Poor Plot And Mediocre CGI Hold Back The New ‘Aquaman’ Movie


I had high hopes for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom because I liked the first movie in the series. Unfortunately, although there are some high points, there are some stretches that might have been better spent at the concession stand. The problem was, as usual, mostly in poor plotting. The Avenger films worked well because the stories were not only complex, but filled with characters we liked and villains who were truly villainous. This movie’s official main villain only showed up for a few seconds, and its main avatar was one dimensional.

The film begins with a narration by Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) talking about his life, half on land with his young son and half trying to keep control as king of Atlantis. Cute, but goes nowhere. Then comes the bad guy, David Cain/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is determined to kill Curry and everyone he loves because his pirate father was killed by Curry. As part of the plot, he is bringing on even more global warming thanks to the work of scientist Dr. Shin (Randall Park). The new science is so advanced, Curry is not certain of what to do and decided he needs his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who has been sentenced to a horrible prison in a desert. Arthur breaks him out, and the two men bicker as they wipe out a skeleton army. These are probably the best scenes in the entire movie.

Eventually they wind up in a series of battles as Cain, under the spell of a long-dead villain, commits a villainous act to break the spell that kept him and his monsters under control for millennia. And, as expected, the good guys stop the bad.

This might have been a lot better if there had been more subtlety. But the lines are drawn so simply that you have almost all the cast as good guys, even if most have no personality. Ironically, a CGI octopus has more charisma than almost the entire cast. Most of the action is straightforward fighting, often between assorted undersea vessels. Which provides a limit to the action.

The acting for most of the cast requires very little. Momoa seems best when he is fighting and not thinking, although he is presented as an ardent environmentalist (which Momoa actually is). Amber Heard as his wife Mera was reported to be out of the movie. Not true; although she had few lines, she was a key player in some of the battles. Temuera Morrison as Curry’s dad played a nice role as Arthur’s human father, funny and philosophical. Park was pretty good as the scientist; more of a shaded performance than most. Mateen was in many ways the weak point. Yes, he was villainous. But the part was far too simplistic.

By far, the best performance was given by Patrick Wilson. Too often, he has been relegated to supporting roles, which masks his talent. His was a complex part. He had a grudge against Arthur but was able to put a lot of it aside as they worked together. Their styles, totally different, played off each other. It worked wonderfully well. It was the one thing that really carried the film. Watching them bicker, criticizing each other, partnering in fighting battles, and ultimately working well together saved the movie from disaster.

Much of the CGI was just OK. Yes, it is not easy to do underwater scenes in exciting ways, but this stuff was not much better than OK.

I did not hate the film, and there were times, particularly when the two brothers were stuck on “Death Island,” when I enjoyed it. But liking 20 minutes out of a more than two-hour movie is just not enough. Kids will probably like it; there are no real complicated emotions.

Wait until pay per view or, if you have the right streaming service, watch it then. As a theatrical film, the cost is not really worth it.