Aquaman (2018)
December 21, 2018 9:54 AM - Subscribe

The swift and powerful monarch of the ocean gets his own movie in the DC Extended Universe.
posted by prize bull octorok (40 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite


* Black Manta was used sparingly but had some really cool scenes, a solid actor playing him, a fleshed-out backstory, and he stole the freakin' show whenever he was featured which is exactly everything I ever wanted in an Aquaman movie. His suit design was perfectly weird yet menacing. And he got the mid-credits bonus scene!

* The trench sequence was strange and creepy and Lovecraftian and beautiful and I loved it

* Speaking of Lovecraft, Julie Andrews's character is basically a Great Old One

* It impressed me that none of the major bad guys ended up dead. I'm so used to the over-the-top setpiece death of the villain at the end of the superhero movie that it was pleasantly surprising to see Ocean Master just...give up when he realized he'd been defeated. AND THEY WERE FIGHTING IN FRONT OF GIANT PROPELLERS. Giant whirling blades of death in the climactic fight scene and nobody gets shredded by them! Refreshingly bold!

* In fact, almost every time the movie has a choice to go the dark 'n gritty route, it edges up to it, then pirouettes into something wholesome

* The script/dialogue is cheesy as hell in parts but everybody just kinda rolls with it and it never bothered me. All the cheesy/campy stuff feels very intentional and like it's supposed to be fun and IT IS


* I also enjoyed it when the movie briefly became an Indiana Jones sequel

* THE SEA BATTLE AT THE END was so cool and I loved the ship design but Aquaman was basically the least interesting part of that, riding into battle on Cthulie Andrews and yelling and making that pose with the trident framing his eyes

* At one point, a dead fish tangled in a six-pack ring floats through the scene while Aquaman and Mera are doing something. The movie doesn't call attention to it, it's just there. Later they go for a less subtle approach to environmental messaging when Ocean Master causes the seas to barf up all their accumulated garbage onto the shores of the surface world. "We are fucking up the oceans" is not the primary theme of the movie, and they do kind of undercut it by making the main villain the person primarily advancing this viewpoint, but I'm glad they stuck it in there anyway


posted by prize bull octorok at 3:20 PM on December 21, 2018 [13 favorites]

It was big and loud and fun!
posted by heathrowga at 6:46 PM on December 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

It was a lot of fun. I thought they pulled off the Black Manta suit without it looking cartoonishly out of place, and the guy playing him (whom I kept thinking of throughout the movie as Kevin Hart's taller, angrier cousin) was great. For me, the lowest point was the great mass-on-mass battle at the end. As with so many CGI battles before it, it was confusing and bored me to tears. I just saw it as killing time until the big Aquaman vs. King Orm fight.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:30 AM on December 22, 2018

It was terrible and I hated it.

The acting was awful. The dialogue sounded like it was from a rough draft of a script at best. Every emotion was unearned. The costuming looked amateurish.

So little thought was put into this film that a message left when North Africa was "still an inland sea" gave directions to a Roman Empire era statue. Which then provided further directions to a trident which had been hidden for "a thousand years".

It ripped off the only part of Black Panther which was dumb. It couldn't even get ripping other movies off right.

It failed the Bechdel test so hard that the two main female characters were actually left alone together for an entire scene and STILL DID NOT TALK TO EACH OTHER.

The only good things I can find to say about it are that Dolph Lundgren's acting has improved since he played He-Man and the bit where they ate the flowers was (intentionally, for once) funny.

I'd say that it was MST3K level bad but I worry that would backfire and end up encouraging people to go see it.

