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Aquaman

Posted by The Hip Historian Iaredios , Dec 24 2018 · 113 views

DC Movies
[This review is spoiler free]

An unpopular opinion (I have many of those), but I liked Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice, and the longer cut of the film makes it one of my favorite films. With it's release, many more DC Comic movies were set for release. One of these was a welcome surprise, Aquaman, and i have been waiting to see this movie for a couple of years now.

Despite his ridicule across the past half-century, I always thought Aquaman was cool, and after reading Geoff John's take on the character that he did early in the New 52 era of DC Comics, Aquaman became one of my favorite superheroes. I have a fridge magnet and two shirts, and have been wanting figures of some characters.
People may ask why, nay, they always do, and I explain Aquaman's base plot-points as laid out by Geoff Johns: Arthur Curry is not only the heir to the Throne of Atlantis, he is also an unwelcome hybrid is an outcast between two worlds, and he runs from the world as a result. A time comes however when he must conquer his self-doubts and take up responsibility, and stops his half-brother from totally destroying the surface world and take up the Throne of Atlantis to create world peace. After that he has to watch over a people that doubt his place in power and conspire his downfall and represent his people in face of a surface world that holds him responsible for the actions of his people and predecessor. Also, the ocean is quite deep and vast, so supernatural forces often come to the forefront.

The 2018 movie is largely inspired by the the Geoff John's run on Aquaman, but also takes inspiration from many points from throughout the character's long history as a comic book character. And i say inspired because it does not follow the comics point-per-point, and I largely applaud the vision seen in this movie as it takes many liberties, and some of those decisions I found myself preferring over the source material. Others, i think the source material did better.

Story-wise, the movie is a little all over the place, something that would have been helped out in a clear Lord of the Rings-style intro exposition rather than telling such lore details in passing. A moment was given to explain everything but it was rather rushed. And the plot is very reliant on this world's history of the Empire of Atlantis and the varying kingdoms it split into (most of the existing remnants are mutants), so making it more clear would have been helpful. Also brief showing of character names a la Burn Notice would have been good.

Another point to gripe about is West Sahara. The transition for the first royal duel and the events there and the arrival to West Sahara have quite the jarring difference in tone. You got to ease into the tone difference so ti is not natural, you don't go from being edge-of-the-seat action, to making jokes that felt more befitting of a romantic comedy. Redoing West Sahara prior to the ruins would have been preferred. Likewise, the action scenes in Siciliy lasted too long, took away from the overall plot.

But to what i loved, were the elements of high sci-fantasy and the visuals. Sweet Jesus, the scale of the visuals were ambitious, the scope of the lights of Atlantis made you feel small, and the ending large-scale battle felt like an underwater version of Warhammer 40k. Another note are the sound effects, you actually feel as if they were filmed underwater, as both the vision fitted this and it sounded like they spoke underwater. And all the lore? I was able to pick up on it along the way, and i feel like we were only teased at the full scope of the underwater realms and the stuff related to them. Of all the DC Comics movies made with this universe, this movie felt like it carried more franchise potential then the main Superman entries.

So, is this a perfect movie? No, but i loved this movie and I can look past the small mistakes. I implore everyone to go give this movie a shot and see more to Aquaman than just the orange dude that talks to fish. i was purposefully vague here because everything i liked is important to the story and i don't want any spoilers.

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Jean Valjean
Mar 09 2019 10:51 PM

:kaukau: I had something nice and comprehensive typed up, and then (I kid you not) my dog deleted it.  Thanks dog!

 

In addition to what you said about it reminding you of Warhammer 40,000, I was reminded of Lord of the Rings.  For a while, I've speculated that in the unlikely scenario where an Aquaman movie did the character some semblance of justice, the filmmakers would have to be ambitious enough to channel a little bit of Peter Jackson.  I said in my own review that it reminded me of this, as well as TRON: LegacyAvatar, the other AvatarThe AbyssIndiana JonesJourney to the Center of the Earth20,000 Leagues Under the SeaAtlantis: The Lost EmpireGodzilla, WWE wrestling, 90's action movies, 30's pulp serials, Johnny Quest, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man, and so on.  I thought that there was no way that it could capture all of these things, and I'll be darned; it came about as close as you can realistically get.  So I'm impressed.

