If you like fantasy, then this is the most fantastical film you will see this year. A sweeping statement to make in only the second month of the year, but as this was released at the end of last year we’re just going to go with it. Visually, I don’t think I have seen a better film. It’s vibrant, exciting, it will have your eyes darting around the screen looking at water droplets like they’re a new type of rare diamond you’ve never seen before. I give this a well deserved 10 out of 10 for it’s visual effects. It’s absolutely brilliant.
The film begins with a quick run through of how Arthur’s (Aquaman) parents met. Washed up mermaid looking being on the shore, man in a lighthouse, a rescue scene plus a whole lot of falling in love. Having fled an arranged marriage in Atlantis, Atlanna is rescued by Arthur’s dad and ends up staying with him in the lighthouse for a number of years. Until one day, her people come back for her and demand her to come home. She defeats them all but realises that she has to return. Promising that one day, she will return to the end of the pier at sunrise, she dives back into the ocean never to be seen again.
It’s a dramatic start to the film and not one that I entirely believed. But that’s the point of fantasy, it’s unbelievable. Plus, considering they give birth to something as beautiful as Jason Momoa you can’t really complain, can you? I really didn’t think it was possible for me to find him attractive. He couldn’t be less my type if he tried. Yet somehow, I have been converted and I join the rest of the female population in fantasising over his beautifully tanned skin, huge muscles and long hair. Life is surprising kids, never say never.
Arthur’s relationship with his dad is really sweet and I think it’s something I would have liked to see more of. Apart from them glugging pints together at the local and taking pictures with fans who have heard about the aquaman on the news, there isn’t much we get to see of him. His dad remains detached from the world of Atlantis and logically this makes sense, because he is human. There’s no way he would be able to survive underwater and the majority of the film and it’s action inevitably takes place here. It’s just a shame because being human has never really stopped anyone from getting involved in all this superhero madness before. I’d like to see more of him in any upcoming films. We can’t forget that he is half the reason Aquaman exists in the first place.
In terms of plot, there was just too much going on. First we have this origin story. Then we have some captured sailors that need rescuing, so Aquaman dives in (pun intended) and rescues them. During which, he manages to piss off Black Manta (the main captor of the sailors) by injuring his father and leaving him in the submarine to die. This results in a grudge and Black Manta becomes this senseless being that exists only to find Aquaman and avenge his father’s death. Boring, can you just get over it please? Honestly. You signed up for this hun. Then we find out that Black Manta is working with Orm, Arthur’s half brother from Atlantis. But it just doesn’t make sense because where did these two even meet each other? I hate when you just have to shrug about plot lines and move on. I need answers. How did this human meet all of these Atlanteans and impress them enough to start working for them?
The whole Black Manta story is kind of just a sub-plot though, because the real issue is that Orm is causing a war in dividing the Atleanteas from the surface world. There’s nothing original about this. It’s how all superhero movies go and then some good superhero comes in wanting to save humanity. What gives this plot a unique edge is the mention of how humanity pollutes the seas. This is very current. There is so much talk these days about how we are ruining our world’s oceans and this is something that a lot of people are invested in or are beginning to engage with. This makes the plot interesting. It connects the audience with the fantasy world. The only problem is that it remains a mention. It’s not developed any more than that, which is such a shame.
More sub-plots to add to the mix of stories whirling together. Mera is engaged to Orm but is busy falling in love with Aquaman. Is Atlanna dead? Orm refuses to stop his quest for a war unless Aquaman defeats him in a battle in the ring of fire, so we have the whole feuding brothers plot as usual. Back on surface level, humans are beginning to whisper more and more about the possibility of Atlantis existing. I think, given the proper writing and opportunity to develop, these are all very interesting plot lines. They just didn’t all need to be included in one film. Sometimes it’s fine to focus in on one plot and let that develop. The rest can come later.
Black Manta – is he human? He manages to get up from several very violent attacks, which is both annoying and confusing. If something smacks you in the head, you should be concussed and knocked clean out. But no, Black Manta just keeps on going relentlessly. This has got to be down to more than just human adrenaline. There’s also a scene in Italy where a random civilian is stuck underneath some kind of broken building. Aquaman lifts it up and the man stands up and walks away with his kids like nothing ever happened. That’s so unrealistic. I hate to be picky but it was very noticeable. His limbs were crushed, he shouldn’t have been walking.
Nevertheless, the fight scenes are really good. Accompanied by a good score, they really do get you going. You feel invested, excited, you want to see more. And then you do see more. And more. And more again. Oh no. You’ve now forgotten why people are fighting and so you’re no longer emotionally invested in anybody’s life and you therefore don’t care who wins or loses. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that this is what we watch superhero films for. We want to see exaggerated fight scenes and we want lots of them. But I also want there to be something at stake when I’m watching them. Although I am completely aware that not everyone will feel this way.
The plot takes Aquaman and his love interest Mera on this whole roundabout goose chase all over the world for the trident that possesses all the power to command the seas. They’re in America, then Atlantis, then in the Saharan dessert, then Italy, then somewhere in the Indian Ocean and then back to Atlantis again. There’s just so much going on and I think the plot was unnecessarily dragged out. Condensed, it would have made for a much more enjoyable watch. I was bored by the point when Aquaman had to go and face the monster in The Hidden Sea to get the trident. Yet, this was probably the most important quest in the film. I should have been on the edge of my seat in anticipation. Instead I was thinking, another fight scene really?
And then there was another fight scene! The big fight scene wasn’t even that impressive. I just realised that there were a lot of things getting blown up underwater. It’s somewhat difficult to have a fight scene underwater because your movement is restricted to drifting; and on the whole, watching people drift about is really not that exciting. The best fight scenes were the ones above water, which is why I’m not totally convinced by this whole Atlantis setting. As I say it looked beautiful. Aesthetically, it was very captivating. But when you compare it to somewhere like Wakanda in Black Panther, you sort of wonder what the point of Atlantis is. I couldn’t see anything interesting going on, it was just pretty. Nice to swim about in. And I hate to have to say it, but the whole bridge you enter Atlantis through? Yeah it’s basically another version of the Azgardian Bi-frost.
On the whole, I really enjoyed the film. When I watch a superhero film, I want to be in awe of what I’m seeing and I definitely was throughout. I just wish that the plot had been a little more refined. There was so much going on that it seemed as if this film could have been split in to two or even three parts. And even still, the storyline wasn’t that interesting. I’m hoping that in the consequent films, I get to feel more of a connection to the characters and their quests. DC have some of the most interesting characters out there, definitely more interesting than Marvel in my opinion; and so, I would like to see them making their plots more complex. Putting more at stake than just the usual superhero problems, developing their characters and thinking outside the box.