I want my two and a half hours back.
posted by kyrademon at 2:40 PM on December 22, 2018 [12 favorites]

I liked it quite a lot, although it was very much Avatar meets Black Panther. (It didn't literally rip off anything from Black Panther--the filming wrapped long before Black Panther premiered--but the Marvel film came out first, so the comparisons are inevitable.) And, yeah, it's pretty sprawling and messy in parts; even the first sight of Atlantis looks like nothing so much as the world's biggest bin of plugged-in Christmas lights. But I was strongly impressed by how the film took Momoa's basic oafish bro-ness and leans into it, making something of a virtue of it (and strongly implying that Mera and Vulko are going to do most of the policy-wonk heavy lifting). Part of the fun was how I was still subconsciously mapping some of the actors with parts that they'd played in previous superhero movies, with Willem Dafoe being the erstwhile Green Goblin, Randall Park having just been in the second Ant-Man movie, and Patrick Wilson playing Orm closer to Ozymandias than Nite Owl, his role in Watchmen.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:21 PM on December 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

This movie retroactively improved my opinion of the first Thor movie quite a bit.

At least the dog doesn't die.
posted by praemunire at 11:20 PM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

In retrospect, I'd say Aquaman is a decent Conan the Barbarian fanfic, if Lisa Frank animated half of it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:40 AM on December 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

After watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this movie was just alright. It reminded me that most superheroes movie can be done better.

I'm not sure if it's because I've consumed so much media, but nearly every beat of this film was predictable as hell and it felt kind of too familiar, so I didn't get the "new movie" sense of excitement. What I did like was that the visuals are great, and so was that action, except for the messy huge battle near the end. Also, it's silly how his whole goal of getting the trident was to stop the war, and yet he commanded the giant Karathen to bust out of the core and wipes out both armies fighting, and then had the gall to tell them to "stop all this killing!" My dude you just killed a bunch of them with that one move.

Another weird thing that bothered me was that he tells Mera he doesn't even know her name and has never been to Atlantis, but then she tells him that since he helped defeated Steppenwolf, he should be strong enough to be king. In Justice League, he definitely went to Atlantis to stop Steppenwolf from taking their Mother Box (but failed), and he was fighting alongside Mera so she probably knew her name. It's almost like the writers of each movie only traded notes once and had no idea what the other was doing. Not a good sign for movies set in the same universe.

It was entertaining and audiovisually impressive enough to justify the movie ticket, but I don't think I'd see it in theaters again.
posted by numaner at 11:26 PM on December 25, 2018

The only good things I can find to say about it are that Dolph Lundgren's acting has improved since he played He-Man

This is so amusing to me i am tempted to copy and paste it here just so I can favourite it again.
posted by biffa at 4:24 PM on December 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I knew the movie was going to be terrible when the first shot was someone securing the flapping-around-because-of-the-storm storm shutters open.
posted by sideshow at 8:23 PM on December 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

It was fun in parts but way overlong and kinda stupid. By the time what felt like the 37th underwater fight, I was was done but there was still another half hour to go.
posted by octothorpe at 11:06 PM on December 26, 2018

I liked the crab people.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 2:09 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed it, mostly because finally DC have served up a movie with a bit of lightness, humour and some imagination. Tonally it was a million times better than anything else. Also, I liked the had a villain with, you know, actual real motivations not just that he's eviiiiiil. TBH, I kind think that dude had a point.

I enjoyed Momoa and Heard, found him quite funny. Certainly, it was by no means the perfect movie, and was cheesy as hell. But it celebrated that cheese and earned a lot of goodwill from me as a result. It's just so nice to see a DC flick that isn't dreary as hell - a flaw Wonder Woman succumbed to as well, eventually.
posted by smoke at 3:16 AM on December 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

It was very good. Before the recent trailers and reviews, I'd have bet serious money this film would suck, but it didn't. As some above have noted, it walked a lot of fine lines successfully: it explained Aquaman without being a full-blown tiresome origin story, it had dark moments without becoming a dark movie, it blended comedy without becoming a comedy. I wouldn't say it was "great," but by superhero film standards, it was very good.

My only gripe was that Rupert Gregson-Williams tried to emulate what Mark Mothersbaugh did with the music for Thor: Ragnarok and missed pretty wide of the mark. But hey, I get it. I've tried to emulate things and missed, too.
posted by cribcage at 9:43 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

after watching 'planet earth 2', I kinda think aquaman should be the one threatening war on the surface, we've lost 2/3rds of the near surface great barrier reef since 2016, that made me want tidal wave powers.
posted by French Fry at 8:57 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think they knocked it out if the park on tone, casting, and character concept for Arthur/Aquaman. These being the things they seemed most likely to botch, the film was a pleasant surprise, even though in execution, it was actually somewhere between not bad and mildly good.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:19 PM on December 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

I liked the crab people.

