Sunday, December 23, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Aquaman (2018)

Another Sunday, another good superhero movie!

Last weekend I saw the animated film SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018) and really enjoyed it. Today I saw Jason Momoa starring as AQUAMAN (2018).

I wasn't much taken with last year's DC superhero film WONDER WOMAN (2017), although I loved lead actress Gal Gadot. I'm thus particularly happy to report that I thought the latest DC Universe film, AQUAMAN, was quite terrific. It combines impressive world building with emotional depth, and I enjoyed it tremendously. It's even got a cameo voice appearance by Julie Andrews!

In a tale which holds more than a little resemblance to Marvel's THOR (2011), AQUAMAN tells the story of "half-breed" Arthur Curry (Momoa), the son of a lighthouse keeper named Tom (Temuera Morrison) and Queen Atlanna of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman). (It's a long story...)

One day Princess Mera (Amber Heard of 3 DAYS TO KILL) shows up in Arthur's seaside town to tell him that his half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) is about to wage war on the "surface world," meaning Earth as we know it. She urges Arthur to return to the home he's never seen, Atlantis, claim his birthright and save the world.

That's the plot in broad outline, but there's much more to the film than that, starting with Momoa as a giant of a man who's powerful and quippy -- and also nursing a lot of hurt over his mother's seeming abandonment. His best moments include his entrance, when he enters a hijacked submarine with the sarcastic line "Permission to come aboard?" -- and a completely different moment, when he tears up at a reunion.

I loved Arthur's relationship with Mera, meeting one another as equals, each learning to respect and admire each other's abilities, as well as shrugging their shoulders over one another's quirks. (Arthur following Mera when she jumps out of a plane without a parachute is one such delightful moment, and there's turnabout when Mera later follows Arthur into a hole in the desert sand, not knowing what awaits.) Only after they have gotten to know one another well, near the end of the film, do we begin to see a romantic and physical relationship develop, which begins not with a kiss, but holding hands.

Mera and Atlanna are both strong yet feminine women and a wonderful balance for Arthur's reluctant hero. When Arthur finally claims his birthright, it's a thrilling moment -- and thanks in large part to the encouragement of these two women to believe that he has greatness inside.

The visuals in this film are transporting; it's the rare film which the viewer realizes is created by CGI yet is completely willing to believe. The underwater effects and set designs are extremely impressive.

The terrific supporting cast includes Willem Dafoe as Vulko, an Atlantean advisor who secretly spends time on the surface guiding Arthur through his childhood, training him for his future role.

The movie manages to avoid becoming overly bogged down in back story not only with the elliptical telling of Tom and Atlanna's relationship, but by incorporating the scenes with Vulko and Arthur as brief flashbacks scattered throughout the film. I must say I expected the worst outcome for Vulko when Orm learned he'd been plotting behind his back, and it was an added plus for me that what I feared didn't happen.

Dolph Lundgren plays Mera's father, King Nereus, with other roles played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Michael Park, Michael Beach, and John Rhys-Davies among a very large cast.

The film was directed by James Wan and filmed by Don Burgess.

The running time is 143 minutes and yes, it could have stood some trimming, which is about my only complaint. The producers probably could have saved a couple million and cut out a battle somewhere in order to shave a few minutes!

Parental Advisory: This film is a fairly mild PG-13, with the most disturbing moment probably being a drowning early on. Otherwise it's mostly non-bloody cartoon violence. There are many positives, including a hero growing into his role and learning to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. (Wait a minute, wrong DC superhero...but you get the idea.)

A trailer is here.

The audience gave AQUAMAN a nice round of applause after Momoa's final line. While applause is common at L.A. classic film screenings, it's fairly rare for me to experience that at new films, and AQUAMAN deserved it. A very entertaining afternoon at the movies, and a film I'll be happy to watch again in the future.


Blogger KC said...

I'm glad to hear you like this. I wanted to like Wonder Woman, there were lots of great things about it, but it didn't fully come together.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I completely agree about WONDER WOMAN, KC. I went in with great good will but despite a winning lead actress -- not to mention Chris Pine, a favorite of mine -- it just didn't all hang together.

AQUAMAN, on the other hand, I found a total winner -- and like WONDER WOMAN it has the added plus of admirable heroines. I'd love to know what you think of AQUAMAN if you check it out.

Best wishes,

7:19 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Couldn't agree more. I wanted to love Wonder Woman, and I adore Gal Gadot in the role, but the movie fell flat. I think because it wanted to say/do something. Whereas this movie isn't like that. It knows it's ridiculous if you try think about it seriously, and so it unashamedly runs with just being what it is. It is pure popcorn fun, and I had a blast. Jason Momoa is wonderful, and I loved the rest of the cast as well. Yeah, some of the action scenes should have been tightened up, but I didn't actually realize it was long until I got out and checked the clock.

Merry Christmas, Laura! I hope you and your family have a lovely holiday!!

8:52 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it too, Deb! Very interesting that we reacted similarly not only to this but to WONDER WOMAN. I feel so enthused about this one, I'm looking forward to seeing it again before long. It really was grand popcorn fun!

Merry Christmas to you and your family, Deb!!

Best wishes,

9:00 AM  

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