Movies & Shows

An Aquatic Adventure that does not make a Splash: Aquaman

Hear Ye Hear Ye, Princess Pinkie has returned with another movie post.

Salutations my loyal subjects and sweet Island Guests.  There is this age old question when it comes down to the comics. Marvel or DC. I myself always find myself a bit torn between them, which is great actually as they suit different moods. In marvel I mostly read the lighter stuff like Gwenpool and some Spiderman. In the DC universe I am usually drawn to the big stories and the narratives where everyone ends up dying. Yet when it comes to the movies, I am never in conflict. The DC movies can not hold a candle against the Marvel ones. The water based one.. is not all that different.

Rough Waters

Aquaman was released to the silver screen in 2018 and was directed by James Wan. With a 6.9 score on IMDB and a Metacritic fan score, this is one of the better received DC movies. It sees Jason Momoa return after Justice League to play the titular character. Supported by Amber Heard, William Dafoe, Nicole Kidman and Patrick Wilson. Critics rated the movies with about a 5.5 out of 10 and this time I am very much on board with the critics and less so with the audience, because while this movie does provide a lot of entertainment, there is also a heck of a lot about this movie that grinded my gears. As a Princess my gears should never be grinded! 

I have a chemical dislike for Amber Heard, that even predates the whole Johnny Depp debacle. Ever since I saw her in Drive Angry… I just felt that this would be a person I dislike with all my heart.  This happened only twice in my life before. Once to a classmate.. whom we shall call Archibald and once with a dutch celebrity that I could just not stomach. I knew Archibald was a good guy, he had humor and was witty…but somehow everything in my body told me to dislike him. I knew better and I managed to not be hateful to him.. but I would never be able to go past that.  Amber Heard invokes the same reactions. There is just this thing.. the way she looks out of her eyes, for some weird way the way she “carries” herself.. makes me genuinely dislike her for no reason at all.. it is just my entire body and brain telling me to dislike her. I won’t judge the movie for having Amber Heard in it to hard.. but I thought it would at least be honest of me to tell. 

The biggest issue however is not Amber Heard, it’s James Wan’s direction. This movie at least to me seems to lack a style. The best way to compare this is by saying it felt like as if I was watching Thor Dark World and Thor Ragnerok spliced together.  That doesn’t match. The DC cinematic universe so far has been fairly raw and gritty and this is more like.. an actual comic book movie…at times. It is a style that is a lot more entertaining, but it feels really shoehorned in at some places. Jokes are used at very strange times and feel like the script said “insert joke here”  rather than it being an actually funny joke. As a result of the clashing tones and some hollywood shenanigans I never got sucked into this movie. It felt like I was reading a comic. A comic in a style I would normally rather read marvel for.

Angler Fish

The movie is visually very pleasing. The set locations are fantastic and very imaginative, and to be fair the comics of Aquaman are a lot more whimsical as Jason Momoa’s first portrayal and this movie kind of fixes that. The adventure Aquaman goes on feels like a typical and classic D&D style adventure and has plenty of fun “side quests”  so  once again , as an entertainment product .. this isn’t so bad.  It offers a fun little romp with fun characters and in some cases unique ways of fighting.  There are some stunning visuals and some creative designs that feel more comic book loyal than anything else we have seen from DC (and in most cases Marvel)  so far.  So there is plenty of fun to be had with this movie… but I would like to compare it to you having a cool lego build set.. like a Lego Death Star, or maybe one of those pyramids filled with traps. Now you build it together with a kid… and while the build is fun.. at the end you can REALLY tell a kid helped you.. you used all the blocks but you can tell things are JUST a bit off. 

Take Atlantis for example. This plays a major part in the movie and the visuals we get of it are stunning…but they are all empty. Nothing we see is ever used except for a Turret.   We see technology like Manta Ray elevators or highly advanced tunnels.. but it doesn’t do anything. It just sits there for characters to travel through and after we seen a trip going forward and a trip escaping we never see the visuals again.  After that Atlantis is shown from an interior perspective only.  A shot from outside the castle could have done wonders. Take Asgard for example.. that is used rather well.  The Bifrost is in use, we see shots of Odin’s castle and we get some sense of purpose in the city…still not great but already better than this. Black Panther is the best example. Every visual they use.. had purpose. The iconography, the buildings had purpose, the palace was shown both inside and out it never felt as set dressing.  Aquaman does a lot just to look pretty.

Take for example the ring of fire.  Aquaman meets his evil brother inside a glowing tile/small arena like ring then that room is just used to swim up into the real arena. Which is a big chasm with magma at the bottom. The magma is used for a bit in combat, as one would think would be the case in a Ring of Fire.. but once Orm (the bad guy) stops centimeters away from it and swims up again.. it is not used again.. we then get a trident duel, which then seems to have been the point always?! First of all.. if hanging a centimeter above magma doesn’t hurt you then why would Magma itself hurt you .. but okay comic book logic, but why would Aquaman abandon the fighting style that resulted him in almost winning two times and revert to fighting something he is disadvantaged in. Now they battle on some statue or ruins or such… a new visual but this ruin style is never used again or is seen back in the design of current Atlantis!

To me the visuals constantly feel like I am being baited into believing this movie is more epic than it really is. At one point Amber Heard’s character Mera and Aquaman go to the realm of the desert Atlanteans.  People who sunk into the sand rather than the water.  Aquaman falls into a hole and gets to go down one of those classic slides into an underground lair. They nearly fall into an impressive chasm but Arthur (Aquaman’s people name)   rescues Mera in the nick of time. Before that they were stuck in the desert with no water and no supplies because Mera randomly jumped out of a plane…which is cool and all.. but if you are stuck in the desert with no water, then fall several dozens of meters or easily a hundred feet underground through a slip and slide… how do they do they get back up.. how do they overcome this impressive visual spectacle?! By a camera cut of course.. Once they concluded their business we just cut away and moved to them arriving at the next.. stunning location.

