Aquaman. My favorite comic book as a kid, about a guy who can breathe underwater and talk to fish. I was looking forward to this movie, and the trailer had some promising hints…like when, as a boy, Aquaboy is being bullied in an aquarium and all the fish come to the glass and intimidate the bad kids by staring at them. That’s the Aquaman I wanted to see, where the power was all about communication and cooperation with marine creatures.
That’s not what we got. It’s another fantasy movie about a muscle-bound lunk getting his way. I had so many problems sitting through this crap.
- Jason Momoa can’t act. He’s big and hairy and flippant, but that’s it. There’s zero chemistry with the love interest that’s shoe-horned in — we’re never given any reason why Mera would find him interesting or attractive, other than that maybe she’s shallow and only interested in his hunky body.
- What is his superpower?. He seems to be a wet superman. Early on, he’s shot by what looks like a hand-held cannon with exploding shells — they knock him down, but all he says is “ow” as he gets back up. Yet later he’s pierced by a trident through the upper chest and shoulder (it’s only a flesh wound of course, he’s all better a few minutes later). His vulnerability fluctuates as the plot requires.
- Everyone is superpowerful. It gets to be a bit much. There’s a scene in the trailer where Mera and Aquaman casually jump out of an airplane flying over the Sahara Desert — they fall thousands of feet, hit the sand with a bit of a whoomf, and then walk on to their destination. Later, there are a couple of literal cliffhangers, with Mera rescued from falling into a chasm by Aquaman, and I’m just thinking — let her fall. She’ll bounce. There are no stakes here.
- The plot is a pathetic scavenger hunt. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: there’s a grand macguffin that will allow him to defeat the bad guy, and the hero has to follow a trail of clues around the world to find it. It’s the laziest plot device ever.
- The writers are too lazy to maintain even that thin thread of a plot. Step 1: Go to ancient cave in Sahara Desert, use widget to find map to Sicily and another widget. Step 2: Go to Sicily, use Widget #2 to spy two islands in the Mediterranean, then, aww, fuckit, this is boring. Skip islands. Steal fishing boat, putt-putt straight to the end boss to fight over macguffin.
- The world is tiny and weightless. How do they get from the middle of the Sahara Desert to Sicily? They just do. Walk, maybe? They take that stolen fishing boat to the Trench Kingdom, which is presumably somewhere deep in the Western Pacific. So…Sicily, through the Straits of Gibraltar, south to the southern hemisphere, round the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, north along the coast of South Asia…takes maybe most of the afternoon, and next thing you know their boat is being overrun by toothy Lovecraftian horrors. There’s no sense of place. It’s just The Ocean, you know, that single address.
- The villain is boring. It’s a white man who thinks he deserves to be King of the Ocean, so he can kill all the land-dwellers, for some reason. He has all the super-powers Atlanteans do, but his special talent is being able to open his mouth really wide and yell into the ocean. By the way, everyone is white in this movie, except the black human bad guy pirate, whose superpower is being very angry and wanting to kill Aquaman. OK, diversity is served by the merpeople, and the crab people, and the Lovecraftian horrors. If you identify as a slimy giant-eyed fanged monster, this is the movie that will finally give you some representation.
- Once again, medievalism. Atlantis is an advanced, super-technological society, ruled by kings, where only those with royal blood can grasp the macguffin, and kingship is established by trial by combat to the death. Fuck you, Wakanda. Black Panther had some virtues that allowed me to overlook the comically silly political system, but Aquaman doesn’t. Also, in Atlantis, miscegenation carries a death sentence. No wonder it’s so white!
- The bad guy is on a pointless quest. He’s trying to unite the multiple undersea kingdoms so he can get the title “Ocean’s Master” and then destroy the puny terrestrial humans. But early on, before he unites them all, he does a magic something that inundates coastlines with a huge tidal wave that throws all military ships up on the beach, and also flings all of the human’s garbage back up onto the land. Besides making Boyan Slat look even more ridiculous than he already is, that demonstrates immense power that we land lubbers can’t match. I surrender already. I, for one, welcome our new aquatic overlords.
- There are really only two women in the movie. There’s Aquaman’s mother, who is snatched away early in the story and fed to the Trench Horrors for breeding with a hoo-man. There’s Mera, another super-Atlantean princess, whose main role is to have flaming red hair and be Aquaman’s sidekick. She fights people, provides occasional bits of exposition, and is used by her father as a tool for dynastic marriage, but otherwise makes no contribution to the story at all. Strangely, neither Mera nor Aquaman’s mother have the kind of royal genes that would allow them to grab the magic macguffin — I guess it also senses Y chromosomes, or penises, or something. Maybe if it were an engulfing macguffin rather than a pointy stabby macguffin they could have been more useful.
- The physics is unbelievable. Water isn’t treated as a medium that might affect movement in anyway — poorly streamlined things just barrel through it with no effect. Also, they use whales as transport animals in Atlantis, and to fight deep in the ocean. Wouldn’t they be frequently rising to the surface to, you know, breathe?
On the plus side, if there is one, it’s a pretty movie, in a garishly over-cluttered CGI way. And, uh, that’s all I can think of.
No, really, I’m racking my brain, and there’s nothing to commend this incoherent mess with a star whose charisma rests entirely in his pecs.