13 QUICK THOUGHTS: AQUAMAN is a Hot Mess — Though Fun to Watch

AQUAMAN WEEK: Only very mild spoilers ahoy!

It’s AQUAMAN WEEK! All week long, we’re celebrating the legacy of the Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean. Click here for the complete index of features. You’ll be glad you did!

The critics have had their say. Now, let’s take a look from a comics fan/historian’s perspective.

Here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on AQUAMAN:

1. It’s a hot mess. An entertaining hot mess but a hot mess, nonetheless. There are so many storylines, subplots and flashbacks that about two-thirds of the way through, you say to yourself, “This is silly as all hell, but at least I’m having a good time.”

2. Jason Momoa is a bit confounding. He was far more memorable as the beastly, guttural barbarian Khal Drogo than he is as Aquaman. (Hearing him quote Jules Verne almost made me snort Diet Coke out of my nose.) And he’s more magnetic as a real-life personality than he is on screen. But he’s exactly the kind of actor the film needed to sell the idea that Aquaman wasn’t a goofy, throwaway hero.

3. It’s a pretty movie to look at, mixing the dazzling CGI colors of Atlantis and other undersea realms with beautiful, actual locations like sunny Sicily. The fact that everyone on screen is somewhere on the scale between stunning and gorgeous only helps.

4. Of the supporting players, Patrick Wilson stands out the most as Arthur’s hateful half-brother Orm. If he had a mustache, he’d twirl it, but he makes for an effective threat to our beefy hero. Great outfit too.

5. The others in the supporting cast turn in fairly routine performances: Amber Heard looks great as Mera but she and Momoa don’t have much chemistry. Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison are all fine but any credible stars could have played Vulko, Atlanna and Tom Curry.

6. Hey, between Aquaman and Creed II, 2018 is pretty much the Year of Dolph, isn’t it?

7. Now, by this point, you may be thinking, “Jeez, Dan, are you sure you liked the movie?” And the answer is yes. It’s over-the-top and fun and is basically a Ray Harryhausen movie with a gigantic effects budget — a boisterous, sea-faring epic of heroes, villains, monsters and quests within quests. It’s the kind of movie that 8-year-old Dan would have lost his mind over. And that’s always a good thing.

8. There’s plenty for comics fans, especially if you’ve been reading Aquaman since 2011, when the Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean was rebooted by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, et al. The scope is big, with a heavy focus on Atlantis’ ancient mythology and its grievances against the surface world. Further, the sunken nation-state very much looks and feels like the city chronicled by Dan Abnett and Stjepan Sejic in their 2017 arc, though I don’t think one necessarily has anything to do with the other, given the filming schedule.

9. Side note: Aquaman is the only non-Batbook I’ve read without interruption since the New 52 launched more than seven years ago. That’s a personal record, I’m fairly certain.

10. Wow, I’ve gone this long without mentioning Black Manta, my favorite Aquaman villain. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II glowers throughout the movie, a picture of impotent rage. His performance and back story, which mirrors his New 52 origin, are oddly lifeless so you don’t find yourself invested in his vendetta against Aquaman or the hero’s guilt over why Manta has it out for him. That said, his suit looks great and his eye blasts are far more dangerous than anything I can recall seeing on the page or in animation. So let’s call it a half-full glass of water.

11. It’s definitely a movie to see on the big screen. There’s a lot to look at and the wondrous undersea environments — particularly how they’re lit — deserve a big canvas. I also dig all the Atlantean tech, especially the various vehicles, like Mera’s cruiser.

12. The CGI is still wonky in some places, though, which still amazes me in this day and age: Characters and creatures don’t always move naturally and I’m struck again by how much better the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks compared to the DC Extended Universe.

13. On the whole, the movie is a course correction for the DCEU. Gone is the dour, grimy worldview advanced by Zack Snyder, replaced by a more traditional, upbeat hero’s journey. The film often aims for laughs — though not all of them land and there are a few too many unintentionally campy moments. The performances are a mixed bag but the movie looks cool. So, yeah, I definitely recommend it — but I won’t be surprised if it disappoints you just the same.

— The Complete AQUAMAN WEEK Index of Stories. Click here.

— APARO, SKEATES Left Out of AQUAMAN Movie Credits. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On

4 Comments

  1. Very fair assessment, I agree on all counts, but it’s funny how one person has fun with it and one person (me) doesn’t.

    Post a Reply
  2. I immersed myself in the mythology (been reading Aquaman since the Silver Age) and had a great time! I liked the political aspects of it and the spectacle. And I’m all for some literary allusions and quotes in films so the Jules Verne reference was fine for me (and very apt).

    Post a Reply
    • Oh, I had no problem with the Jules Verne reference per se. In fact, it was apt — especially when the movie takes you to the center of the Earth. It was just humorous hearing it from Momoa, who is playing kind of a meathead Aquaman.

      Post a Reply
  3. I can only echo locate your words as a slap happy dolphin after seeing the film….You summed it up nicey here…”…7. Now, by this point, you may be thinking, “Jeez, Dan, are you sure you liked the movie?” And the answer is yes. It’s over-the-top and fun and is basically a Ray Harryhausen movie with a gigantic effects budget — a boisterous, sea-faring epic of heroes, villains, monsters and quests within quests. It’s the kind of movie that 8-year-old Dan would have lost his mind over. And that’s always a good thing.
    I ran into a well known creator who shall go unnamed who had an entirely different opinion of the movie(remember it’s a movie). I was suprised by the wicked reaction but what the hell…I will see it again…

    Post a Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Get Ready For… AQUAMAN WEEK | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: AQUAMAN is a Hot Mess — Though Fun to Watch. Click here. […]

Leave a Reply to Ellsworth R Hall Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: