Welcome to a picture that is a nonstop succession of battle scenes, each one bigger, louder and longer than the one that came before. Rating: 1 star out of 4.

Share story

Movie review

It seems director James Wan had one overarching goal in making “Aquaman.” His prime directive? Crush the audience into submission.

Sear eyes with garish CG special effects. Bludgeon ears with a musical score set in the key of bombast. Reduce brains to mush with sheer nonstop excessiveness of the movie’s sights and sounds.

Let all who enter the theater know that resistance is hopeless. Submit!

Welcome to movie-as-weapon. Welcome to a picture that is an endless succession of battle scenes, each one bigger, louder and longer than the one that came before.

Excess starts with the title character played by Jason Momoa. Massively muscled, extravagantly tattooed, shaggy and as bearded as an outlaw biker, he’s a literal bulletproof badass who answers to the name of Arthur Curry. He lives by the code, “I solve my problems with my anger and my fists. I do not work or play well with others.” As comic-based superheroes go, he’s as far from upright Superman and brainy Batman as it’s possible to get and still claim kinship in the DC universe.

He’s got his reasons for his rage. The son of human lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) and water-breathing Queen Atlanna of the submerged kingdom of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), he’s the product of, as he puts it, a relationship that never should have been. Atlantis folk despise humans for their polluting and warlike ways (hey, they have a point). Mixing with them is an offense punishable by death. So he’s an outsider, tentatively accepted by people in the surface world and loathed by the rulers of Atlantis, particularly his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson), who rules the roost down below and doesn’t much like the idea of his “half-breed” sibling potentially muscling him off the throne.

In Arthur’s corner is a redheaded beauty named Mera (Amber Heard), an Atlantean princess who can manipulate water in unusual ways, and a mentor/counselor, Vulko (Willem Dafoe, in a man bun), who taught him all he knows about the martial arts.

Arthur’s mission, pressed on him by Mera and Vulko, is to head off a war between humankind and Atlantis, and to do that he must find a long-lost magical golden trident.

Momoa, from the insouciant way he flips his long locks to the knowing smirk he displays in many scenes, seems to be enjoying himself in the role. Everyone else seems to be pressing too hard, with Wilson being particularly grating, snarling his lines as the chief bad guy.

And director Wan, who has climbed the ladder from the “Saw” franchise to work on the megabudget “Furious 7,” is unrestrained in his directorial style. You’re likely to leave the theater feeling thoroughly pummeled.


★ “Aquaman,” with Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Directed by James Wan, from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall. 142 Minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language. Opens Dec. 21 at multiple theaters.