Dec 21, 2018

He can swim, he can fight, and that's about it.


Grade: C

Director: James Wan (Saw, Furious 7)

Screenplay: David Leslie et al. (The Conjuring 2)

Cast: Jason Momoa (Justice League), Amber Heard (The Danish Girl)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 2 hr 23 min

By: John DeSando

“It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea . . . . " Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee

While the women in the audience for character Aquaman/Arthur can ogle Jason Momoa’s fit pecs, the men can enjoy the young Amber Heard ‘s beauty as Princess Mera and for a bonus, that of the nicely-put-together Nicole Kidman as the matriarch Atlanna. And that’s all there is folks, at least for adults. For 8-year-old boys, explosions and fights excitingly occupy almost all the film.

Aquaman/Arthur’s reluctant struggle to find the magic trident (think a sword in a stone) and claim his right to be king of Atlantis follows the usual mythical arc which includes fighting the evil brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), and finding the trident. Like the legendary King Arthur, this Arthur must wrest the trident from a monster, not a stone. Otherwise director James Wan can cut back to the lighthouse and Arthur’s real father, Temuera (a fit Tom Curry), who waits patiently for the return from the sea of his mermaid wife, Atlanna.

Usually some relief can be had in the CGI setting under water, but here the scenes are so dense with creatures and ruins and, yes, explosions, that you can’t digest it all and may end up not appreciating any. Nor can you possibly give a pass for Willem Dafoe, the true actor, with Kidman, in the whole lot. Because I just saw Dafoe play a memorable Vincent van Gogh in Edge of Eternity, I am miffed that he would play the king’s vizier, with one line worthy of his acting ability and not any another.

Jason Momoa, formerly of a Conan remake, is a physically-appealing choice, for previous iterations have him blonde, blue-eyed, and Thor like rather than the more interesting smoky-eyed, long-tressed surfer/biker dude here. Beyond the physical attributes, Momoa is given next-to-none smart lines or anything to help develop his character.

Oh, well, 8-year old boys win this round. Yet, a fetching Kidman can be its own reward for us caregivers.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at