In Aquaman, director James Wan joins forces with writers Will Beall and Geoff Johns (with Beall and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick screenwriting) to continue the underwater hero's much-needed transformation. Unfortunately, the long-awaited origin story featuring Jason Momoa as the title character falls a bit short of the mark, mostly because of its overreliance on poorly placed humor and music.
Arthur Curry (Momoa), the half-man, half-Atlantean, has been raised on the surface by his father Tom (Temuera Morrison). He grows up living a carefree life, taking time to do some hero work when he feels like it. This all changes when Mera (Amber Heard) informs him of the plan by his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) to take over not only the Atlantean kingdoms but also the entire world. Together, Arthur and Mera must seek the Trident of Atlan in order to thwart Orm's goal, and to allow Arthur to rise as the true ruler of Atlantis.
The best thing a film about the often-maligned character of Aquaman could have done was not take itself too seriously. For this, Momoa was near-perfect casting. His easy-going attitude translates to his performance, giving Aquaman a presence that should have worked for a character in desperate need of literary transformation. Unfortunately, the script goes too far, becoming a comic book of a comic book. It seems that at every turn when the story starts to develop well, a cheesy comment or over-dramatic piece of music interrupts. Because of this the pacing is poor, making the film drag and seem longer than its already substantial 143 minutes.
It isn't that any of the direction or acting is bad (and the evolution of Arthur in the story is quite good), however, there isn't anything notable, either. Combine these with a script and music that try excessively too hard, and what is left is a film that is entertaining, but not particularly rewarding. When it works, it works, and when it doesn't, it just hurts.
On the completely positive side, the film is stunning in the underwater scenes. The work that went into capturing the look and feel of Atlantis via the comic books while fast-forwarding it to the skill of today's visual effects is the real payoff of Aquaman. They seam well with the actors, so in this, at least, the filmmakers have achieved full success.
Aquaman is entertaining, if not particularly cerebral. And while a film of this kind does not necessarily need brains, it goes a little too far in its shortfall of intelligence. A certain mindset and appreciation of camp will be required to enjoy it throughout. Otherwise, the viewer might feel they've been left high and dry.