Aquaman Movie Review
This review may contain potential Spoilers. Proceed with caution!
"A shimmering trident that gets rusty due to excessive saline water."
Put two ships in the open sea, without wind or tide, and, at last, they will come together.— Jules Verne
The film begins with these lines from the renowned 19th-century science fiction author and blends these words with a derivative from the age-old folklore of the Mermaid. The tides of the ocean bring together a runaway Atlantean princess and a lighthouse keeper to form a tale of coexistence, compassion, and harmony. This love gives birth to a lad who is best of both the worlds. This is his story and how he sublimes the gap between his paternal shore and matriarchal ocean while foiling his wicked half-brother's devious plans.
This film is not a conventional superhero movie. It instead treads the path of a fantastical adventure in the form of a treasure hunt. The fabled artifact of this hunt is a Trident, and that's what this film is on a metaphysical level. The land and sea are the side prongs of this trident, and as Atlanna & Thomas, they come together to form the central spear that is Arthur - a bridge between the surface world and the oceans.
The flaws in this otherwise epic saga appear when it tries to tread the path of conventional comic book movies.
The 'Salt in the Water' moments:
- The issues with this film are the ones from a typical superhero movie template. It originates with the theme of harmony and coexistence and how humans are abusing the marine ecosystem, losing focus when the final showdown begins.
- The other problem is with the re-introduction of characters. The viewers' earlier encounter with Aquaman had been in 2017's Justice League. This film has its prologue set in Arthur's origin - his childhood but then jumps back to events post the Steppenwolf saga. As such this shift seems abrupt and the viewer also misses out on Arthur's character development that is compensated using short parallel scenes between him and Vulko.
- Also, cliches like the one where Arthur says the phrase, 'Permission to come aboard' or attempts of boiling him down to just a brash brute seem indistinctively stereotypical.
- The film introduces two of the biggest supervillains from Aquaman stories. Black Manta is shown as a secondary character, but his arc is portrayed better than the Ocean Master (the main antagonist seems too single toned).
Arthur and Orm are two faces of an Atlantean Drachma...The Yin & Yang...The Good and Bad.
Both the protagonist and antagonist grew up as motherless children. While Arthur is the fruit of love and compassion between land and ocean, Orm is the son of a mother forced to bear him and a father who brought him up with rage. Arthur goes to the world's edge for his mother. Orm considers it just that his mother was sacrificed to the trench. Their fathers are to be credited for their upbringing (healthy patriarchy?!). The film uses these half-brothers as metaphors for its theme of coexistence versus competition for survival (A conflict of the 'elements' as some scenes refer to it). James Wan uses his favorite, Patrick Wilson as his antagonist (similar to what Ryan Coogler did with Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther). Wilson despite a weakly developed character puts forward a pretty decent act.
"Jewels of the 7 seas" moments :
- It was refreshing to see a sci-fi film that instead of reaching out to the realms of Space takes a plunge into the lesser explored 70 percents of our planet. A major part of establishing the underwater Atlantean world goes to Rupert Gregson William's fresh background score that uses synth to do with Atlantis what Vangelis' music did for Blade Runner's post-apocalyptic world. The flat beats of the synthesized bubbles give the water an auditory texture.
- In a scene, Vulko tells a young Arthur that he has the ability to see in the ocean's dark and as his vision enhances so does the viewer's visual treat. The visual brilliance of Atlantis and luminescence of marine creatures is enthralling and captivates the eye.
The water's texture can be felt through the film's sound design which is reminiscing of the 80s.
- Even the desert looks aesthetic through Don Burgess' cinematography and the terrestrial world's beauty(and that of Amber Heard) is portrayed with delicate charm (mostly that of Sicily, though).
- Director James Wan completely breaks off his conventional horror film mold with this film, inducing amazement instead of fear this time. However, his experience and prowess reflect in a scene involving the trench that has prolific use of jump scares and hideous looking creatures (and so does Willem Defoe who for a change is not the bad guy).
- Nicole Kidman had more of a Cameo but leaves a lasting impression with her performance. This film could have used more of her acting skills.
- The arch-nemesis, Black Manta is developed using a great character arc. He is fierce and revengeful. He lost his father and was once helpless against a superpowered Aquaman, but has now leveled the playing field.
Just like it did with the Mermaid's tale, the film draws a parallel from the British legend of the Excalibur as well. Arthur Curry overcomes a series of challenges and pulls his Trident from King Atlan's grip (like the sword Excalibur had to be pulled out of stone), eventually becoming, 'King Arthur' - unifier of the seven seas.
This film is also an ode to the legend of King Arthur, perhaps one of the greatest 'unifiers' ever!
The climax also gives us a 'Pacific Rim' moment with the magnanimous looking Karathen serving as Aquaman's stallion. As is customary to such films, the good always triumphs over the evil. The more valuable lesson is a message - The land and ocean might be separate but they do meet twice every day as the tides emerge and give birth to never-ending waves embracing the sands of the shore. King Arthur and his New Atlantis are those waves of compassion and harmony.. until the next installment in the franchise!
The major takeaway here is the film declaring with full effect that the DC cinematic universe has now evolved with an evolved Aquaman.
#5StarNahiDoonga - "Harming 'star'fishes will upset the ocean master."
- Sarthak Awasthi
"Through the two lenses of my spectacles"
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