Jason Momoa’s charm makes DC’s 'Aquaman' way better than 'Justice League', but not quite as good as 'Wonder Woman' [Movie Review]

Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman also star in this standalone superhero movie about the true King of the Seven Seas

Wong Tsui-kaiJamie Lam |

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Mera and Arthur Curry/Aquaman want to prevent a war between humans and underwater dwellers.

Aquaman is the latest instalment in the DC Extended Universe and though it sports some truly cringe-worthy moments, Jason Momoa’s brawny presence and playful charm makes it a fairly good superhero film in its own right.

When Aquaman’s (Jason Momoa) half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) seeks to unite the seven undersea clans to declare war on all surface-dwellers, it’s up to the titular hero to stop him. Joining him on his quest is Mera (Amber Heard), a powerful warrior and princess of the Xebel tribe, as they race against the clock to retrieve a powerful artefact to thwart Orm’s plans. Complicating matters is Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) a pirate and mercenary out for Arthur’s blood, and Arthur’s own reluctance to take his rightful place as king.

One thing done right is the sheer visual spectacle of the film. The underwater city of Atlantis is painstakingly made to impress with its futuristic looking technology crossed over with shots of marine life that would fit in perfectly inside a nature documentary. The different underwater tribes also each have their own unique design and aesthetic, and overall it’s beautiful to look at.

The action sequences are also big and bold. From a city showdown in the idyllic Italian town of Sicily to huge underwater set battles between masses of sea monsters, fishmen and mermaids, submarines and shark cavalry (yup, you read that right), the CGI fights are worthy of a blockbuster title.

Aquaman: Everything you need to know about the DC character’s stand-alone movie

Where the movie stumbles is in its pacing and dialogue. Though director James Wan (Saw, Furious 7) has a lot of ground to cover, the tone of the film sometimes jumps from one scene to the next with very little warning. One moment Arthur and Mera are in an underwater Star Wars-esque fighter ship battle, but the very next they’re in an ancient ruin solving puzzles like Nathan Drake in Uncharted. It’s not necessarily bad, but the editing could have used a firmer hand.

The mostly clichéd dialogue is also a weak point, but Heard, Wilson, Abdul-Tateen II do their best to deliver their lines convincingly. Special kudos to Nicole Kidman as Arthur’s mother Atlanna, an Atlantean queen who fell in love with a human and broke all the rules for love. Kidman does not seem to age or get less beautiful over the years, and her performance is suitably muted and regal, as befits a royal.

Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is out for Aquaman's blood.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Overall, Aquaman, judged on its own terms is a pretty fun movie, mostly capable of keeping your attention for its 143-minute runtime. As a DC movie, it doesn’t match Wonder Woman yet, but fans can feel safe in knowing that the quality is improving and a long way from the lows of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.