The long awaited big-screen adaptation of DC’s “Aquaman” has finally arrived, and it is easily stronger than “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League.” Unfortunately, that’s not saying much. For this story of the King of Atlantis is an exhausting piece of cinematic absurdity, an overlong, often incoherent mess. That being said, there are pleasures to be had — especially if one is a comic book character-crazed 12- or 13-year-old boy or girl.
Younger children may want to see “Aquaman” — the barrage of ads on the Disney Junior app do not help matters — but they most certainly should not. At the very least, this is one to wait and check out at home, when the fast-forward button is handy and the bathroom is just a few feet away.
What’s the story? Arthur Curry, a superhero better known as Aquaman, learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world. Actor Jason Momoa played the role in “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League,” and is joined by Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman and Dolph Lundgren.
What’s the rating? PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action and for some language. This is an instance in which PG-13 is accurate. There is harsh violence throughout, including several moments in the first 15 minutes. In addition, director James Wan creates a few legitimately scary sequences (he is, after all, the man behind “Insidious” and “The Conjuring”) and some creepy creatures. These could be too much for kiddos to handle.
What’s the ideal viewing age? As indicated, “Aquaman” is aimed squarely at the 12-and-older crowd. I suppose that includes adults who are more forgiving of a 143-minute immersion into nonsense than myself. Quite frankly, it’s hard not to burst out laughing during the film’s most dramatic moments.
It must be said, though, that there are some stunning visuals, a killer action sequence set in Sicily, and a tone that is far lighter than Zack Snyder’s somber DC epics. In addition, while no one will ever mistake Momoa for a great actor, his winking enthusiasm is rather infectious, and he and Heard, as undersea princess Mera, have a nice chemistry. Villainous Black Manta (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) looks darn cool, and the soundtrack features the most unexpected uses of Depeche Mode and Roy Orbison in film history.
Is there anything else parents need to consider? If your child is desperate to see “Aquaman” but is too young — I’m looking right at my 8-year-old while typing this — there are alternatives. One is a recent animated direct-to-video release, the clumsily titled “Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Aquaman: Rage of Atlantis.” No, Arthur Curry is not voiced here by Momoa, nor does the Lego version look anything like the beefy, long-haired “Game of Thrones” vet. But it’s another charming Lego-inspired creation, it can be watched at home right now, and it won’t lead to any nightmares. Rent it, pick up a film-inspired Lego set, and wait to watch “Aquaman” for a few months.