Can Aquaman Save the DC Universe?

Aquaman Movie

In the era of comic book movies we currently live in, it’s nothing short of mind-boggling that DC can’t get it’s shit together. When Marvel built a universe of superhero movies that essentially talk to each other and allow the heroes to occasionally group up, it got a major head start on an enormously profitable enterprise that DC wanted in on. And Marvel was exceptionally good at creating this universe, DC had growing pains from the very beginning. Man of Steel rebooted the Superman series in 2013 but was bloated, dour, and extremely self-serious while Marvel movies are slick, funny, and endearingly self-deprecating. The only DC Extended Universe movie to escape this trend was Wonder Woman.

Topping things off, the DCEU’s big team-up movie, Justice League, was a shit show. Justice League did, however, mark a parting of ways between DC and Zack Snyder, the man who bungled the DCEU so badly. With him gone, DC could course correct the series, and Aquaman promised to do just this. Did it succeed? Yes and no.

Aquaman is offensively dumb, moderately entertaining, and surprisingly unfunny. But it’s also surprisingly watchable. I kept rolling my eyes but I never once felt like bailing before the end–which is more than I can say for Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, and Justice League. In that regard, Aquaman is a rousing success–although admittedly, watchability was a low bar for it to clear.

Jason Momoa is fine. He sufficiently reinvents Aquaman as a muscular surfer-dude type and is charismatic enough to carry his own movie. But he’s not Chris Hemsworth, no matter how hard the movie seems to work to make him the DCEU answer to Thor (aside from the long hair and physique, Aquaman is the ruler of an otherwordly realm and carries a mystical metal weapon). Aside from being a major hunk, Hemsworth is gifted with stellar comedic instincts. Jason Momoa is okay, but he doesn’t seem to naturally have that qualities–as evidenced by a fairly painful gig hosting SNL recently. He’s game, but all he really does is look over his shoulder with an arched eyebrow. Repeatedly. If you took away that knowing smirk, there wouldn’t be much here at all.

Amber Heard makes for a great sidekick/love interest, but her Little Mermaid wig is constantly distracting. I’ve seen better weaves on Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Everyone else is strictly fine–doing what the script requires of them and nothing more.

The plot is like a paint by numbers for a comic book superhero movie. You know exactly what’s going to happen and nothing in this movie is interested in subverting those expectations.

But the worst thing of all in Aquaman is the sheer volume of stupidity in the script. I lost count of all the plot holes. My husband and I finally agreed to stop pointing out the things that didn’t make sense and just assume that nothing makes sense at all. Here’s one: Aquaman’s treacherous brother, King Orm, wants Aquaman and Mera dead, but can’t risk going after them himself, so he hires Black Manta. Got it: Black Manta is a hired assassin who will let Orm deny involvement in the assassination of his brother and fiancé. But when Black Manta shows up to kill Aquaman and Mera he has a cadre of Atlantean soldiers with him to battle Mera while Black Manta has a showdown with Aquaman. Um, what? What happened to plausible deniability? Why not just send your Atlantean goon squad in the first place and cut out the middleman?

And that’s Aquaman in a nutshell: a thin excuse for plot because nothing makes sense anyway except to set up the next action set piece. Luckily, those set pieces are staged competently enough to keep you interested, even if the way the entire movie looks like it was shot against a green screen is silly.

Aquaman Movie Poster

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