MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Aquaman’ offers spectacle but lacks emotional heft

Warner Bros.

If director James Wan’s latest film “Aquaman” accomplishes anything, it makes sure that the DC Comics character will no longer be the butt of every third-rate comedian’s joke.

While the movie’s reach exceeds its grasp, star Jason Mamoa’s action chops allows the character, created for a back-up strip in More Fun Comics No. 73 in 1941, to stand proudly among other B-list or C-list super-heroes who have somehow found their way to the big screen in recent years.

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The screenplay, based on comics written by Geoff Johns but written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beal, is overloaded; however, Wan and the scores of CGI craftsman who worked on the movie carved out a spectacular-looking film that is entertaining on a popcorn action-movie level but still is a bit uneven over the course of its 2-hour and 23-minute running time.

You can certainly pick out some of Wan and Johns’ favorite films as various portions of the movie reminded me of “Flash Gordon” (1980),“Romancing the Stone,” the “Star Wars” films, “Lord of the Rings,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

A few critics have even the noted that the plot is very similar to that of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” just twisting the roles of protagonist and the antagonist. However, both movies owe their basic plot to “Hamlet.”

Hey, if you are going to borrow, borrow from the best.

The comic-book stories the movie draws from had heavy parallels to the legend of King Arthur. Wan certainly was not bashful about throwing in anything he found useful in concocting this seafood gumbo of a movie.

So, the movie’s not original, but was it fun?

Yes, I had a great time watching it.

Now, it’s not as well crafted as the aforementioned “Black Panther” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” but it was a fun time at the movie and brought an epic feel to the character that has rarely been captured in the comics or any other medium.

Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Mamoa) is half-American and half-Atlantean. Since his mom Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) was the Queen of Atlantis, Arthur, being her first-born, is rightful heir to the thrown. However, Arthur was raised by his lighthouse keeper father Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), and Arthur wants nothing to do with the underwater game of thrones he’s about to be dragged into.

Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) does desire the throne so that he can unite the seven undersea kingdoms and lead them into war against the surface world, which has been polluting the oceans at an alarming rate over the last century.

Rebels like Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe) seek to place Arthur on the throne in hopes that his twin heritages will allow him to forge a more peaceful accord between water-breathers and air-breathers.

The only way Arthur will have the power to unite the seven kingdoms is to find the trident of Atlan, the ancient king who first united the seven kingdoms.

The film really is a feast for the eyes with images of seascapes, creatures, and environments that have never been captured on film before.

Mamoa is a hard man not to like, but I’m not sure if his acting chops or Heard’s as Mera were up for some or the more emotional material in the script. Better actors could have added more to the movie, but then again, more emotional depth might have have been a drag on what is a very fun action romp.

Aquaman isn’t a great movie, but it is fun and entertaining on a fairly mindless level.

(PG-13) 2 hrs. 25 min.
Grade: B-

Classic Corner

Universal Pictures

For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, Burt Reynolds was the quintessential movie star, the original guy whom every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to be with.

Reynolds could act. His 1972 performance in “Deliverance” proved his detractors wrong in that regard, but he was at his best playing free-wheeling, comedic characters in a series of films from the mid 1970s through the early 1980s that made him a box-office favorite.

I particularly liked Reynolds as the half American Indian blacksmith Quint Asper on Gunsmoke (1962-65) which I discovered in re-runs, and his 1990-94 sitcom “Evening Shade” is decent, too.

Reynolds’ death on Sept. 6 was a slap in the face even though he was 82 and ill. Reynolds and his movies had been a presence in my life every since I can remember, and his passing was just another reminder to me of how short our time actually is.

On Wednesday, Dec. 26 beginning at 7 p.m. (CT), Turner Classic Movie Channel will air six of Reynolds’ films from the 1970s as a tribute to the star.

Here’s a list of the movies:

7 p.m. Smokey and The Bandit (1977)

9 p.m. Deliverance (1972)

11 p.m. The Longest Yard (1974)

1:15 a.m. Hooper (1978)

3:15 a.m. Smokey and the Bandit II (1980)

5 a.m. Best Friends (1982)