Less 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.