They looked delicious.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, and a lot of that was just enjoying Jason Momoa. And then it was just nice to have a superhero movie where no parents died. It was definitely overlong, but I took a twenty-minute nap towards the beginning, and that really helped keep the pace manageable.

My biggest gripe is Amber Heard's wig (wigs). Her hair looked like Bratz doll hair most of the time. I can't believe there wasn't a better solution to get that color.
posted by gladly at 9:35 PM on December 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Re parents dying: I agree that it's nice that didn't happen, but I'll admit that toward the end of the film when everything got calm, just before he was led away, I thought Orm was going to kill Atlanna. In the 2015 animated film Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (which is excellent), he does, and these superhero films have often borrowed from other storylines. I'm glad the writers made a different call here.
posted by cribcage at 10:24 PM on January 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Aquaman HEADBUTTS a BELL and a SHARK, thus this is a great movie; I will not be taking questions at this time.
posted by pseudonymph at 4:15 AM on January 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

While we're invoking Spiderverse comparisons, I'll say that one is a little more my speed. There's something about the personal-scale vulnerability of Miles and even Peter B that does more for me. The heroes feel more like people you might actually meet. The art felt like it took some more chances and it worked for me as a specific wonderful kind of adaptation from comic books that I've never seen anyone pull of quite as well.

Buuut.... I dug Aquaman. Way more than I expected to.

Orm totally has a point at how royally we're messing up the world, which is awesome, but his response is parallels the same toxic masculine response his Dad had to a human "defiling" his bride -- oh, hey, let's kill people we feel betrayed by. Let's divide the world into us vs them and wall-off or wipe out them and where they touch, problem solved, right?

But the matriarch who dared to have her own agency, kick a little ass, and love who she chose, has the kid who knows another way, and then when she gets carted back and punished by the toxic side of her culture, she survives, AND drops the bomb at the end: there aren't two worlds, y'all, there's one, and thinking you can just wipe out some part you've othered isn't going to solve its problems.

I'd have preferred it passed the Bechtdel test and/or had fewer rough edges around some of the dialogue and acting (and ugh on the continuity errors with Justice League), but hey, the heroes don't just win, they win in the service of better values (whose bearers were the women and the mixed race dude). And... right now I'm halfway ready to join team Orm myself if it the opportunity came. I feel like there are lots of loathsome people in my country and throughout the world right now, many of them seem happy to enthusiastically sacrifice the world we live in to 'Murica and Capitalism masturbation that doesn't even deserve to fall under the header of "values" because of how fundamentally *thoughtless* it is. Like Arthur did with family Manta, I'm almost itching to make enemies with them. And like family Manta (or Orm) many deserve it. I'll take anything that can pull me back from the edge here even if it's via a big half-dumb fun movie. Like its comic book inspiration it favors fantastic feats/visuals over ponderous depths but it hits points that I need to think about now, and maybe some of those will even hit people who need them more.
posted by wildblueyonder at 7:32 PM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Lovecraft, Julie Andrews's character is basically a Great Old One

At the start of the movie there is a pan over the coffee table with a copy of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror on it.
posted by romakimmy at 11:44 PM on March 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Part of the fun was how I was still subconsciously mapping some of the actors with parts that they'd played in previous superhero movies, with Willem Dafoe being the erstwhile Green Goblin, Randall Park having just been in the second Ant-Man movie, and Patrick Wilson playing Orm closer to Ozymandias than Nite Owl, his role in Watchmen.

