Critics' Pick

Aquaman (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 143 min. December 21, 2018
By Alan Scherstuhl
Wonder has often been in short supply in the never-ending age of superhero movies. But James Wan's giddy epic Aquaman has seven seas' worth of the simplest kind of it, razzle-dazzle imaginative variety. Here are the warriors of Atlantis straddling great white sharks and swimming into battle. Here's an ancient combat arena deep in the Atlantic where combatants face off above pulsing lava and a martial drumbeat is pounded out by (double-checks notes for confirmation) a giant octopus.

I'm not saying you'll emerge from this extravaganza believing that a man can talk to fish, but I will promise this: If anything in that description sounds at all appealing to you, you probably won't regret the plunge. And in their own mumbly way, Jason Momoa and this Aquaman did in the end even move me, some, through the power of representation and metaphor. Our hero is a hard-drinking surface-dweller townie raised in a Massachusetts lighthouse and named, for some reason, Arthur Curry. Arthur also happens to be a princeling with a claim to the throne of Atlantis. At the urging of the Atlantean battle-mermaid Mera (Amber Heard), Aquaman sets out to claim his crown and usher in an age of peace between the realms. As Mera puts it, this man of two worlds is "the bridge between land and sea."

That's hilarious, sure. A bridge leading from land to sea is actually a ramp. But that artlessness allows for a more pressing meaning: A bridge between two cultures in conflict beats the hell out of a wall.
James Wan Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns, James Wan Warner Bros.

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