REVIEW: ‘Aquaman’ is different, ultra-gritty and too long
The DC Comics film Aquaman (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of a superhero who can breathe water—and whip the bad guys.
Arthur is a tall, muscular and tough young man who has—it’s easy to say—a unique background.
His father was a lighthouse keeper, and his mother was Atlanna, the Queen of the underwater world Atlantis. They met one stormy night when she washed up on shore, nearly dead, and was nursed back to health. Shortly thereafter, they married, and soon after that, Arthur was born.
Arthur is only half-Atlantean, but he nevertheless has the other-worldly abilities of his mother’s species. He can breathe water. He can see in the dark. And he can dart through the ocean faster than a speeding dolphin. People call him “the Aquaman.”
What Arthur no longer has, though, is a mother. Atlanna left him and his father long ago, fearful that the war-driven people of Atlantis would kill Arthur, a “half-breed.” He hasn’t seen her since.
Although Arthur has lived much of his life on land, he now is being called back to the sea. That’s because his half-brother—Orm—is trying to unite the seven kingdoms of the sea and start a war with the people of the land (That’s us). The goal: destroy humanity and prove that the creatures of the sea are superior.
Can Arthur stop them?
The DC Comics film Aquaman (PG-13) opens this weekend, starring Jason Momoa (Justice League) as Arthur/Aquaman, Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera) as Orm, and Amber Heard (Justice League) as Mera, Arthur’s romantic interest and a former citizen of Atlantis.
The film follows Arthur as he tries to take his rightful place as the king of Atlantis from Orm, who is younger. In sharp contrast to Orm—who wants only war—Arthur is striving for peace. As his mother once predicted, “He could unite our worlds one day.”
Aquaman has plenty of rough edges (more on that below) but is entertaining enough for a superhero flick. That said, the first half of the movie and its emphasis on backstory is more compelling than the last half of the film, in which the story gets overshadowed by mythical minutia and a CGI-battle-fest.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Extreme. The film begins with Aquaman saving a submarine from underwater pirates and beating nearly everyone on the ship to a pulp. They try to kill him with guns, but he’s immune to bullets. We see a tidal wave nearly kill an elderly man. We see destruction on the beaches. We watch Arthur battle his brother in a gruesome fight that would make MMA fans squirm. Scary, alien-like sea creatures attack Arthur and Mera at night. Multiple times during the film, we see people and creatures speared. The underwater battle scene at the end is ultra-violent and long—too long.
Minimal/moderate. Arthur’s parents exchange a kiss, as does another couple later in the film. We see his pregnant mom lying in bed, with her hand on her belly. Mera’s form-fitting outfit (which she wears throughout the film) is low cut.
Moderate. About 18 coarse words: h-ll (5), s–t (3), a– (3), d–n (2), b—ard (2) SOB (1), d–k (1). b–ch (1).
Other Positive Elements
The film has several touching family-centric scenes. Arthur’s tearful mother leaves him as a toddler, saying it’s “the only way to save him.” Arthur/Aquaman shows mercy to several victims, refusing to kill them when he has the upper hand. Arthur and his father maintain a relationship when he’s an adult, and we see them hug.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Aquaman curses. He drinks (a lot). And in between, he beats people up. In fact, he wants to fight. He reminds me of the old WWE pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (That’s not a compliment). He’s a different, grittier kind of superhero. Some fans will love the character. And, at times, the shtick indeed is hilarious. But I prefer more wholesome superheroes. Still, he has plenty of positive qualities.
The movie gives us lessons on selflessness (Arthur’s mother), self-sacrifice (Mera, Arthur, others), courage (Arthur), loyalty (Mera), humility (Arthur) and the bond within a family (Arthur and his parents).
Like all DC and Marvel films, the story of Aquaman involves myths and characters with God-like qualities.
Still, there are plenty of positive characteristics in the film. As Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote: “Inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light.”
Aquaman is a tough superhero who (mostly) practices mercy. And when he doesn’t show mercy, he later regrets it.
He’s also humble, as we see when he initially rejects calls to become king. He wants justice for the world. He opposes evil. Perhaps that’s why our society likes superhero movies so much. Deep down, we’re looking for a hero to defeat evil and save us. We’re looking for a savior. Thankfully, we already have one. We can read about Him in the pages of Scripture.
The underwater scenes are beautiful and impressive. Perhaps the most amazing element: the way each character’s hair floats in the water as they talk to one another and interact.
Superhero movies often are heavy on CGI and light on story. In the back half of the film, this one is exactly that.
- List three selfless acts in the movie. List three acts that reflected mercy.
- Should Arthur’s mother have left him?
- Why was Arthur hesitant to lead his people?
- Why are moviegoers so enamored with superheroes? Is it only for entertainment?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.