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Review: DC's glossy 'Aquaman' barely stays afloat

 Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


“Aquaman” - for the DC Universe - is better than expected. But if you understand the cinematic inconsistencies within the franchise, then you know that’s not a complement.

Horror maestro James Wan (“The Conjuring”) has been called upon to bring one of the more campier properties to the big screen. And to be honest, Wan did pull all he could from a story that’s about a half-man..half-fish, but it also doesn’t help that “Aquaman” is by default one of the sillier superheros in the DC canon, with pop culture not being too kind to the bulky, dolphin communicating icon (think “Entourage.”)

Call me crazy, but something about characters declaring themselves “Ocean Masters” and/or watching a slow motion beach sequence set to Pitbull’s cover of “Africa” doesn’t scream cinematic gold (It’s almost like Wan knows how ridiculous these narrative waters are). Yet, if you’re following in the footsteps of “Justice League” the only place to go is up, and in that regard “Aquaman” is slightly bearable, if you first understand this is all B-movie slop.

Featuring a few too many locations, characters, and timeframes - Wan’s “Aquaman” quickly sets the stage with the courtship of one human lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the aquatic Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) in Maine 1985. Out of their loved spurred a half-breed named Arthur, who would obviously grow up to fight alongside Willem Dafoe’s Jedi-like master Vulko (who looks like a rejected alien from “Galaxy Quest”) and the Poison-Ivy looking Mera (Amber Heard - looking distressed and lost).

Jason Momoa reprises his titular role from “League” and Wan can’t decide if we’re supposed to laugh or feel for this dude, and his portrayal comes across as mumbled. In a narrative fixation that’ll draw comparisons to “Black Panther” - Arthur has one pissed off younger brother (Patrick Wilson - hemming and hawing the whole time) who wants to start a war with the “surface world” and the only way he can be stopped is if Arthur challenges him for King of Atlantis.

But in order to do that, Aquaman and Mera need to find a supposed trident thats powers can’t be matched, and he must do this while fending off another pissed off baddie (character favorite Black Manta) - whose suit can unleash plasma laser beams from his eyes. Cyclops from “X-Men” should sue for copyright infringement (or tarnishing his brand image).

If the waterlogged (and overall confusing) pacing wasn’t enough, then the groan inducing dialogue could send you over the edge (I would hope Wann was above dunking characters heads in toilets for a laugh, but I stand corrected). Still, he’s perfected an underwater landscape that’s visually stunning on the eyes despite CGI crustaceans looking unfinished and laughable (the crab people provided a well earned, abielt unintentional, chuckle).

Goofy costumes and Momoa’s lusciously flowing hair aside, “Aquaman” embraces its snarky attitude enough to make the swim worth the dive with fluid action sequences that elevate a lousy script (a battle royale in the streets of Italy prove to be a glitzy highlight). But at the end of the day, this is the best case scenario DC could ask for: a superhero flick washed over with nonsense - yet just decent enough to avoid sleeping with the fishes.

Grade: C+

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