 

I can't remember when I came around on Aquaman as a character.  Like many people who grew up with Superfriends as their sole source of information on Aquaman, I started off with a "meh" opinion on him.  I wouldn't say that it was paticularly harsh, because hispowers were better than no powers, but he wasn't someone that I identified with or projected any of my wish fulfillment on.  Maybe Michael Phelps changed that.  I was on a swim team back in the day.  I don't know; I believe that my admiration of Aquaman began sometime around 2010, which is decidedly after the Beijing Olympics.  I remember more Michael Phelps enhancing my admiration of Superman.

 

Then again, maybe I did change my opinion around 2008, because that was when Iron Man came out, and that was the time when I was looking at big hits like Spider-Man and Batman Begins and thinking, "They have a movie for just about everyone these days.  Is there anyone else to make a superhero movie about?"  Ignore for a minute just how laughably limited my definition of "just about everyone" was.  What I was thinking to myself was, "If I was a prominent director, I would want to do a superhero that hasn't been done yet.  What about Iron Man?"  I knew nothing about Iron Man at the time other than that I thought he looked like a cool Boba Fett meets Samus Aran type; that's some real awesome sci-fi right there.  He was on the cover of some really old comic that I had back in the 90's, flying through an interdimensional war zone.  I liked the idea of a solder/bounty hunter/mercenary in a high-tech suit, and the suit looked awesome...

 

BUT THE POINT IS...

 

I underwent a change in my thinking process where I thought that no hero was truly lame.  I thought that everybody had potential and I was curious to see what lesser-known characters we could enjoy once we ran out of Spider-Man films.  Robert Downtown Abbey comes along, makes me realize that I'm going to have to aspire to direct a different obscure superhero, and then it turns out that the movie was not only better than Daredevil, but it became the basis for the largest pop culture phenomenon since Star Wars.

 

In light of this new line of thought, I didn't have any negative opinions of Aquaman.  After all, I loved Gali.  Perhaps I did wonder why he was considered a major member of the Justice League who was mentioned in the same breath as Superman and Green Lantern.  Still, I didn't think that he was necessarily lame.

 

About when the New 52 came out, I became an actual fan.  My first real exposure to the character came before I read those comics, in Smallville, which...wasn't the greatest representation.  He was kind of this hokey and only cared about environmental things, and he dried up like an ant under a magnifying glass when out of water for more than two minutes, but the character did engage in some interesting acts of sabotage.  I think that was about when I began getting interested in the character, especially when I thought it through and realized that his powers were actually pretty nifty and would come in handy all of the time.  With that in mind, and knowing that people hated on the character and made fun of him on shows like The Big Bang Theory, I decided to give this character a look and defend him.  The character had withstood the test of time; surely he lasted past the 40's for a reason.

 

Injustice was my first real good glimpse of the character.  I have to admit, he was pretty cool.

 

And then I real the New 52 comics, and really conected with him.  As you've described him, he has this complicated political conflict he has to deal with.  There was something downright Shakespearean about it, especially when you consider that Orm is a rather tragic villain.  In the New 52 (if I remember correctly), Orm actually loved his brother, admired him, and wanted him to take the throne, and then he eventually abdicates the throne when Arthur accepts it.  Only to make the mistake of abdicating while on U.S. soil in the middle of an invasion, and he was surrendered over as a prisoner of war, because that's how diplomacy works.  And then Arthur swears that he's going to help Orm out without breaking any international laws.

 

And then it's discovered that Volko was behind the invasion all along beause he was so loyal to Arthur that he would start a war just to force Arthur's hand.  Arthur had Volko arrested immediately, and the guy is happy about it because he would not want to be arrested by anyone else other than the true king.  He's subsequently visited for advice while in prison, a la Hannibal Lechter.

 

These are some pretty cool character.

 

After reading a bit, here are a few things that I discovered.

 

The most unique thing he has to contribute to the Justice League in his power set, talking to fish, is overly specialized?  He can use that power to command Krakens and armies of the deep.  Maybe even give people seizures while he's at it.

