Reel Opinions


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Aquaman

It was kind of down to the wire, but here it is, folks.  Aquaman is the single goofiest movie of 2018.  And no, I am not forgetting the 112 minutes of Venom we got back in October.  Director James Wan (The Conjuring films) has given us many ludicrous sights to behold, such as Willem Dafoe riding a seahorse, an army of sharks that roar, a giant octopus who plays the bongos, and Dolph Lundgren trying to keep a straight face with a bright red beard and flowing locks.  With just a tiny nudge, the movie could have veered into the realm of parody, or perhaps become a live action SpongeBob Squarepants movie.

That may also explain why the movie suffers from such an identity crisis.  It's impossible to take seriously, and a lot of the time, the movie seems to be in on the joke.  But at others, it asks us to get involved in the plight of the underwater Atlantians, and whether they should go to war with the surface dwellers up on land.  The only one who can save both the dry land and the underwater realm is Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa as kind of a male fashion model with the vocabulary and mindset of a 12-year-old.  The hero (whose real name is Arthur) was born when a lighthouse keeper fell in love with the exiled Queen of the sea kingdom, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman, putting on a game face, considering some of the dialogue she's forced to deliver here).  He has grown up to possess remarkable strength, superior swimming ability, and the ability to communicate with underwater life.  Useful when you want to tell a squid what to do, but I don't see it coming in handy much.

The first time we see Arthur, he saves a sub full of Russian sailors from some evil pirates.  He climbs on board, throws his hair back in slow motion, then immediately starts tossing bad guys all over the room and slamming them into walls.  The fighting here looks sped up and aided with a lot of CG, which kind of kills the excitement of the fight, because we're not actually watching Momoa or his stunt double.  This is apparently how Arthur makes his living.  He waits for some kind of water-related crime to happen, and then he springs into action like a badass.  The rest of the time he spends with his father at the local bar, downing beers.  It's a living, I guess.  After one of his drinking binges with dear ol' dad, the Atlantian Princess Mera (Amber Heard, wearing a bright flame red wig that makes her look kind of like Ronald McDonald's dream girl) comes up to land to tell Arthur that things are bad down below, and he must come to the undersea kingdom to claim his rightful throne as the king.

The plot (or at least the closest thing this movie gets to a plot) centers on Arthur's brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) trying to strong-arm the other undersea kingdoms into joining him in a battle against the humans who live up on land.  His vast army includes high tech sea vessels that look like something out of a 1950s Sci-Fi novel cover, which are a lot of fun to look at, and soldiers who ride on the back of seahorses, which is an intriguing image that the movie sadly does not exploit or explore as much as it should.  The only way to stop Orm's war plans is to find an ancient trident that once belonged to an old king of Atlantis, and is now hidden away somewhere.  Arthur and Mera venture forth, encountering a lot of dangers, like the evil pirate Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who gets his hands on Atlantian technology, and builds a battle suit for himself to combat Aquaman.  The movie sets Manta up to be a major villain, then pretty much forgets about him after one major battle.  We'll see more of him in the sequel.

So yes, Aquaman is extremely goofy, and I wanted to embrace it, but I couldn't.  I just didn't find it all that fun, despite the silliness.  A lot of the problems stem from Aquaman/Arthur himself.  Sure, he's fast with a quip, as is required of all superheroes these days, but he doesn't have any personality to back it up.  We don't know what he thinks, what he feels, and he often comes across as a blank slate who just so happens to have good hair, a great body, and likes to punch stuff.  He also doesn't seem to have much on his mind, and usually refers to everything in a pre-adolescent way, describing things as "badass" or "awesome".  Of all the superheroes you could be stuck on a long bus ride with, you would not want to be seated next to Aquaman.  I imagine the smell he would give off would probably be enough to repel, but that's a completely different matter.  Momoa is obviously trying to give this guy a fun personality, but he can only do so much with this material.

The same could be said for everybody else.  They're all making a valiant effort here, but the exposition-heavy script lets them down.  You have old pros like Kidman and Dafoe trying to act like this nonsense is serious business, and then you have Amber Heard trying to act like she serves a purpose, when she doesn't even get to create any real chemistry with Momoa, despite the movie hinting that a romance is blooming between the two during their adventure.  There's just not much to get excited about here, even with the non-stop special effects and the frantic action scenes that often go on too long.  For all of its underwater visuals and occasionally wonderfully weird ideas, I was just never wowed by anything that happened.  This movie doesn't have the confidence to truly take flight as a spectacle, or as a self-aware comedy.  It felt to me like the movie was holding itself back.

This is not a terrible superhero film, but it falls far short of the best recent effort coming out of Marvel Studios, or the just-released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  Those movies know how to make us care about what's going on, and the people inhabiting the story.  With Aquaman, the strongest reaction I ever got was wanting to see more of the giant octopus that plays the bongos.  I've heard of stranger ideas for a spin-off movie.

0 comments

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012
11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012
12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013
01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013
02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013
03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013
04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013
05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013
06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013
07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013
10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013
11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013
12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014
01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014
02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014
03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014
04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014
05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014
06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014
07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014
08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014
09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014
10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014
11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014
12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015
01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015
02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015
03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015
04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015
05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015
06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015
07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015
08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015
09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015
10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015
11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015
12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016
01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016
02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016
03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016
04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016
05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016
06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016
07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016
08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016
09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016
10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016
11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016
12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017
01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017
02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017
03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017
04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017
05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017
06/01/2017 - 07/01/2017
07/01/2017 - 08/01/2017
08/01/2017 - 09/01/2017
09/01/2017 - 10/01/2017
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017
12/01/2017 - 01/01/2018
01/01/2018 - 02/01/2018
02/01/2018 - 03/01/2018
03/01/2018 - 04/01/2018
04/01/2018 - 05/01/2018
05/01/2018 - 06/01/2018
06/01/2018 - 07/01/2018
07/01/2018 - 08/01/2018
08/01/2018 - 09/01/2018
09/01/2018 - 10/01/2018
10/01/2018 - 11/01/2018
11/01/2018 - 12/01/2018
12/01/2018 - 01/01/2019
01/01/2019 - 02/01/2019

Powered by Blogger