Release the Kraken

Aquaman’s journey takes a herculean style narrative, where in order to become the king of Atlantis he has to overcome a certain amount of trials. Even when he doesn’t want to be king yet the story feels quit segmented, which is both a good and a bad thing. It really makes this movie super easy to follow and it gives these classic treasure hunter vibes.  In many ways this movie is  structured more like an Indiana Jones movie than a comic book movie and that means it does stand out from it’s peers. Yet it also makes the movie feel really “blocky”with soooo many enemies. It kind of gets a bit of a Power Ranger feeling. 

The first enemy is some random pirates, who are easily defeated.. but Arthur shows he is not worthy to be king yet by condemning a villian to his death.   Then he is defeated by the big villain showing the man exactly how not ready he is. Next block he is out traveling with a girl whom he does not seem very compatible with.. she is quite the Tsundere but slowly begins to warm up to him, next block pits him against the pirate whose dad he let die earlier, having to face the consequences of his actions, before being faced with a bunch of mercenaries, then a bunch of feral people who just want to eat him and he has to show humility by just running away.   Next he has to face a creature that can only be defeated by showing it how much he has grown on this journey before coming face to face with his brother showing he now has the whole package and doing a role reversal with his brother. It  all gels together..but it kinda feels a bit “build a bear” ish. Sure you made a movie..but did you really write a story?

I never saw this movie before and right after the desert scene I began to predict scene after scene after scene. Not just scenes but entire strings of dialogue. Not to the letter but the gist of it.  “So this is where we see that character”  .. the Dark Kraken like creature asks him why he is worthy he will say “I am not”  and that’s why the Kraken thing says he is.  The final battle will end in him sparing a villain because of how the earlier scenes have set this up.  It all is done very well.. but it is also done very unimaginatively. I know there are plenty of people who do not mind but I really hate it when I have seen a movie even I haven’t actually seen it before.  On the one hand the movie is kinda good… but it feels as if someone opened a stock script and added a lot of water to it. 

The Final battle doesn’t make a lot of sense either, it once again is very stunning visually but King Orm wants to fight some Volcano based crustation creatures because if he defeats them he can be called “Ocean Master” as he has command of all the armies of the sea.. and  their leader gives him his army.. but refuses to follow the man himself.. so they end up fighting anyway?! Also one race of more fish like creatures also had their king slain by Orm and now they blindly follow him in battle in the fear of being destroyed themselves otherwise.. but apparently their army is so strong they are needed to defeat the crustaceans..so why would they not betray Orm their and side with the “Scorched” against this tyrant.. if he needs that army to win, he would certainly lose if it turns against him. Also Aquaman just has the Kraken thing living on the other side of the world erupt out of the ground  with him on it and now also commanding those evil fish things because he has a spear that makes him the official ruler of the sea.  He sits on top of the multiple story high creature yet the entire atlantean army fails to notice  he has the spear.   Maybe he is too far away.. but  they mass attack the Kraken thing.. so it just doesn’t feel right to me.

This also applies to the final showdown between Aquaman and Orm, Orm is a strategist, everything he did , he did from a strategic angle, why would he now forsake that and fight against Aquaman at a clear disadvantage… the answer of course is that Aquaman can use a technique that looks very visually spectacular to win the fight. This is throughout EVERYTHING a movie that relies on it’s visual spectacle, where the narrative, the dialogue and even character motivations bend to enable spectacle. The Pirate who becomes black Mantha knows NOTHING of Atlanten technology yet he completely manages to customise plasma rifle into a big ass helmet that has eye beams.  His revenge against Aquaman is very personal yet he decides to use an alter-ego name to do it.  Aquaman in the end learns a technique he never could do.. just because it looks cool and I don’t really like that.. this movie has the right elements.. but it got it’s priorities wrong. 

Was I entertained? Yes!  Did I watch my clock a lot during the 2,5 hours this movie lasted? Enough to know I am not fully sucked in, I did not feel the need to turn it off though.. it’s kinda like staring at a superficially hot girl with no personality. Do I think you should see the movie if you haven’t?! Yes…but not because it’s a good movie but because the fights have this anime quality to it and to be honest it just looks really cool. For something about oceans.. this movie is very shallow! But if you just want to find something cool.. shallow will be enough! Tricky! What did you think of this movie?! Let me know … or not.. but no matter what you do! Stay random!

2 replies »

  1. I will admit this movie was purely pretty – and with Jason Mamoa there for eye candy. He really is some nice eye candy in my opinion. He pretty much (to me) is the only reason to watch the movie at all. In the “action” movie genre of late, when any sort of coherent story is considered not even necessary – it has spectacle, and it has Jason Mamoa. I’m willing to take that over a lot of gratuitous gore and super fast paced action that has no point at all. Which is me saying, it’s among the better of a genre that’s gone downhill (IMHO). At least you get to look at Jason Mamoa… LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • As an action movie , I agree its a good movie, as a comic book movie ( which i’d also call high narrative action) there is better options.

      Given how different this Aquaman is from the comic , the fact that Oren is very comicy clashes for me! I’d like the visuals more if they had function… Like make Atlantis a maze to navigate, , give the sunken ship some meaning, mention Arthurs armor. Its good but there is also a lot of wasted assets so to me it kinda feels like prime beef, that you them deepfry. .. it tastes good.. but its kinda a waste of the expensive meat

      Liked by 1 person

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