Aquaman: Too much or not enough?
The 2018 release of movie “Aquaman,” adapted from DC Comics, was good. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was alright. As Devon Maloney put it in her article “If Aquaman was a worse movie, it would have been a better one” for The Verge, “Aquaman is disappointing because it isn’t awful enough.”
How many action movies have insightful dialogue and directly tackle deep emotional issues? They’re overly dramatic in order to bypass the subtle pains – the human aspect of, well – humanity. Plus, who wants to deal with all of that when we’re trying to watch a bunch of explosions and gunplay? This isn’t a “film” – it’s a movie; an escape.
This is precisely why action movies can define generations and inspire – or insight – whole movements. We pretend we watch action movies for the thrill and the flames but, secretly, we can identify with the denial of the characters, covering emotion with action. We identify with the main character as we watch them eradicate their enemy: our pain.
When an action movie adds additional elements to its foundation, however, the balance shifts. No longer are we going to the movies to escape from our lives and troubles for a cathartic release. Now, we’re confronted with a taste of our reality, the dark looks and deep eyes.
Therein lies the problem with Aquaman. Director James Wan was tapped for the movie, with others under his belt such as “Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring.” These movies are a fusion of horror and psychology. They’re successful because Wan knows how to add that emotional touch and the psychological undertones that make a story feel full-bodied as opposed to a hack job, so to speak.
Wan tried too hard to fit excessive information and emotion into this feature, leaving the viewer with more questions than answers. When you’re trying to deliver an origin story, a love story, and a ruler-of-the-entire-ocean story, things can get lost in the mix. Plainly, there just isn’t enough time to cover this attempt of a deeper film.
Sure, I felt the tender moments between Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) and Mera (Amber Heard), but eating flowers while “racing” to find a key that unlocks the mystery of the ocean didn’t quite make sense. I felt like I was watching three movies in one, each giving me a taste of its own, could-be epic.
In her article for The Verge, Maloney agrees, “The audience is rushed into and out of entire new kingdoms and species of underwater sentients…every cut feels like a resentful compromise with the studio — the 143-minute run time drags, while still not feeling like nearly enough time to cover this much ground.”
Maloney’s argument is valid: rather than try to ground this story in our known reality, Wan had the opportunity to create something as outlandish as the story, itself. When there’s only so much time to relate the core tale, follow the single storyline – save the sentiment for a film.