 

Batman has a the Batmobile that everyone wants?  Aquaman rides said Kraken.

 

Batman is also cool in the dark?  Aquaman naturally sees in the dark.

 

Aquaman's only cool near the oceans?  That happens to be where DC comic's Cthulhu expy resides, and he has to lock it away every year when it awakens.  Aquaman fights Cthulhu.   Beyond just that, there are so many other opportunities to tell real good adventure stories.  Even if you're still asking, "Yeah, but how am I supposed to care about him as a surface dweller?  I'm not invested in any of his conflicts."  The majority of the world's military might is invested in potential naval warfare.  Had Aquaman been around during World War II, he would have quickly turned the tide.

 

Lame villains?  What, and you thought that the Green Goblin wasn't lame?  Not even a little?

 

A silly character who isn't as cool as Batman?  Aquaman has the legal authority to kill and doesn't hesitate as much to do it.  He also had his hand cut off and replaced with a harpoon.  And he had to bury his son, who did not return in typical comic book fashion.

 

And to top it all of, yeah, there's that element of Shakespearian tragedy.  There is so much stinking potential, because you can go with that Shakespeare thing, but you can also channel Lord of the Rings, or focus on the adventure and channel Indiana Jones or Johnny Quest, and so much more.  I realized that this was a pretty awesome character with a lot of potential.

 

But what really grabbed my attention is just how much I related to him.  His parents come from two different worlds, which are so tightly interwoven and yet seem and completely incompatible.  He sruggles to be loyal to both, to please both sides of his family, and to balance his identity.  I have a Catholic mother and a Reformed father; I know how that feels.  Because of this, I saw so much of myself in him, and he resonated with me.  I really resonated with Superman for a while, and he's still the hero that I attach myself the most to, but if anyone comes in a close second, it's Arthur Curry.

 

Perhaps I didn't quite relate to Jason Momoa's depiction, since I personally see myself more in the New 52 version of the character, who resembles me a little more specifically, but I have to appreciate what they did with him.  They say these days that we should use films to help us to relate to people that we don't normally understand.  Typically, in the world of Oscars, that means understanding people who belong to a different race or sex.  What I found interesting about this movie was that, given my investment in Arthur Curry as a character from the comics, I was forced to see myself in Jason Momoa's rendition.  I'm not the type of person who normally sees himself as having much in common with a person looking like a biker.  Society kind of prejutices us to think of them as something "other," still people but not necessarily "the everyman."  You don't look at them and think, "that could be me."  They're considered an offshoot from what it means to be "the standard person."  So it interested me when Momoa's version of the character is treated as an everyman, as someone that I should relate to.  I didn't know what to make of the experience, but once I watched the movie several times over, he had lost some of that other-ness, and he became just a normal guy.  I will still always see myself more in the Aquaman from the comics, if only because I literally see myself more in that character, but this movie did something unusual for me, and in hindsight I've decided that there's nothing to forgive Warner Brothers for for casting Jason Momoa.

 

It is good to see that you enjoyed it, too, and I'm glad to hear someone else make the case for the character in these blogs.  I also appreciate your positive opinion of Batman v Superman.  While I didn't love it, I thought that the hate it got was a little over-the-top, seeing as in my opinion it was actually an improvement over Man of Steel.  I liked the lighting and cinematography better.  It had more atmosphere.  It flowed like a comic-book event story, and it didn't use the same formula that Marvel was using.  It defined itself with an identity that was distinctly DC and not just "The Anti-Marvel."  This doesn't mean that I liked it, but there were definitely things that I appreciated about it.  I haven't watched the extended cut yet, and I've always meant to, so hearing your recommendation makes me consider getting around to it.  I don't know if I will, because I'm a busy guy, but we'll see.  Until then, I'm glad to hear you fearlessly sharing your opinions without putting anyone down.

 

24601

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The Hip Historian Iaredios
Mar 16 2019 03:10 AM

:kaukau:

 

24601

What a lengthsome response, I thank you! Glad to have another appreciator of the watery-works.  My famous ancestor Quanah Parker is the subject of a "half-breed hero", so Arthur Curry gets some respect from me in that regard, as well as others who have themselves in such a situation. At least you have turned out alright!

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