects, Aquaman’s origins, and some cast & crew interviews.