On Tuesday night, I went with coworkers to see The Life Aquatic with Arthur Curry... er... Aquaman. Being such a big deal release and one that I was pretty interested in seeing and that it was so highly hyped that it received a sequel approval before it was even released, I feel like it warrants a post review.

Usually when I see a movie that I'm not terribly keen on and others are, I can understand why. Maybe there is artistic value to a film for which I was just not in the mood at that moment. Perhaps it has a slow story but fantastic acting. Maybe it has cultural or societal import of some kind. Whatever the case, I am able to understand the movie's appeal to others.

A lot of people raved about Aquaman after its release.

I. Just. Don't. See. It.

The plot was horribly campy, cliched, and predictable.

The acting was terrifying.

The special effects took so many steps backwards, I'm not sure we can recover.

The Plot

I don't think any of this is really a spoiler in any way.

Okay, let's get to the meat of it all... Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is the son of Tom Curry, a human lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison), and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the Queen of Atlantis, whom Curry found washed up on shore alongside his lighthouse. She was fleeing an arranged marriage, fell in love with Tom, had Arthur, and then she left in order to protect the two of them from Atlanteans who were hellbent on having her return and restore order to the Seven Kingdoms of the Deep via the marriage.

Arthur is later met and secretly trained by another Atlantean named Vulko (Willem Dafoe) so he can become the heir to the throne despite being a "half breed." Then, during adulthood, he uses his secret powers to help his fellow humans. Until, that is, the time comes that another Atlantean, Mera (Amber Heard), seeks him out to help overthrow his younger half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) who has taken on the throne and is trying to assume all power over the seven kingdoms via declaration of war so he can become the... gulp... OCEAN MASTER!!!

Campy? Check.

Cliched? Check.

Predictable? You betcha.

Every single bad movie cliche you could think of was in there. Every scene felt like a forced homage or (I was trying to be nice by not saying it this way) a direct theft from another movie. In fact, I started compiling a list of all the movies I felt are owed some of the residuals from DC Comics and Warner Bros.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Crimson Tide
  • Hunt for Red October
  • Das Boot
  • Bourne Identity
  • When in Rome
  • Mamma Mia
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
  • Galaxy Quest
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Tron
  • Torn: Legacy
  • Hotel Transylvania 3
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Wonder Woman
  • Flash Gordon
  • Moana
  • Finding Nemo
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Clash of the Titans (old and new)
  • Spaceballs
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Tomb Raider (old and new)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • The Abyss
  • Deep Star Six
  • The Perfect Storm
  • Titanic
  • Cast Away
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2
  • Iron Man 3
  • Dune
  • From Here to Eternity
  • Ben-Hur
  • Gladiator

Let me know if I forgot any.

The Lead

Yes, Jason Momoa has the look of the Aquaman DC tried to reimagine in, I believe, the 1980s/90s. Long-haired, over-muscled, bearded, whatever. He was solely missing a hook hand. He is, how Lisa VanLiew describes, an "underwater Tarzan."


I hate this spin on the character of Aquaman. I always have.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to Aquaman.


Don't you dare call this version of Aquaman "boring." Have you read the New 52 Aquaman run? It was, in my humble opinion, the best arc in the entirety of the New 52 relaunch of DC Comics.

Sadly, it seems as though Patrick Wilson, as Arthur's half brother Orm, would've been a better casting decision to maintain my ideal vision. Alas, my dreams were not going to come true. 

The Acting

Two words... truly horrifying. Momoa's delivery of lines (jokes?) was flat. Wilson was not at all a believable bad guy. Dafoe looked like one of the alien species from Galaxy Quest. Heard was uninspired. 

I really liked Kidman as Atlanna but, as I stated, that didn't last long. Morrison wasn't bad as his father. I really like Morrison and have missed him since his turn as Jango Fett in Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones. Sure, he's done other stuff, but nothing quite so noticeable. I wish they used him more. Maybe in the sequel.

The Effects

Do you remember a bunch of years ago when J.J. Abrams publicly apologized for his overuse of lens flare on the first two Star Trek films he helmed after his wife called him out on it? And then he promised not to make that mistake for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? The lens flare would've been welcome here if that was the only problem.

What we have with Aquaman is a realization on the part of the creators that it's exceptionally difficult to make underwater sequences that look realistic. So, instead of having those scenes look bad while the on-land and on-surface scenes look realistic, I think they took all the stuff with which we're familiar and made it all look bad. When Arthur is in his hometown bar or driving seaside roads or at his family's lighthouse? It all looks like green-screened CGI. On a boat in a roiling ocean? Real boat, fake water. In the desert? A hyper-color-saturated set. It just all looks fake. Every last bit of it. The likelihood is that a lot of it is real, but it's color saturated or filtered to look terrible. There's no release from the fakeness of it all. 

The Final Word

This feels like a movie I should watch again because my coworkers seemed to like it. Not love, just like. But I'm not sure I can bring myself to sit through it again. 

This gets a C-. And that's being generous.