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Review: Aquaman

Aquaman is an unoriginal and confusing blend of elements from movies that preceded it. Both the plot, the dialogues and visuals evoke movies like Avatar, Thor and Black Panther, and the city of Atlantis and its technology are unsettlingly similar to how they were portrayed in animated movie “Atlantis the Lost Empire”.

The plot to Aquaman is fairly straightforward: The queen of Atlantis escapes an arranged marriage, seeks refuge on the land and falls in love with a lighthouse keeper. They have a child and live happily until she is found by her people and decides to abandon her infant son and husband to protect them – instead of trying to move a bit further away from the sea, for example-. Queen Atlanta, we’re told, is later executed after having given birth to another child. Her eldest son, Arthur, grows up to be an adult man (Mamoa) who can breathe underwater and has extraordinary powers; as his half-brother and king of Atlantis plans a war against the land, Arthur is recruited by princess Mera (Heard) to keep the peace between the two worlds.

From the beginning, Aquaman fails to gain the audience’s sympathy for the characters and their lives. The cheesy love story at the beginning happens way too fast for viewers to care. The heart-breaking departure of the queen feels rushed and cold. The movie then quickly moves on to a grown Arthur, who has earned himself the nickname of “Aquaman” either for his superpowers or because he is on fast dial for every person that needs help at sea. As he rushes to the rescue of a submarine attacked by pirates, we meet the story’s first antagonist: Black Manta. And this is when it gets corny. As spectacular fights happen between characters, cutouts of Mamoa’s face are shown with rock music in the background. From there the movie spirals into slow motion fighting, snarky one-liners, clichés and way too many unaddressed elements that leave the audience confused.  For example, what are Arthur’s powers and what is their extent? When did he start being Aquaman? If he is the bastard (and eldest) son of the queen of Atlantis, how is he not captured as soon as he steps into the water for the first time? And most importantly, are there dinosaurs in the centre of the earth?

There were some positives in “Aquaman” too. As of superheroes movies’ tradition, the visuals were outstanding. The depth of the ocean and the structure of the underwater cities were breathtaking in their colour and architecture. The fight’s choreographies were sleek and kept the attention alive. The settings were outstanding in beauty, and it was great to see that places like Sicily are being given their due attention by filmmakers. Arthur’s story also carried a vague sense of what mixed race children are still made to feel in this day and age, like they don’t quite belong to one world or the other. I am sure this will resonate with many, and in this “Aquaman” has achieved the mission of every superhero story – to give the viewers someone they can see themselves into. But all in all, these great elements were not enough as redeeming qualities to save “Aquaman”.

Some movies are so bad that they are great, because they are filled with the awareness of not being great with makes them less serious and more enjoyable for the audience – Mamma Mia is an example of this-. Though it often reached for the laugh, “Aquaman” did not give the audience permission not to be taken seriously and therefore made enjoying it near impossible. Some scene called for an emotional involvement that had not been built up and by doing so left the viewers feeling detached.

 

Aquaman is still being screened in Everyman Cinema in York.

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Giuditta Amato

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