Likewise; I was a little starved for entertainment during it, so I was pondering all of the recycled genre actors who were into their second or third big blockbuster franchise role. Twenty years ago I would have imagined “Drogo, son of Jango” to be a hobbit.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:28 PM on March 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Watched this tonight at home and laughed my ass off all the way through. When the Katathen (please) shows up in the end battle sequence I looked at my wife and said "say it with me!" and turned back to the screen, and on a perfect three beat we both shouted "RELEASE THE KRAKEN" in unison and fell apart laughing.

There were so, so many refences to other films throughout the film, but they were nearly always totally incidental and not neccessarily intended to be discovered by Simpsons or Family Guy style frame-by-frame examination or dialog parsing. In fact, at some point I started trying to keep track of how many times a human-appearing character expresses something simply by roaring rather than using words. Not one but TWO bad guys with complicated inneremotional lives and motivations. And stunning, 10-year-old-child levels of mythic nonsense actually evoking the gape-mouthed wonder of watching a Ray Harryhausen film in 1960 or an AAR from Eve Online in 2010.

It still suffered from some of the endemic issues plaguing DC films - mastered to too dark a light range, occasional veering into extremely dark shit with regard to character psychology, problems with both the execution and use of CGI (my god, the uncanny valley de-aged faces), but on the whole, the Nolan Batfilms excepted, this is a way forward and the best DCU film in years.

Will someone please save Superman? I guess if Shazam is DC as I expect, maybe, in a supreme twist of irony, Billy Batson will. Anyway, delightful film. I didn't even fall asleep during the hand-to-hand action sequences, which are a primary reason for the boring dreadfulness of so much contemporary films about strong people wearing colorful tightfitting underwear.
posted by mwhybark at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

For a little while now I had been thinking about how odd it is that this spring sees the opening of both Captain Marvel and Shazam (about a superhero I always knew as Captain Marvel). A few weeks ago on the blue I mentioned working in a rep cinema in 1989, when both Black Rain and Black Rain were released.

Looking through this thread, one could get the strong impression that two different movies called Aquaman are under discussion — one a joyous romp, and one an indifferent, mildly tedious slog.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Presumably the hypothetical MU Prince Namor film will set new depths of stygian grimdark in order distinguish the pointy-eared Speedo Spock of the underwater realm from the entirely charming fellow seen in this film.

But who should we cast?
posted by mwhybark at 6:54 PM on March 11, 2019

Depends on whether Ethan Peck can get himself a good six-pack.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:21 AM on March 12, 2019

But who should we cast?

Billy Eichner
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:50 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just got round to watching it, and it was sort of entertaining in a shiny, daft sort of way. Mind you, I have a very high tolerance for science-fiction tosh with pretty design and entertaining monsters - I sat through the whole of Jupiter Ascending and Valerian and the Umpteen Planets or whatever it was called. Only once, mind you.
posted by Fuchsoid at 8:16 PM on March 20, 2019

Yes, this movie is terrible and stupid and entirely predictable. But watching it, it felt like superhero movies should all be like this. Doesn't take itself seriously at all and is just a pretty shiny thing with imaginative design (unlike most of the recent Marvel stuff, I dare say ... Also, has way better action sequences..). I loved watching the thing and sorta hated myself for loving it...
posted by sapagan at 7:21 AM on March 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I knew the movie was going to be terrible when the first shot was someone securing the flapping-around-because-of-the-storm storm shutters open.

Yes, what the fuck was light house keeper doing worrying about that?!

The combat scenes were pretty cool, but if Khal Drogo hasn't been the lead, it would have flopped harder than Flipper on land.

Oh it wasn't all bad and the wife and I enjoyed pulling Mystery Science Theatre comments on it, but many of the sets were poorly lit to the point that it was an obvious soundstage and the effects were pretty lackluster. There was little reason to care about any of the characters, the story was a mess and, the soundtrack was unbelievably terrible. Plus, as the wife noted, Jason wore a shirt for too much of the movie.

I'm glad a friend lent me the DVD, I would have been upset if I paid for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 PM on March 31, 2019

At the start of the movie there is a pan over the coffee table with a copy of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror on it.

