Mario’s Movies: ‘Aquaman’

By Mario Ricciardi

Making a Christmas break splash is DC Comics’ “Aquaman” directed by James Wan. “Aquaman” stars — and don’t hold your breath — Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Manteen II, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Randall Park. Wait, I’m not done yet. Julie Andrews also shows up in an uncredited role to stick it to Disney.

Yup. Read closely Disney, Julie Andrews passed up a cameo in “Mary Poppins Returns” to act in an Aquaman movie. Not hurt enough? It’s a minor voice acting role. Note to editor: can we please put that photo of the animated “Aquaman” riding a seahorse here?

I can’t believe I just called out the Walt Disney Corporation in a public form of communication. If this makes it to print, and your fifth favorite movie critic goes missing, tell the cops to start at the House of Mouse. Be blunt about it if you suggest it, they might think it was you. Who am I kidding, the cops are probably in on the take. If I’m ever to be avenged and it’s not too much trouble with me down there as fifth favorite, take matters into your own hands.

“Aquaman” is as much an ensemble cast as can be, and it’s hard not to wonder whether or not the group decided to be in the movie just to stick it to the powers that be (not just “Mary Poppins”). “Aquaman” is joyously goofy, jumps all over the place tonally and under James Wan’s direction the actors totally sell it.

From technical and visual standpoints the film is breathtaking. Director James Wan is a little genius, (I say “little” because IMDb has his height listed as 5’3 ½”). Sure, IMDb won’t give me Steven Spielberg’s contact information to pitch my movie to him, but they’ll let me know which directors can ride roller coasters at Cedar Point.

It should be noted that James Wan, director of mind-bending horror flicks “Saw,” “Insidious,” “Insidious: Chapter 2” and “The Conjuring” films, succeeds in the action genre as well. That comment is mostly due to his work on “Fast and Furious 7” —  the only “Fast and Furious” I will allow myself to break the bonds of masculinity to cry at. Ultimately, “Aquaman” is an action movie, too. Its tone is just too scattered to pigeonhole it there.

Hey, speaking of liquids leaving my body, I am going to take it upon myself to warn you that “Aquaman” is not the movie to drink fluids before. There is so much water in the movie. So. Much. Water. It’s everywhere you look. And, yeah, I guess with the hero’s namesake I should’ve seen that coming, but you know what, I’m not going to defend myself here. Let’s just say I blame the marketing guys, and I squirmed through the second half of the movie for this review’s sake. I would hope that effort bumps me up to at least fourth favorite movie reviewer.

As “Aquaman” progresses, it slips into a sillier and sillier version of what the DC Comics movies originally set out to do with the character. Zack Snyder’s approach to “Aquaman” was to make him cool, James Wan’s approach is to search deep down for what makes “Aquaman” who he is and then completely own it without remorse.

On a side, if you take the kernels of wisdom from that last sentence my review just taught you how to survive high school. Third favorite reviewer now?

“Aquaman” offers a unique blend of tones and visuals to offer a very exciting movie. In a time when comic book movies are taken so seriously, “Aquaman” reminds that these are comic book movies that we are taking seriously. Let me repeat that, just because we’re here right now: these are comic book movies that we are taking seriously.

??? (3/5 Penguins)