Director: James Wan
Screenwriters: David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, based on a story by James Wan, Will Beall and Geoff Johns from characters created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Runtime: 143 mins.
Australian release date: 26 December 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 19 December 2018.
Aquaman, the latest creation stemming from the DC Comics universe, has a strong Australian background. The interiors were shot in the Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast, some of the outdoor locations were filmed in Queensland and northern New South Wales, it’s directed by Aussie James Wan, and one of its stars is Nicole Kidman. Strewth, if only it had Chris Hemsworth as the lead! Just kidding - it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Jason Momoa as the eponymous hero. The American actor nails the part and looks like he’s just jumped off a surfboard or out of a canoe. He’s impressive.
The script draws in part on Arthurian legend for the plot, so it’s fitting that Aquaman is known on earth as Arthur Curry. He’s the offspring of terrestrial lighthouse-keeper Tom Curry (Once Were Warriors’ Tem Morrison) and Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), so he’s a child of both earth and water, but his superpowers come from his mama. When King Orm (Patrick Wilson) threatens to combine all seven undersea kingdoms in a united army to destroy humankind, Mera (Amber Heard) tracks down Arthur and persuades him that only he can stop the ensuing disaster. Orm is Arthur’s half-brother and he is sick of the surface dwellers trashing the world’s waters, which is understandable. He declares that, “For centuries, the surface world has been polluting the oceans and ruining my world.” However, his chief advisor Vulko (Willem Dafoe) counsels against war, saying that more would be achieved by revealing their existence to the humans and living in harmony with them, as it was in the time before the fall of Atlantis. With help from Vulko, Mera and Arthur set off in search of a legendary golden trident because, only with that in his possession, will Aquaman be able to convince the kingdoms that he is “the one true king” who can bring peace to all of Earth’s realms.
This is a big film, in every sense - big action, big sets, big SFX, big drama. It’s completely over the top, as a live-action comic book needs to be. Momoa is just right as the hero and he plays Aquaman with a glint in his eye, as though he’s not really taking it all too seriously and neither should we. The effects are extraordinary, given that much of the action takes place underwater or, at least, has to look like it has. They’re a credit to the vast teams of people involved. The downside is that the film could have done with a half-hour or so trimmed from it and it starts to feel a bit bloated by the second hour. Yes, the script has elements of other successful fantasy dramas, like the Indiana Jones franchise, the Star Trek films, Jurassic Park and Romancing The Stone, but what film of this nature isn’t somewhat derivative these days? In the Marvel or DC universes, despite the ‘out there’ heroes and villains, it’s hard to be entirely fresh but Aquaman makes a pretty good job of it.