“Aquaman” is pure delightful madness. It’s scale and spectacle is unmatched by any other movie in recent memory.
But it’s also weirdly obsessed with reciting all the complicated little details of Aquaman lore. If you thought he was just a superhero who could talk to fish, you’ve apparently only scratched the surface of boring minutiae.
With the “Aquaman” film, you’re going to get a big, crazy, bombastic superhero movie, as long as you can sort of keep track of a bunch of really specific details. The movie wants you to care about all of the kingdoms of the Seven Seas, which king is which, who has this magic trident or that magic trident, about several ancient prophecies and the archaic politics of the Lost City of Atlantis.
It’s a bunch of pedantic nonsense. But holy cow, hold on to your seat when they push all of that aside, because this is one of the craziest, wildest, most spectacular movies you’ll see this season.
Aquaman is the son of a Maine lighthouse keeper and the Queen of Atlantis, who ran away from her kingdom to escape an arranged marriage, and who fell in love with a man on the surface world. Now as an adult, and as a citizen of both worlds, Aquaman is the only one who can stop the current king of Atlantis from waging war on the surface world.
And the current king is his half-brother Orm, who’s trying to attain the rank of “Ocean Master” by uniting the four remaining kingdoms of the Seven Seas. And Aquaman needs to find the magic trident of the original King of Atlantis to stop Orm. And he’s aided by Mera, the princess of one of those other kingdoms. And Willem Dafoe is in it.
Again, it is really focused on all of these unnecessary details. Imagine cramming together all of the different houses and banners and characters and weapons of “Game of Thrones” into a single episode, and that’s roughly what the non-stop exposition is like in “Aquaman.” It’s especially weird when the actual meat of the story — Aquaman and Mera fighting the evil king and his undersea armies — is just plain fun! The action in this film is especially noteworthy, with director James Wan going to some extreme lengths to deliver some show-stopper set pieces.
The massive undersea battle at the climax of the film is a sight to behold. It just gets bigger and wilder. The whole scene is a massive mess of CGI, but it’s so overblown and fun that it’s easy to slip away and just enjoy the ride.
Jason Momoa returns as Aquaman, having previously played the character in last year’s “Justice League” movie. But don’t expect this film to care too much about any other linked superhero films. “Aquaman” is only concerned with being the best darn spectacle it can be. Momoa is great in the role, equal parts beefcake and hero.
Amber Heard makes Mera far more than just a sidekick or a love interest, giving Aquaman a solid sparring partner. And Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is fantastic as the villainous Black Manta, a fearsome tech-powered pirate with an ax to grind. He’s an old school-style super-villain.
This is the sort of movie that casts Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews, as the voice of a giant, undersea monster, and doesn’t feel bad about it. That’s how much fun you can expect from “Aquaman”.