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Aquaman movie could have been better

W. Kenneth Medley II • Mar 11, 2019 at 1:12 PM

The release of “Aquaman” on streaming services and Blu-ray/DVD soon may have someone asking if they missed something by not watching the box office hit in theaters.

**Spoiler Warning**

“Aquaman” is the origin tale of Arthur Curry, portrayed by Jason Momoa, the half-human son of Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and a lighthouse keeper in Maine (Temuera Morrison).

After Atlanna violates a contract marriage and births Curry, bounty hunters threaten her family and she returns to Atlantis only to be executed.

After years of refusing to return to Atlantis, Curry must face off with his brother, now king of Atlantis.

King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is attempting to unite the kingdoms of Atlantis under his rule. The unification will give him power to attack the “surface” for generations of disregarding the oceans and pollution.

The movie is definitely worth a watch, especially if one is a comic book movie fan. Aquaman is a DC Universe character and the movie is produced by Warner Brothers.

Recent trends have shown a tendency for DC films to hold darker tones in mood and subject matter than the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

Even if one has not read the comic books, the films have taken on lives of their own. There is the obvious detachment from the traditional Aquaman, who had blonde hair and blue eyes. Jason Momoa has broader appeal to audiences of different racial backgrounds.

Another break from the comic books is the behavior of the hero. Momoa’s portrayal of the character is not as dignified as some may have expected. Rather than acting like royalty or even having decency, Aquaman comes off more as a drunken biker.

The film was a smash hit at the box office, grossing $1.142 billion by late 2018. That is more than “Justice League” and close to Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The success of the movie can be attributed to star Momoa’s portrayal of the “fish man” hero.

The opening scenes are endearing. The decision to show the loving but illegal relationship between Curry’s mother and father can be representative of archaic subservient roles woman have had cast upon them throughout human history, and still so in some places.

There is a symbolical nod to American freedom, as the relationship is allowed in Maine.

There are two major criticisms at this point of the film:

1. Why did producers choose a Maori actor to be a lighthouse keeper in 1985 Maine? One can understand it creates a continuity of racial appearance, because of Momoa’s bi-racial heritage, but could Tom Curry not have been a lighthouse keeper in California, Oregon or Washington? That region would have had a higher Polynesian presence in 1985.

2: Why is Queen Atlanna portrayed as an ignorant alien in Tom Curry’s living room? She goes as far as throwing a trident through the television as if she did not know what it was.

Atlanteans were supposed to have flying cars, and they have holograms in the film. One can easily surmise that with their advanced technology they would know about television and tea.

One could pick the movie apart scene by scene, which is not what is going to be done here. Broader issues exist with the acting, computer generated images and character development. These issues will be tackled quickly and with few words.

The acting left much to be desired on many fronts. Dolph Lundgren and Willem Dafoe were hard to get behind in their portrayals of King Nereus and Vulko, Aquaman’s mentor. Dafoe was a mystery for most of the film and Lundgren seemed out of his element.

Since most of the film is supposed to take place underwater, there is a lot of CGI. The producers may have been a little CGI happy.

The aging effects on the actors are an example of the bad CGI in the film. One can easily spot the interlacing problems on the faces of the actors and see where real skin is and what is computer generated.

Some of the best and worst CGI takes place in Atlantis. The visuals of the city and landscapes are breathtaking. The vibrant colors and inclusion of wildlife is magnificent, although proportions may have been thought about more.

What is horrible is the actors floating around like they are seahorses or minnows suspended in place.

The worst acting in the entire film came with Manta and his father on the screen, portrayed by Yahya Abdule-Mateen II and Michael Beach. The scenes with these two together are bad and Mateen’s portrayal of Manta is unbelievable throughout the story. One can only wonder what the casting director was thinking on these two.

The best acting was done by the least-known actors. All the actors portraying Curry throughout his life did a really great job. The emotional expressions of bullied children and an adolescent that never knew his mother were excellent by Kaan Guldur, Otis Dhanji and Kekoa Kekumano.

Momoa’s acting saved the movie. His comic relief wrapped into the brute force of his presence during action scenes made the movie. His everyday-Joe laugh ability and reliability make the movie worth watching.

The fight scenes are magnificently brutal and real. Momoa can often be seen using elements around him, like a submarine doorway, to dispatch multiple enemies at once. He is not nice about eliminating bad guys and unapologetic about their deaths in the movie.

The last point to make is character development. The storyline utilizes basic monomyth archtype characters that are easily recognizable: Dafoe as the mentor, Wilson as the antagonist and Momoa as the protagonist, etc. That is not the issue here. The story unfolds in a too predictable manner. Even the one-liners were predictable.

The surprise, and savior, is Momoa also filling the role of comic relief. This is a delightful break away from Arthur Curry in the comic books. To see the hero not taking himself seriously or even consider himself doing good is delightful. The character does not hold grudges or even operate with an agenda. He is an ebb and flow hero doing what is right morally.

There is obvious foreshadowing throughout the film and lazy writing. It is still worth watching though. The film was definitely made for the big screen with the massive landscapes and vibrant color.

Did anyone miss anything by not watching it in theaters? Maybe. A giant octopus in war paint beating gladiator drums is pretty awesome to see, and the amplification of the big screen would be amazing.

The movie is definitely worth buying and watching at home with a bag of popcorn, just do not take it too seriously. 

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