Momoa’s submarine super powers can’t compensate for poor writing and acting
The Santa Clara
January 10, 2019
Even the most advanced visual effects in the world can’t cover up the shortcomings of a cliché plot. Yet, the new DC blockbuster “Aquaman” has surpassed a billion dollars in revenue, making it the highest-grossing DC movie ever and putting it in the top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time.
The film delivers something of a cinematic masterpiece with incredible scenery and monsters both above and below the ocean’s surface. But in a world over saturated with superhero movies, “Aquaman’s” plot and dialogue don’t quite meet the mark.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is born to the queen of Atlantis, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and a human father (Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Star Wars episodes II and III). But Aquaman’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) has a plan to wage war against the surface people, both for stealing his mother and polluting the ocean. With help from Mera (Amber Heard), daughter of King Nereus, Aquaman reluctantly enters a struggle to uncover a lost scepter and save the world from his brother’s wrath.
Meanwhile, Black Manta (Yahya AbdulMateen II) conspires with the Orm to defeat Aquaman. When the Black Manta doesn’t turn up in the final battle, viewers know what’s coming next: a post-credit snippet of him retooling for the sequel.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with this classic hero’s journey plot; in fact nearly every story, superhero movie or not, relies on the same basic elements of a hero leaving home, answering the call of adventure, learning from a master teacher and defeating evil to save the world.
But here begins the trouble. “Aquaman” never challenges the audience’s expectations, and fails to introduce the kind of twists or emotional conflict that defines great stories. It’s all a bit banal.
A perfect example of innovative storytelling is the 2018 Marvel universe masterpiece “Black Panther,” which paid homage to both past and present African movements.
In “Black Panther,” the audience had to decide for themselves whether the villain was truly evil.
The hero T’Challa simply accepted the call to be king, giving the film room to explore more complex conflicts and well-developed supporting characters. Rather than racial tensions, “Aquaman” tries to make a point about ocean pollution.
On the surface, “Aquaman” delivers everything fans have come to expect from superhero movies: attractive actors, epic fight scenes, dynamic and visually stunning worlds. But dig deeper and the film struggles to find an original narrative.
Just when things would start to get slow, a new explosion or tsunami sweeps in to spice up the scene. Violent drama can’t replace true intrigue, especially for the film’s two-and-a-half hour length.
The film more obviously struggled with creating original dialogue. Overused one-liners about love and adventure led to characters lacking depth and complexity.
If you want a view of Jason Momoa’s impressive physique, lush ocean scenography or an even bigger sea monster than the one five minutes ago, “Aquaman” is a perfect pick.
But though its outer shell looks as impressive as Momoa’s chest, its storyline lacks the depth we’ve come to expect—even from superhero films.
Contact Gavin Cosgrave at gcosgrave@scu. edu or call (408) 554-4852.