‘Aquaman’ is a goofy, fun time if you don’t think too hard.
Kernel Rating: 3.5 (3.5 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 143 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. The latest movie from the DC Comics franchise is less serious in tone than predecessors “Justice League,” “Batman v. Superman,” and “Suicide Squad,” which helps make this movie more appropriate and easy to follow for younger viewers. There is typical action movie violence here, including fist-fights, characters shooting guns at someone who is unarmed, and underwater duels with tridents; explosions and chase scenes; and many characters are injured or die, including one who drowns and others who are eaten by large sea creatures. There are a few kisses, some romantic tension between various characters, adults drink alcohol, and some scary scenes, one in which a gigantic wave overtakes a car and devastates the coast, and another in which a variety of sea monsters, mutated fish with gigantic jaws and teeth, attack. Also some cursing, some bathroom humor and sexually charged jokes, and threats and insults.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Aquaman” is a movie absolutely trying to do too much: move the DC Comics film universe to a more light-hearted direction after the somber tones of “Justice League,” “Batman v. Superman,” and “Suicide Squad”; introduce star Jason Momoa as a bonafide leading man; and let viewers into a whole new world under the sea, with rival factions and varying cultures. It’s an uneasy mixture that doesn’t always work, but the movie is also enjoyably ridiculous and turn-your-brain-off fun.
Set after the events of “Justice League,” “Aquaman” provides the backstory of its titular character first — Arthur (Momoa) is the son of Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), a princess who ran away from her underwater kingdom of Atlantis to escape an arranged marriage, and lighthouse keeper Thomas (Temuera Morrison), who rescues her when he she washes ashore. Arthur is proof that their two species can coexist, but he’s grown up his entire life as an outsider, available to communicate with underwater creatures and trained in combat by his mother’s trusted advisor, Vulko (Willem Dafoe, of “The Great Wall”). (Atlanteans of royal blood, it’s explained, can survive on Earth as well as in their underwater homeworld.)
A year since “Justice League,” Arthur has become increasingly famous, and increasingly reviled by his younger half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), who wants to make a claim to become the leader of a united Atlantis. If he can sway the various Atlantean tribes to his cause, then he can attack the surface world as revenge for years of pollution and misuse of the oceans. This naturally puts him in opposition to Arthur, who wants to protect his family and his home, but who is beseeched by Vulko and the warrior princess Mera (Amber Heard, of “The Rum Diary”) to help them stop the war.
If you don’t take it too seriously, “Aquaman” has a variety of delights: Momoa is a natural star, and his charisma makes Arthur appealingly goofy; Arthur’s relationship with the more straitlaced Mera is often funny and brings to mind “The Mummy” franchise from the late 1990s; and the underwater world that director James Wan creates is detailed and impressive, if you can accept that gigantic seahorses are creatures of war. You just have to go with it, and for younger viewers, exploring the world of “Aquaman” will be a source of enthralled curiosity.
Still, like other DC Comics films, “Aquaman” has flaws: It’s moving in so many directions that the movie ends up about 15 or so minutes too long; various character arcs aren’t resolved in believable ways because the film has to set up future sequels; and there is a romance element that isn’t really necessary. Nevertheless, if you want a visual marvel that lets you relax your brain for a couple of hours, “Aquaman” is a satisfying choice.
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