AQUAMAN. Starring: Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Temuera Morrison, Amber Heard, and Dolphin Lundgren. Also, Willem Defoe. Directed by James Wan. Rated M (Fantasy Violence). 143 min.

This American-Australian movie is a superhero, fantasy science-fiction film based on the DC Comics character of the same name, and is the sixth instalment in the DC Extended Universe. It is based loosely on “Aquaman”, a character created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris in 1941. It is the third live-action film that features Aquaman, following from his brief appearance in “Justice League” (2017), and it is the first full length film featuring Aquaman as the lead character.

The film tells the story of Arthur Joseph Curry (Jason Momoa), heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, whose destiny is to lead his people, against the villainy of his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson). Most of the film was shot on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

The plot line of the film is complicated, as stories in the DC Comic world frequently are.

Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) is keeper of a lighthouse in Maine, USA, when Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), princess of the underwater nation of Atlantis and a water-breathing outcast from  Atlantis, is washed up on the rocky coast next to his lighthouse. He rescues her, and they fall in love and have a son called Arthur (Jason Momoa, as Aquaman) who, being half-human and half-Atlantean, has the power to communicate with marine animals, control ocean tides, and has superhuman strength. Atlanna, knowing that her enemies will hunt her down, allows herself to return to Atlantis to ensure the safety of her son, but Orm in Atlantis blames Arthur and those on the “surface” for his predicament. Orm wants to unite all the underwater kingdoms across the seven seas to declare war on the “surface” world. He is convinced that humans have polluted the seas.

Conflict and struggles ensue and Arthur nearly loses his life in armed battle with Orm and his followers before being nursed back to health by Mera (Amber Heard), warrior and daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren). Mera urges Arthur to embrace his destiny to save Atlantis from impending doom. She herself possesses supernatural powers that allow her to control the waters and to communicate with other Atlanteans. She tells Arthur that his ultimate destiny is to reclaim the golden Trident - a sacred, magic artefact - which will give him total control over the seven seas, and restore him to his rightful place as King of the Universe.

Atlanna escaped death when she was dragged back to Atlantis, and joins forces with Arthur, who  leads an army of marine creatures, with the sacred Trident in his hand, to do battle with Orm and his followers. Orm is eventually defeated in combat by Arthur, who spares Orm’s life in an act of mercy. The film concludes with Aquaman embracing his fate and ascending to the throne with Mera by his side. In a post-credit series of sequences, we see what is expected to happen in Aquaman II which features Aquaman again in the title role.

Most DC comic characters spend their time on the “surface” - which means in this world, or a planet like it, or in between land-worlds in a vaguely familiar galaxy. What makes this action movie distinctive is that much of the plot unfolds under water. That choice, which is germane to the nature of the film’s main character, gives the action scenes novelty and special impact. The film has action-packed visual effects, in aggressive cartoon style, that aim to fulfil its promise. The underwater sequences give the viewer a wild, frantic, screen-filled ride under and over the waves.

The tough character of Aquaman is well portrayed by Jason Momoa, and Nicole Kidman impresses as Atlanna. In the under-water sequences, animal and human action are combined seamlessly in the film’s over-powering visual effects. This is a novel action movie in the DC Extended Universe, that aims to establish Aquaman as a figure of special status which will be   critically tested in Aquaman II. The crunch test for Aquaman II is how his super-heroism will be affected, when the novelty of all the underwater action and visual effects starts to wear off.

Peter W Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Roadshow Films

Released December 26th., 2018

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