Aquaman

San Marcos High student Ilisa Patel's drawing of Arthur Curry aka Aquaman

I’m so burned out on superhero films. That doesn’t mean some don’t come along and surprise me. I liked Black Panther, and what I liked more than Black Panther, was the last Spider-Man (Homecoming).

Watching the trailers for Aquaman already had me rolling my eyes. It just looked too goofy and overstuffed, seeing every creature that lives in the sea following a boy around an aquarium. Although, that scene did surprise me in a rather interesting opening segment. Yet after two and a half hours of all this, my wife and I were rather bored.

I also wanted to like this more because of the co-creator of the Aquaman character — Paul Norris. He was a long-time Oceanside resident, and when he passed away in 2007, I went to a party celebrating him and met his two interesting sons (here’s a link to that story if you’re interested: https://m.sandiegoreader.com/news/2008/feb/27/aquaman-honored/?page=1& )

This film is directed by James Wan (who made his directorial debut with Saw, and did the horror films The Conjuring, Insidious, Annabelle, and even Fast and Furious 7). It was a rather odd choice for DC, but hey…they don’t do the best job with these superhero films. Wonder Woman might be the only good one they’ve made in recent decades.

A lot of the movie was over-the-top. A few times, I wasn’t even sure what was going on. They’d just end up in the desert in a Raiders of the Lost Ark type of adventure. And sure, that scene was a bit of fun. Many of the scenes were. And they’re helped a lot by great actors like Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson (despite his goofy, bleached blonde hairdo).

Jason Momoa is a terrific meathead bro who would rather drink pints in the bar with Pops, than fight crime or save an underwater city. Yet his laissez-faire attitude would’ve worked better if we didn’t have the funnier and more interesting Deadpool character come along in the last few years. And am I the only one that thought it was goofy when they’d play this hard-rock guitar riff everytime Aquaman was about to kick someone’s ass? Whose decision was that?

Speaking of kicking ass, Ivan Drago (the Russian in Rocky IV) made a return for Creed II. That made sense, but…seeing his weird red hair underwater…made me wonder about that casting.

Amber Heard and her red hair, were perfect, though. She was beautiful, and her and Momoa had great chemistry.

Now I should say, I’m tougher on these superhero films. I’m one of the only critics that wasn’t all that impressed with Thor: Ragnarok, and I love that director Taika Waititi (who did the incredibly funny films Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows). So when this movie made me think of Thor, and a few other films, it all felt so formulaic.

The movie didn’t have much of an emotional impact, either. Sure, I was moved when Aquaman’s dad loses his wife (Nicole Kidman, in yet another movie this year). But other themes don’t get you emotionally the way they were intended.

Now, I often complain when we get long backstories with these characters, but with Aquaman, I didn’t learn anything about how he learned about his powers. We see him as a boy at an aquarium, realizing fish and sharks seem to really be into him. And, we see him getting a swimming lesson from Dafoe that has him going through the water like Michael Phelps on speed.

So it makes you think back to the opening of the movie when he rescues a submarine from pirates and…you wonder how and when he did he decide to use his powers? Does he use them to win bar bets on drinking people under the table at Terry’s Tavern?

A number of things in the movie also felt goofy. For example, the Black Manta was a great villain, until he makes his own suit. It looked so goofy, like a praying mantis out of a Power Rangers picture.

Some of the dialogue made me cringe. For example, one character wanting to be called “Ocean Master.” Or…the people of Atlantis calling those above ground “Land dwellers.” Although, it was kind of cool when they called Aquaman a “half-breed bastard.” Ouch.

The cinematography by Don Burgess (Spider-Man) was great at capturing the fast paced stuff.

The score worked in some scenes, in others it was loud and overbearing.

Also, we didn’t need another remake of Toto’s Africa. Although the film does get bonus points for using Roy Orbison’s terrific Mystery Girl when the couple shows up in Sicily to flirt, and find something they need in their quest to take over the throne.

The best thing about the movie is how much teenagers love these superhero flicks. For example, after Stan Lee died, I was talking to San Marcos High School student Ilisa Patel. She’s an amazing artist, and she was showing me a lot of the superhero drawings she has done (I especially loved her Wonder Woman pieces). I told her if she draws me an Aquaman picture, I’d use it in my story. An hour later, she sent me her drawing. And if movies like this can excite kids and get them to enjoy going to the movie theatre and create art, I’m all for them. As a 49-year-old, I was just a tad disappointed with it.

2 stars out of 5.

 

 

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