Aquaman

aqua1Less is  more. Its a lesson that patently escapes most modern filmmakers (and producers/studios) on the evidence of most blockbusters these days. Aquaman is a film that squeezes two or three films into its 2.5-hour running time; when I was watching it I felt oddly divorced from what was going on, almost absently watching it, and it only occured to me afterwards that it was likely because I simply couldn’t keep up with it. Aquaman is really The Aquaman Trilogy in one huge package, and in doing that it repeats the same mistake that blighted Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and others.

Maybe its my age, and maybe it’s the only way to maintain the ATD-impacted younger generation’s attention and stop them getting bored, but there’s so many relentless plot points and acton scenes it leaves the film all blockbuster without any substance. Case in point: when Aquaman is smuggled into Atlantis and counsellor Vulko (Willem Dafoe?wtf?) issues him with plot exposition triggering another quest the momentary stillness is immediately broken by another attack and another fight sequence incase that three-minute exposition has set the young’uns to sleep.  Indeed, what is the point of Black Mantra in the film? It seems that in any well-conceived project he’d be the nominal ‘bad guy’ for a whole film but here he’s almost an afterthought, appearing and then disappearing until he pops up again for an action sequence and then gone again, resurfacing (sic) for a mid-credits sequence at the end.  I suspect his character could be entirely cut and the film would be largely unaffected.

There’s a good movie in here somewhere, I think, but it’s probably about an hour long, and the other hour could be likely edited into a satisfying Aquaman Pt 2. Chucking it all together just makes it feel insanely aimless and scattershot. Its hardly unusual in this, it just mirrors how so many films are now. Films seem to lack the confidence to take their time, add some weight and space. We used to blame it on the MTV generation, but is that even a thing now? And who watches TV commercials anymore- surely we can’t blame the tight editing of commercials these days now that we skip through them.

It certainly highlights the comparative success (as a movie, if not box office) of Shazam! which I watched a week or so ago and really, really enjoyed. The entire plot of Shazam! would likely have been reduced to 40 minutes in Aquaman. Its a shame, because Aquaman‘s cast is pretty good on the whole, and the production design quite impressive, albeit perhaps mind-bogglingly OTT, but its all for naught, its all overcooked and.. well, you know, if it was a meal you’d be stuffed and chucking it all back up an hour or two later. Pardon the image, but that’s how this film felt. Such a shame. Less is more.

5 thoughts on “Aquaman

  1. Tom

    Yeah I had a feeling Aquaman might leave you high and dry (heh). It’s definitely got more in common with Justice League, its overly bloated, stupid and occasionally cringe-inducing (I didn’t need the save-the-oceans environmental messaging there) and yet I like it because I can completely not take it seriously and call it out on its issues. The dialogue is often really bad. Amber Heard remains the low bar of acting in Hollywood (harsh, maybe but jeez). Willem Dafoe was indeed awkwardly miscast. Like, there’s nothing here you say that I can disagree with. Haha it’s straight-up an absurd, comic-book-y movie. Less is more for sure but I had fun with its knowing goofiness, but with all that in mind probably will never come to own it.

  2. The one thing I really liked about Aquaman is it seems like it’s going for broke — it’s big, brash, colourful, ridiculous, and that’s just how it is. It’s not trying to apologise for it, ground it, explain it, or anything — it’s daft and over the top and so what? A lot of comic book stuff is fundamentally silly, and Marvel have found their own way of dealing with it (for all the minority criticism the MCU gets for having too much humour, the superfans do seem to take it ever so seriously), and Aquaman is another approach. Yeah, it’s definitely got way too much in it, and sometimes its silliness goes a bit too far, but I had a good time watching it overall.

    1. My only worry about comic book stuff daring to be silly fun is that it excuses a lot of terrible storytelling and risks veering into 1960s tv Batman territory. I guess my ideal is that middle line -which I think Shazam! managed well- that’s not too daft, nor too ponderously serious. Some of the casting in Aquaman was bizarre too- Willem Dafoe riding a Seahorse is an image I shall try to block from my memory as long as I live.

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