US, 2008 home, 140 minutes, Colour.
Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Yahya Abdul- Matellan II, Temuera Morrison, Michael Beach, Graham Mc Tavish, Leigh Whannell, voices of: Julie Andrews, Djimon Hounsou, John Rhys Davies.
Directed by James Wan.
While Aquaman came into being several decades ago, the premise of this “origins” story is that his mother, at Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) fled the kingdom of Atlantis and a forced marriage to take refuge with a lighthouse keeper on the coast of Maine (Temuera Morrison). The year is 1985. The narrative throughout the film comes from their son, Arthur, who tells his story, the story of his growing up and being considered a half-breed, trained by Vukru in martial skills, the plea from Atlantis that he should be the king – and his quest for the Golden Trident, his leading the various kingdoms of Atlantis to peace.
While the Superman and Batman films of the past have been triumphant for DC Comics, there have been mixed results in more recent years, especially with Superman films, Justice League films, with Suicide Squad films. Somewhere in there there have been glimpses of Aquaman.
But, with this new star vehicle, he has little to worry about except preparing for the sequel! (And, of course, during the final credits, there is a trailer.)
The great advantage of the film (with a budget of around $200 million) is the presence of Jason Momia as Arthur who becomes known as Aquaman. He is big. He is a commanding presence. But he is also a genial presence, rather more modest than many of the super heroes. And sometimes has a way with an amusing turn of phrase.
But, it also must be said, that the special effects are rather eye-boggling, almost too much of a good thing (this reviewer noting that it was the equivalent of two hours and more gorging on chocolate cake – with a fellow reviewer remarking as well, “while watching it in a sauna”).
We have never seen an Atlantis like this, vast kingdoms, vast sea creatures, let alone all the effects for vast storms, characters being able to walk and talk and breathe underwater, Aquaman lifting a submarine to the ocean surface and combating a group of father-son pirates (with the villain, mentor (Yahya Abdul- Matellan II)) making an unexpected reappearance to combat Arthur in a village in Sicily.
The reason that Arthur finds himself in Sicily is that the daughter of one of the kings of Atlantis, Mera (Amber Heard) has rejected an arranged marriage with the King Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is Arthur’s half-brother, insecure on his throne, relying on the sage advice of Vukru (Willem Dafoe), deciding to make war on earth because of its pollution of the waters but also wanting to consolidate himself as the leader of all the kingdoms of Atlantis.
Which means then that Arthur and Mera become something of a bickering romantic couple, leaping out of planes, trekking through the Sahara, experiencing the battles and special effects action in the Sicilian town. But, there is still plenty of action to go as Arthur pursues his quest, somewhat reluctantly, encouraged by the rediscovery of his mother, a dislike of Orm.
So, plenty of action – more than plenty of action – a sympathetic hero figure, romantic touches, battles in single combat and only confrontations (and the reassurance that 30 years of living underwater does nothing to harm an initially perfect complexion, though Nicole Kidman does have grey hair in the latter part of the film, but retains that flawless complexion!).
1. Audience expectations? The new DC hero? Exploits? Quest? Conquering?
2. The DC world, Aqua man in its place, the 1985 setting and his being more recent addition to the heroes?
3. The production values, the big-budget, Maine and the Lighthouse, the ocean, the ordinary world of main, the bar, the Boston aquarium? The contrast with the lavish production values of Atlantis, life under the water, the wide variety of kingdoms, the action sequences, the wide variety of creatures and their design? The musical score?
4. The action sequences, the strong Aqua man, the battles, the wharfie in Atlantis, echoes of Star Wars under the sea, individual combat fights, the choreography, the destruction?
5. Arthur and his voice-over, explaining his mother and father, recurring throughout the film? His father, the lighthouse keeper, the encounter with Atlanta, saving her, her fears and thrown the trident at the TV? Pacifying her with T? The falling love, pregnancy, domestic happiness, the attacks from the creatures from under the sea? At later and her fighting skills? Her decision to leave, to protect her husband and after? Promising to return?
6. Arthur, the little boy, the bullies, the aquarium, the sharks supporting him, the reaction of the people, the scenes of training with, is a boy, with The bulk oh, as a man? The discovery of being able to swim, breathe and talk underwater?
7. The episode with the Russian submarine, the pirates, Mentor and his father, vicious? Arthur, lifting the submarine, his attack, the fights, is not listening to Mentor, letting the father die? Mentor, love for his father, the application of World War II, African-Americans? and their service and then being dropped, becoming pirates? Mentor surviving, linking with in All, the weapons, vehicles, the disguise? His fighting with Arthur? His survival and the credit sequence in the preparation for his vengeance on Arthur?
8. Arthur, at home, with his father, going to the bar, the joke with the big men and their wanting a selfie?
9. Arthur and his reputation, the frequent comments about mixed race, half-breed?
10. The crisis in Atlantis, Orm as king, claiming to be the rightful heir, his relationship with his mother and father? The inheritance? His
personality? His reliance on Vulku for advice? His anger at the humans, the pollution of the sea? Declarations of war? Summoning the various kings, the consultations, their loyalties to him, amassing an army, preparing the attack?
11. Mera, betrothed to Orm, unwilling? Her relationship with her father? Her wanting to get the assistance of Arthur? Seeking him out? The protection of Arthur’s father with the tidal wave?
12. Mera, the appeal to Arthur, his consideration, his experience of underwater life, with Mera, the confrontation with Orm? Fight, imprisonment? Defiance?
13. Mera and Arthur and the escape, coming to earth, their plan to seek the trident, the explanation from Mera’s father, the vision of the trident?
14. In the plane, Mera leaping out, Arthur following, their landing? The Sahara, the search for the origins of the trident? The transition to Sicily?
15. The adventures in Sicily, the pursuit across the roof, the Italians themselves, food and customs, the Italian experience? The attack of Manta and his disguise, on behalf of Orm, the creatures and the attack, the fight with Mera, with Arthur? Arthur discovering who Menta was? On the cliff, Menta falling to the sea? (And later revelation of his survival?)
16. The return to the sea, the various kingdoms, the different creatures in the different kingdoms, aggression, soldiers on seahorses? Eluding pursuit? Arthur and the discovery of his mother, her being alive? The reunion? Her bonding with Mera? Urging Arthur to search for the trident, his unwillingness, the issue of whether he was a real king or not?
17. The quest for the trident, going through the barriers, the hostiles, the final confrontation, the old king with the trident in his hand, Arthur seizing it, the custodian backing down? Arthur, armour, emerging victorious?
18. The buildup to the confrontation with Orm, Arthur proven to be the right king, the changing of loyalties, the building up of the combat?
19. Orm, the continued presence of Vulku, loyalty, advice, yet in league with the opposition, his being exposed, all exiling him?
20. The buildup to the confrontation between Orm and Arthur, Arthur’s victory, sparing him?
21. Peace restored in Atlantis? Arthur and Mera and their ruling? The future?
22. Arthur’s mother, going back to the jetty, reunited with her husband?
23. The credits, Menta and the scientist, the plans for the future?