When it comes to “Aquaman” (WB/DC), this origin story has it all; and by all I mean every possible detail packed into a screenplay bulging as tightly as anything covering Jason Momoa's upper body. While it’s as faithful as it can be to Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris’ original creation, it also takes its share of liberties.
Like Marvel’s “Black Panther”, much of “Aquaman” is about protecting an ancient civilization from the encroachment of outsiders. In this case, it’s the thriving but threatened Atlanteans of Atlantis who are being led into doing battle with the destructive land-dwellers by a misguided king. Amongst the land-dwelling evildoers are a team of pirates including the soon-to-named Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is hell-bent on avenging his father’s death, which he blames on the adult Aquaman (Momoa, of the severely limited acting range).
Years before, on the night of a brutal thunderstorm, lighthouse-keeper Tom (Temuera Morrison) discovers the body of a female washed up on the jagged rocks. She is, as you might expect, no ordinary woman. Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) has left her home and family because she doesn’t want to be the bride in an arranged marriage. Once Atlanna adjusts to her new surroundings, she and Tom begin a life together, resulting in the birth of a half-mortal son named Arthur. But their bliss is short-lived after Atlantean soldiers arrive and take Atlanna them back to Atlantis, where she is supposedly put to death.
As he grows up, it’s obvious to Arthur (as well as the school bullies) that he’s not like anyone else (something LGBTQ viewers will appreciate). Over time, as Arthur goes from boyhood to adolescence, he is tutored by Vulko (Willem Dafoe), an Atlantean adviser who somehow locates him on land, and develops the skills he will need as he matures into Aquaman.
Meanwhile in Atlantis, King Orm (a never-prettier Patrick Wilson) is preparing to start his war with the unsuspecting land-dwellers. A therapist might trace some of his anger issues to the fact that he’s jealous of his half-brother Aquaman, whom he calls a half-breed, and the attention being paid to him by Mera (queer actress Amber Heard), Orm’s betrothed.
As luck would have it, Orm has secretly recruited Manta (and given him a pretty cool and deadly outfit, to boot) to do his bidding, which the pissed-off pirate is more than happy to oblige. This leads to numerous seemingly endless submerged fight and chase scenes, which are no doubt a CGI wizard’s dream come true. With the exception of the aforementioned fight scenes, the underseas sequences are the best parts of the movie, and seeing it in IMAX also helps with creating the submerged feeling.
Regardless, the combination of the shockingly bad acting (even for a comic book movie), the general hokiness (see previous parentheses), the aforementioned tiresome fight scenes, and ridiculous length (the 2.5 hours are a watch-checker’s delight), add up to a soggy mess. Not even Momoa’s ripped body can keep “Aquaman” from being all wet.