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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Aquaman | Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II | Review

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4 Chicks Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Aquaman | Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II | Review

Although the titular warrior’s watery, long-awaited origin story runs long and is full of battles, it begins on dry land, or “the surface.”  DC Comics' Aquaman begins life as Arthur Curry, the product of Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) Queen of Atlantis, and Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) a lighthouse keeper in Maine.

The couple meet when Thomas rescues an unconscious Atlanna from a rocky shore during a storm.  A sweet relationship blossoms (hey, surf and turf go well together) and their son, Arthur (Kaan Gulder, Otis Dhanji, ages 9, 11) is born.  Atlanna is forced to return to Atlantis and does so reluctantly for the safety of her son.

Arthur (Jason Momoa) develops special powers of communication with sea creatures, the ability to breathe underwater, and unusual strength.  His earthly gifts are towering height, massive muscles, and a Samson-like mane of hair; he’s a billboard of body tats.

The story is one long series of  battles that “half-breed” Arthur Curry must fight to win his rightful place as heir and ascend (descend?) to his throne as King of Atlantis.  He doesn’t even want the honor and doesn’t think he deserves it.  He is the son of the queen, but he’s also a surface dweller.  Put a check in the conflict box.

His younger half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is the warmonger and full-blooded Atlantean, stirring up aggression and strife in order to rule not only the seven kingdoms of the sea, but also the surface.  World domination is big with rival half-brothers (remember Thor and Loki? Different universe, same ambition).

The detailed plot and backstory could go on for pages and pages, so here’s the quick need-to-know:  All paths, wet and dry, lead to acquiring the Trident of Atlan (Graham McTavish) the ancient King of Atlantis.  Orm wants it, while pirate ally David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen ll) wants Arthur - to kill him in retribution for his father Jesse’s (Michael Beach) death aboard a nuclear sub the pair were about to hijack.  These two relentlessly pursue Arthur and Mera (Amber Heard) daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) of the underwater Xebel tribe.

In the Sahara Desert, Arthur and Mera search for the coordinates of a powerful trident that will avoid a war and establish the true King of Atlantis.  King Orm and Black Manta will do anything to stop/kill him.  Orm uses his army of sea soldiers clad in robot-like reverse-scuba suits, breathing the water sealed inside their helmets so that they may walk the surface.  Black Manta, a mortal, pursues Arthur on his own, meeting up with him in a Sicilian village to wreak havoc on many floors and ceilings within the tiny community.

A humongous battle takes place in the middle of the ocean, just one of many throughout the film.  It’s even thunderously noisy underwater.  Want to venture a guess as to how it all ends up?  Even if you haven’t seen it you know, and the film is Arthur Curry’s journey and metamorphosis into Aquaman. Triumph is a given.

Remember, this is just the short version of events.  Look for Trench monsters, a ring of fire competition, underground chambers, a hologram, and a secret hideaway at Earth’s Core.
And that’s STILL not all of it.

Director James Wan (The Conjuring) helms a lavish production with gorgeous (fantasy) underwater scenes, where sharks, whales, and other large creatures serve as horses of the deep. Uniformed armies glide in formation. It’s a magical world of hierarchy, families, corruption and betrayal, replicating the world of the surface dwellers more than anyone would like to admit.

While a fun and epic adventure, there are some missteps to detract from the flow.  Explosions come unexpectedly in the middle of conversation one too many times.  Chase scenes seem endless as does the firing of weapons.  Too much action tends to have a similar effect as texting exclusively IN CAPITAL LETTERS.  If everything is emphasized, effectively nothing is.

Excitement morphs into a droning regularity of bomb blasts, explosions and gunfire.  You know there’s too much of it when it becomes monotonous, almost boring.  That happens frequently.  

Jason Momoa is well suited to the look, and the action of the part, but breaks the spell when he is given too many lines to speak.  Cadence and pacing remove him from his superhero persona.  The distraction summons Jason Momoa more than Aquaman.

Amber Heard is the wise sidekick Mera, royalty herself, but never afraid to kick ass. Some faces are made young by CGI; one of them is Queen Atlanna’s advisor Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe) who trains young Arthur in swordsmanship and is an ally against King Orm. Nicole Kidman is effective as Queen Atlanna, both a monarch and a mother.  If you happen to catch her in this year’s Destroyer, you would not think the two characters share any genetic material.  That’s range.

Astoundingly, Julie Andrews voices the mythic Karathen, an undersea creature guarding the Trident of Atlan. Look for Djimon Hounsou in a watery cameo as the Fisherman King.

A scene during mid-credits foreshadows a sequel.  Surprise!  

Aquaman is big and blue and wet.  It’s noisy and entertaining and epic,  It’s at home on land or sea or air.  It has Jason Momoa’s extensive body tats, enlarged to the size of blue whales on the big screen.

Talk about making a splash.

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