“I grew up in a lighthouse. I kill fish. I’m Aquaman.”

“I grew up in a lighthouse. I kill fish. I’m Aquaman.”

2018 / Written by, like, 6 people / Directed by James Wan

It’s my belief, friends, that there are three audiences for a theoretical Aquaman movie, the first being die-hard DC fans who want to see it, the second being everyone else who isn’t a DC fan at all, and the third being folks like me, who’ve always thought the character was, at once, a goofy and delightful guy. Ben Affleck’s Batman pretty much sums up all the promise and reticence in Justice League: “I hear you can talk to fish…” Well, hey. That’s your sweet spot for an Aquaman movie!

Unfortunately, when Arthur Curry talks to fish in James Wan’s Aquaman, they bash their heads against glass or follow our hero to their doom in nonsensical battles in a villain’s nonsensical plot to enlist kingdoms to his cause by conquering them first. In other words, it seems like Aquaman kind of actually hates fish. Which is a problem in your movie about a self-proclaimed protector of the seas. (Indeed, everyone hates fish in this movie; Atlantis uses sea turtles as beasts of burden, one of the most dispiriting visuals ever—at least until the movie tops itself when Amber Heard rides an endangered Orca into battle.)

I don’t know. Look, it seems, at times, the filmmakers and actors truly believe they’re making a fun movie. LikeThor or Guardians of the Galaxy or even Splash, but those are all far superior movies in that they understand the inherent humor of their main characters and premise and have good actors in the principle roles. Don’t get me wrong: Momoa’s fine, but, like the writers, like the director, the guy doesn’t get what makes a character like Aquaman funny. I kept wondering how a kid who grew up in a lighthouse turned out to be this guy.

Other stuff—lazy stuff—bugged me. Would a Sicilian grandmother sit idly by while Americans trashed her living room? Nope. She’d take a broom to those jackasses (or a gun). Would the king of an undersea kingdom who hates the surface really make a deal with a surface-dwelling bad guy to torpedo his own lands? Are all underwater kings just kind of dumb? Is “Mother?” really the right line, when “Mom?” would be so much funnier?

Aside from all that, at the end of the day, it’s got its moments—Lovecraftian fish-monsters among them—but they’re all undercut by a bloated script, terrible dialogue, whole reels of exposition, and Amber Heard. Oh yeah, and this: why the hell would Aquaman need to go somewhere on a boat? Isn’t he, you know, Aquaman?