Emma Fenton-Wells | 3/01/2018
Aquaman? Or amphibious man who saves land and sea wearing jeans?
While Australia is kaftan-wearing Mum drunk on Jason Momoa, I hate to break it to the rest of the country: the publicity for this film is 100% better than the film itself.
Before the slagging off of our new fishy friend begins, let’s first congratulate Aquaman on what it does outstandingly. The special effects are something to behold. They’re rich in colour and movement, giving the audience a world to clutch onto (even when the plot fails to do so). The whole film also could serve as a tourism Queensland advert. Give me Queensland any day.
But then there’s the film itself... When you walk into the first superhero movie in a franchise - whether it is Marvel or DC - you usually expect an origin story to be laid out. Why is our protagonist donning a suit and saving Gotham by night? Why did Wonder Woman leave Themyscira? We expect to learn our hero’s why. In Aquaman, the audience only receive a how.
In less than 15 minutes (of a two and a half hour film!!!) we must learn and accept that Aquaman’s unlikely birth following a love affair between an ageless sea creature Nicole Kidman and a lighthouse keeper is his entire cause. He’s half fish-person and half real-person, therefore, the only one physically capable of uniting land and sea. That’s it, friends. Our entire origin story. Aquaman saves the world because he can swim in the sea and walk on land. Boom. I just saved you more than two hours of precious life that you can now spend dedicating to the cult of Hugh Jackman.
Despite an order to fulfill his destiny, Aquaman - also known as ARTHUR - spends a whole lot of time drinking in bars with bikies and taking leisurely trips to stop new age pirates from hijacking vaguely east-European submarines in US oceans. Until Amber Heard appears in a wig, convincing Aquaman that he’s the hero that Atlantis needs. He’s the true king. And his jeans are appropriate swimming attire (I may have extrapolated on that last thing).
Throughout the film that lacks a first act, Aquaman - sorry, ARTHUR - goes through little transformation, other than his costume change into linen pants (even better for swimming in). The only emotional stakes are the somehow universal feeling of parental abandonment that every single character inhibits; to such a point that each development follows the same pattern, of: EMOTIONAL CONFESSION ABOUT PARENTAL ISSUES → GRATUITOUS FIGHT SCENE. There’s so many fight scenes with so many adversaries that I lost track.
It’s not that the film was approached with high expectations, but after a pretty great Wonder Woman in 2017 (except for that one scene…), we were hoping for more. Jason Momoa is already a subversion of every other superhero on the market. He’s a less clean-cut Captain America; more Hell’s Angels with a heart of gold. And that’s great. But this was not the film he deserved. Least of all because of how cut back the dialogue was BECAUSE THEY WERE UNDERWATER and the special effects made understanding what minimal words the characters were saying difficult. I (Nicole) kid(man) you not.
Overall, it’s difficult to decide on what to recommend. The visuals are definitely worth seeing on the big screen, if you can stomach a plot that holds about as much water as Arthur’s jeans. Maybe save it for your next long-haul flight.
Another superfluous superhero flick that looks great but lacks anything of substance (like character development). But we still love Jason Momoa.