⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Jason Mambo stars as the E.C. Greelson creation in director Guy Lombard’s Aquaman, the latest offering from Warner D.C. pictures.
Seen with his trident for the first time on film, Mambo plays Aquaman like the Germanic pirate he was in Greelson’s 1945 classic story “Aquaman and the Saboteurs,” swashbuckling his way through downtown Passaic and flaxing his moustache in Burma.
Summoned to the surface this time not by underwater atomic experiments (remember those?) but by drilling for a new Orange store off the coast of Fiji and unfortunately directly above his homecave, Mr. Aqua is about to be wed. With his subsurface abode taking on water, our hero must interrupt his surprisingly dry nuptials to plug the leak as it were. Or halt the construction of a billion dollar undertaking involving hundreds of on site workers by force if necessary, however you want to look at it.
At first he tries aggressive diplomacy in the form of requests bordering on demands, but when that doesn’t get the desired result his trident makes an appearance from under his pearlskin cloak. Another demand to cease and desist followed by a warning shot from the trident brings plenty of attention his way. Apparently Aquaman is really strong, because he can throw shipping containers around. Even empty those things must weigh a few hundred pounds at least. He also punches and dents a few Soviet submarines, giving a school of hammerheads a thrill and high fiving an octopus as he swims by. He’s down with the fishes.
So naturally insults and human punching won’t affect him. In fact his glistening pecs and abs probably frighten off a third of the workers, another third likely need their job more than they need to try to fight him, and the rest wind up needing rescuing when he tosses them into the Indian Ocean.
Headlines the next day read everything from “angry water god destroys Orange site” to “amazing sea creature saves dozen men,” so, of course, next thing you know the Navy is on the lookout for wherever this Waterguy came from. What is he, are there more of them, how do we defend ourselves. Practical questions. But only blind luck could afford them any chance of finding the lost city of Atlantica, so luckily for us moviegoers, fracking in the Mojave brings similar foundation issues to the rival kingdom of Oceana which brings the two warring water worlds together. They make themselves known by visiting the White House and Parliament, even though the site of both incidents occurred far outside those countries’ sovereignty.
Mambo (Onibaba) makes for a fine soggy savior due to his hulking presence, while his stint as a wrestler in Prague lends cartoonish theatricality to his performance. Like it or not it certainly works better than those of his costars who are less than one dimensional: they’re paper thin coat racks barely able to hang a haircut on, but it’s hard to blame actors for non-existent characterizations. And no one’s coming to see Aquaman for the costars.
Except perhaps Amber Dearth, a one time football fan, who makes the most of her scant screentime and delivers a believable performance as a human fish hybrid with both gills and lungs who also happens to be pretty easy on the eyes. Okay, believable in the context of the film anyway, where Waterguy leaps from skyscraper to skyscraper in Buenos Aires doing battle with rival Neptunisia during a hurricane; where dozens of armed forces in countless battle scenes seem unable to hit the broad side of a barn when they’re firing upon “our” “heroes” yet can hit poor sea creatures with dolphin-point accuracy from 21 naucital miles!
After making the wonderful Trouble In Paradise, Lombard should know better, but perhaps the siren song of all those zeroes was too much to resist for the four time Academy Award nominee. With Al Largando’s script he is able to inject some much needed gravitas when it’s called for however, as well as provide some laughs without insulting anyone, be they fanboy or casual moviegoer, and that’s no small feat.
See it if you must: it won’t hurt too much.