My only question was why the prop master would have chosen that particular story, which has no scenes involving the ocean, instead of The Shadow Over Innsmouth or The Call of Cthulhu.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:12 PM on April 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

How many movies does Marvel have to make before DC learns a few things and gets a grip on the DC cinematic universe? This movie does not connect to anything else DC, and it's disappointing. There were not even any JL cameos that I could see. Even a "minor" DC hero helping Aquaman would have made things immensely more interesting. When demigods roam the earth and gain more and more power, the effects should ripple across the galaxy. This guy has amazing Atlantian tech at his disposal, and all he wants to do is conquer the earth. He should be king of the Alpha Quadrant. The visuals were fantastic, but the story and dialogue were pretty meh. C'mon DC, get your shit together. A major Aquaman movie should be battling other-worldly threats, not farting around with provincial power struggles like it was an after school cartoon. A disappointment.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:02 AM on April 12, 2019

He has a positive relationship with both parents! He lets his enemies live after he defeats them, and offers to be their friend! He doesn't let his ego get in the way (well, not too much, it offers token resistance) when a woman worthy of respect shows him wonders untold as her Magical Manic Pixie Boyfriend! He accepts being "King" because it's fun, but is a lefty-lib small-d-democrat second generation immigrant New Englander at heart!

He is often CGI'd into being much smaller than his actor is to make him seem "normal" which runs right up against the whole purpose of casting Khal Drogo for the role. Also, kohl-eyes are a thing underwater, don't get me wrong, it works, but, well... many plot-holes....

Who CARES! It's a visual cavalcade with clever politics thrown in. De-aging Willem Dafoe was a stupid use of the technology, as actual-age Willem seemed younger, but who the hell in their right mind casts Willem The Foe as a heroic character? These people did. It's fantastic. It works. Nothing about this movie should work, yet almost all of it does.

And the lead... Jason Mamoa... he's so charming and self-deprecating and sly, he'd slide right into the MCU to have a "selfies with fans" teamup with the Avengers. Perfect casting!

Also, the Crab People were cool. I'd help thwart an emerging empire at their side!
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:12 AM on April 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Worthy of respect" was an awkward way of saying "completely bad ass", which is what I meant and also scans better. "Doofus With A Heart of Gold and Fists of Steel" might more accurately describe his romantic trope as well.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:26 AM on April 15, 2019

Well, that was a movie. I felt sort of embarassed for the actors. RIP Willem Defoe, died of shame.

I watched it at home and sadly a lot of what was good about this movie gets a bit lost on a smaller screen. All those crazy dense visuals underwater, particularly the city of Atlantis. That captured a real comic book feel in a great way but I kind of had to project it large in my imagination. My mistake.

Loved the costuming. So many cod pieces! On that theme, Aquaman: A review is worth a read. An imaginary interview with costume designer Kym Barrett (also known for her work on so many Wachowski films.)
Kym Barrett: -Jeans. Black Jeans. Tight. Big belt buckle. Trust me.
Man 3: I trust your vision Kym but how does he swim good in jeans?
Kym Barrett: Who gives a fuck.
posted by Nelson at 7:18 AM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

It was entertaining enough. I really liked that he was a good guy who loved his parents, was not afraid to show emotion, and tried not to kill the bad guys.

As soon as it was over this happened.

My husband: I liked it up until the big battle at the end.
Me: I disliked it up until the big battle at the end.
posted by the webmistress at 6:27 AM on August 12, 2019

It was like eating a big bowl of Lucky Charms, but just the marshmallows. And no milk.
posted by MrVisible at 10:57 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oddly enough that is the only way I can eat Lucky Charms. The combination of gluten and dairy gives me...trouble. I hope that is not a metaphor for my taste in films.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:19 PM on September 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Everything else aside, Jason Mamoa is a good egg and absolutely owns the role and made this worth watching.
posted by porpoise at 6:39 PM on January 3, 2021

The Temuera Morrison de-ageing was worse than the Willem Defoe de-ageing. I can't see it would be so hard to get pictures of him from when he was that age and come up with something that looked like them. He didn't look like a dentist with generic plastic surgery when he was young.
posted by biffa at 5:03 AM on June 26, 2021

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