Aquaman Is Damp at Best, Drowned at Worst

Andrew Mello, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Falcon Rating: 1/5

In a word, Aquaman is diluted. It’s more of the same stressed formula you’ve likely seen as many times as I have. Aquaman brings nothing new to the table but instead rehashes from other better movies. The boring plot doesn’t even believe in itself enough not to end every sentence with a punchline. It doesn’t have an original bone in its amphibian body. The redeeming factor, if there were to be one, is the charisma from much of the cast—mainly the surprisingly comedic Jason Momoa in the titular role of Aquaman. The most amazing aspect of Aquaman is how it has managed to steal half-decent reviews.

The movie takes on a hero’s journey, as half human-half Atlantian Arthur Curry goes from a reckless and hot headed prince to a deserving and fair king of Atlantis. He is taken out of his normal life by his half brother Orm, who desires the crown to initiate a war to conquer and obliterate all human life above land. So, Arthur has the responsibility to fight for both his peoples against his evil brother. I don’t need to provide any further details because you’ve no doubt seen this plot several times before, and each time better than this.

Everything done by James Wan with this movie is either worse than the last movie that did it, or when it tries to be fresh, it’s just boring. The story of a self-doubting king settling a civil war within his hidden kingdom nation was also in Black Panther, and with much better success. The MacGuffin artifact-hunting plotline has been done far better in both Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean. It says a lot about the quality of a production when you’ve already forgotten what you just saw as you walk out of the theater.

One of the more minor gripes that didn’t ruin the movie, just annoyed me was the downright ugly design for much of this underwater city. The most egregious example was a specific group of soldiers wearing the most glossy and phosphorescent white imaginable. Now, this might have looked okay underwater, but when these costumes are in the sunlight of an Italian villa, the two art styles go together about as well as gelato and pickles. Any respect I might have had for Wan as a director is soured by just how unpleasant the movie is to look at. He makes a conscious decision to frame most throwdowns with some sort of lateral camera motion, confusing the eyes and the brain into a guessing game of who’s who. The side effect of setting your film underwater is that every punch, every movement seems weightless. It’s impossible to become invested when you can’t tell if the swords are made out of foam or not. Every action scene (bar the opening) resembles a child playing with action figures more closely than it does a $200 million production.

However, easily the most anger-inducing flaw is just how annoyingly repetitive and disorganized the entire movie is. In one watch, I think I saw three monologues from Shark Boy about what it means to be a good king, two gladiator death matches, and enough people killed by a trident to cast an entirely separate movie. Wan forces the audience to revisit scenes and locations from earlier—PTSD to the excruciating scenes prior.

Aquaman is one of the most stress-inducing movies I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t even like it for its plucky attitude. What you have here is a Frankenstein-esque film, stolen from the pieces of better movies, and reconstructed without any understanding of why those elements worked together in the first place. If you are truly desperate for a good time watching Aquaman, try rewatching Black Panther in the bathtub.