The Trinity Voice

Aquaman: Some Films Stink, This One Sinks

Courtesy of Aquaman's Official Website.

Joseph Paoli, Staff Writer

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   One of the great things about being outside of school on break is the chance to watch shows and movies that you didn’t previously get to. While the foreign classics like the films of Akira Kurosawa, sweepings epics like Lawrence of Arabia, and thought-provoking stories about modern times like Breaking Bad or House of Cards deserve their time in the sun, sometimes all you want is a swashbuckling, feel-good excursion into the familiar tales of superheroes and their foils. Aquaman provides that escapism and more by also being one of the most unintentionally hilarious films to have such a blockbuster budget. While I knew the film would run the chance of being a tad silly (it is a story about a man whose superpower allows him to speak to fish made from a company whose name means to “Detective Comics Comics”), my expectations were blown so far out of the water (pun ABSOLUTELY intended).

   First, to give credit where it’s due, Jason Momoa, for as much as the scriptwriters made the audience want to hate him, was charming throughout the film. He played the scoundrel archetype well. He was purposefully funny and gave off the impression of being both quick-thinking while also too impetuous and self-centered to call wise or good-natured, but gradually lost that flaw as the film progressed.

   The star of the film must be propped up by quality co-stars though. Aside from some exchanges between the pirate father-and-son team Jesse and David Kane, there weren’t any authentic-feeling performances by the other cast members. Aquaman and his one-time uptight ally turned romantic-interest Mera (played by Amber Heard) had no chemistry throughout the course of the movie. While that would have been fine if they had maintained a cordial relationship by the film’s end, the forcing of their romance was very obvious. It was clear that the scriptwriters only wrote them to fall in love out of some obligation to cliche plot progression.

   Besides Heard’s fishy performance, other actors in the film gave poor performances too, except theirs were noticeably more hilarious. Orm Marius, the half-brother of Aquaman maternally, was played by Patrick Wilson. His acting was forced and joyless, as were his co-stars Willem Dafoe (who played Aquaman’s secret mentor Nuidis Vulko) and Dolph Lundgren (who played a regional king in Atlantis named Nereus). While some onus should be put on the actors, the script writers deserve much of the blame for how dull and moronic they wrote all of the interactions between these three cast members. The first scene in which the audience is introduced to all of them involves the Atlanteans talking for what felt like ten minutes on the political processes of their underwater city-state. It’s as bad, perhaps worse, than the long-windedness seen in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Compounding the problem is that it took place in the dark blue water of the deep ocean, with the actors stupidly floating to simulate the weightlessness. To George Lucas’ credit, at least he had the decency to showcase such conversations in a visually appealing landscape, like above the Coruscant skyline. He also didn’t make them do anything visually distracting like hover in mid-air, detracting from the importance of whatever was being disclosed in the scene.   

   In a tragic way, the poor acting of certain cast members makes the film worth seeing. The scenes that really encapsulate this notion are all the flashback scenes of Aquaman’s training with Nuidis Vulko. None of the child actors they hired to portray the young Arthur Curry were all that good (yes, the roited, sun-bleached action star who looks like he suplexes boulders for fun has the same first name as everyone’s favorite childish aardvark and the same last name as the national dish of Great Britain). That said, their unbridled enthusiasm was commendable. and they went all out with their hammy deliveries of dialogue. Willem Dafoe displayed the opposite trait of underacting in these scenes (and throughout the entire movie), except it was also funny. For me personally, and I think any other teenager who watches this film, you simply cannot help but associate Willem Dafoe with his portrayal of Norman Osborn / Green Goblin from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002). This problem isn’t such an issue when watching a serious, competently-made film like Platoon (1986) or John Wick (2014). However, it really breaks the film-watching immersion watching an actor I associate with unbridled craziness, while dressed in a skin-tight, scaly outfit no less, act like just another Mr. Miagi-style mentor figure.

   Regarding plot progression, Aquaman suffers from a foible that sends shivers down the spines of gamers everywhere: the fetch quest. The main characters move between locations not because they want to but because they are told to do so. At one point the writing becomes so lazy that the heroes actually find the never-before-discovered ruins of an ancient civilization, but stay all of five minutes there, just long enough to hear how to progress their mission. From there they trek to another location only to be told there to go to yet another place! It’s boring and it unnecessarily stretches the film into the two-and-a-half hour long behemoth it is. The predictability of it actually becomes entertaining. Half-way through the film, I couldn’t help but sneer at the realization somebody was paid to write such a humdrum story. Not to mention, Aquaman goes out of it’s way to hide it’s shallowness behind goofy plot devices and objects: Holograms in the film are constructed out of pillars of water that wiggle and drip distractingly. The headpieces of the villains are ugly and massive, and their dialogue is equally bloated.

   Then there were arbitrary events which occured in the film that left the audience members dumb-founded: Whose idea was it to open the movie with a pretentious poetry reference? Why is Mera suddenly playing a flute on a stolen boat? Why does being the “Ocean Master” matter so much to Orm Marius if it is, by his own admission, “just a title?” Why did the scriptwriters undermine the gravity of Atlanna’s death by revealing she was secretly trapped on island at the Center of the Earth?

   Now that I’ve seen it in theatres, I don’t think it is worth the price of admission. The CGI in it is pretty poor, meaning the big-screen effect makes a bad problem worse. The length of the film may also be a compromising factor for anyone who’s not completely determined to watch something over two hours long. My recommendation would be to wait until the movie is released on an online service like Amazon Prime or at a RedBox kiosk. Rather than view it as the substantial action-film it was market as, think of it rather as one the best comedies of 2018.

 

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About the Writer
Joseph Paoli, Staff Writer

Joseph Paoli is currently a senior and has been on the Trinity Voice for two years. He is a writer for the News department this year and was a Lifestyles...

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Aquaman: Some Films Stink, This One Sinks