By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
After making a splash as Aquaman in 2016’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and a ripple in “Justice League” (2017), Jason Mamoa
gets to flex his massive muscles now in his first full-length DC Comics feature film.
In “Aquaman,” director James Wan
of the “Saw,” “Insidious” and “Conjuring” franchises and who also helmed “Furious 7,” takes the driver’s seat here and opts for fun over fear.
The result is a frenetic film that often works better than you might expect.
For those unfamiliar with the DC Universe, Wan and screenwriters David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall and Geoff Johns provide a prologue explaining the origins of Aquaman.
We see Atlanna (Nicole Kidman, “Destroyer” and “Boy Erased”), Queen of Atlantis nearly dead and washed ashore on a beach in Maine.
Fortunately, she’s rescued and aided by an attentive lighthouse keeper named Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison, TV’s “The Barefoot Bandits”).
Tom and Atlanna’s forbidden love affair culminates with the birth of a baby boy. They name him Arthur, but Atlanna can’t stick around to see him grow up as she’s being hunted down by Atlantian soldiers who seek to punish her for having a half-human child.
It doesn’t take long for Tom to realize his son is special. Arthur grows into a strapping, chiseled hunk, with superhuman strength. He also has the ability to manipulate the tides of the ocean, communicate with aquatic life and swim at supersonic speeds.
When “Aquaman” flashes forward some 20 years, that’s when the film takes off. Aquaman learns that his mother has mysteriously died and he has no interest in claiming his royal heritage.
That all changes when Mera (Amber Heard, “Justice League”) comes sailing in and convinces Aquaman he must save the surface world from those seeking to do harm and destroy it like the villainous Ocean Master, Orm (Patrick Wilson, “The Nun”) who just happens to be Arthur Curry's Atlantean half-brother and ruler of Atlantis.
Orm wants to unite the seven underwater kingdoms and wipe out the surface world because he believes they’ve polluted the seas. He’s working with Vulko (Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”) to accomplish his mission, but Vulko is playing Orm and really siding with Arthur.
Mera comes from a strong pedigree too. She’s the daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren, “Creed II”) who rules the Atlantean tribe of Xebel. She was raised by Queen Atlanna and groomed to become queen.
Mera holds hydrokinetic and telepathic powers that allow her to control her aquatic environment and communicate with other Atlanteans. And it’s not long before Arthur and Mera start crushing on each other and hook up travelling by land, air and sea to try and bring about peace.
There are many moving parts to “Aquaman” and lots of characters to keep up with. Thankfully, the majority of them are fascinating like the Black Manta (a terrific and menacing Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, TV’s “The Get Down”).
He’s a boat jacking mercenary out for revenge against Arthur because he killed his father (Michael Beach, “If Beale Street Could Talk”).
Director James Wan throws just about everything into this nearly 2 ½ hours long seafaring adventure. At times “Aquaman” plays like a mash-up of “Star Wars,” “Thor” and even “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Jason Mamoa’s manly swagger and bits of dry humor, is what makes “Aquaman” as arresting as its vivid production design and special effects.
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Check Out This Trailer For "AQUAMAN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.