Film: Slow-moving, over-long Aquaman drowns in a sea of special effects trickery
Aquaman sees Game Of Thrones star Jason Momoa in superhero mode once more but it's a test of endurance in which any emotional connection is lost amid bombast and effects trickery, writes Damon Smith
OCEANS rise and standards fall in Aquaman, a bloated origin story for the eponymous DC Comics superhero, which capsizes in a tsunami of splashy digital effects and melodramatic storytelling.
Scriptwriters David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall crown a new king of Atlantis via a convoluted treasure hunt above and below cresting waves where armies of armoured crocodiles and seahorses clash in titanic battle to the thunderclap of composer Rupert Gregson-Williams's bombastic score.
Sweeping panoramas of otherworldly marine creatures locked in bloody combat owe a debt to The Lord Of The Rings trilogy in their gargantuan scale and execution, but there is no emotional connection to two-dimensional characters in the midst of the melee.
Jason Momoa flexes his muscles and pearly whites in the title role, imbuing his reluctant heir with flashes of rough charm and humour when he isn't conversing with co-stars using his fists.
An on-screen romance with Amber Heard's ass-kicking princess is tepid while Patrick Wilson is poorly served as the pantomime villain, who intends to chastise mankind for polluting undersea kingdoms with chemicals and plastics.
Director James Wan soaks up the bad habits of executive producer Zack Snyder (Justice League, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice), prolonging action set pieces with excessive slow motion and showy camerawork, which spins and somersaults around actors as they perform breathlessly choreographed fights.
Maine lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) discovers Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Queen of Atlantis, injured on the shore and nurses her back to health. They fall in love and she gives birth to a boy called Arthur, who can breathe in water and communicates with aquatic life.
"He's living proof our worlds can co-exist," coos Atlanna.
Alas, the queen is forced to abandon her child and Arthur grows up believing that she died to give him life. Many years later, Mera (Heard), daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), visits Arthur (Momoa) and implores him to challenge his power-hungry half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who has declared war on humanity.
If Arthur can locate the fabled trident of Neptune and hone his fighting skills under the aegis of mentor Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), he might avert disaster.
However, Orm is flanked by a vast army including an elite squadron of plasma gun-wielding soldiers led by grief-stricken pirate Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Manteen II).
Aquaman is a test of mental endurance and physical discomfort with a running time that needlessly approaches two and a half hours. The linear plot unfolds at a (front) crawl, shepherding Momoa's hero-in-waiting on a globe-trotting odyssey using clunky expository dialogue.
Kidman and Dafoe, sporting a fetching man bun, buoy throwaway supporting roles and refuse to drown in the relentless onslaught of special effects trickery. We are not so fortunate.
AQUAMAN (12A, 143 mins). Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Romance. Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul-Manteen II, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison. Director: James Wan
Released: December 12 (UK & Ireland)