PG-13, but pretty much for violence and regularly shirtless Jason Momoa. I would take my kids to this if it wasn't so long. I'm sure you could chalk some stuff up as scary. There's a big monster sea creature in the movie. That might be scary. But this is PG-13 because it is a live-action superhero movie and it's aimed at a teenage audience, as proven by the annoying teens sitting in the back of the theater who had to let everyone know that they were there on a Thursday night. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: James Wan
This made a billion dollars? This. This is the movie that did it? I know other movies made a billion dollars, but Aquaman is the movie that told everyone at Warner Brothers that DCEU movies are valuable. (Apparently, that still got seven people fired and a corporate restructure, according to the news.) I had just come around on Wonder Woman after a recent rewatch. Shazam looks absolutely fantastic. And Jason Momoa seems like a pretty cool guy. Sure, he behaves boorishly at times, but nothing criminal. I really wanted to like this movie. Then everyone told me that the movie was pretty good. I thought, "Geez, good for Aquaman." But am I the only one who saw a remarkably stupid film?
I've gotten off the nuke the DCEU kick. While I loathed Justice League, I did notice that the film was taking things in the right direction. Superman smiled. That went a long way. Wonder Woman is pretty rad. Since I know a reboot doesn't appear anywhere in sight, the only thing I could really hope for is that the movies get better over time so we can forget a lot of the earlier entries. That's growth on my part. I should be applauded for such thinking. In terms of success, I do have to applaud James Wan and his crew for tonally ripping Aquaman out of the DCEU mold. There's not much angsty going on with this movie and I love that about the movie. But I think that people are way too happy that the movie isn't a bummer to instantly give it all of the accolades that it really probably doesn't deserve. I'm a huge comic book fan. I tend to give comic book movies a pass for the most part. I'm still a fan of The Dark Knight Rises. I even like Aquaman comics. Geoff Johns's run was actually pretty interesting. Aquaman went from being a character that was kind of a joke to being fairly interesting. But this movie was boring and corny to me. It is just so much. I know that there are long movies that are absolutely great and riveting, but I just watched this one bored out of my mind. It's not that nothing happens. Way too much happens. It's constant. The movie is afraid to be alone with itself for two seconds. Geoff Johns and the folks at DC gave Aquaman this really intense mythology. It took a long time to get there. The world of Atlantis became this really intense place after decades and decades of silliness. But that mythology was built into the series slowly. It would take years to get Aquaman fans on board for the complex soap opera that existed under the water. Aquaman, the film, tries doing everything in one movie. There are so many plots in this movie and none of them get any value. Honestly, every other scene is someone revealing something massive about the history of Atlantis to Arthur. It's flashback after flashback. It's monologue after monologue. It all becomes wildly tedious. I'm not saying that that stuff shouldn't be in Aquaman. That stuff should completely be in Aquaman...2, 3, and 4. Why am I being overwhelmed with all of this stuff in one movie? LIGHT SPOILERS: Here's what the movie should have been. Arthur finally has the gumption to return to Atlantis and he has to depose the king. He has to prove to the people that Ocean Master is corrupt and that the world of man does not hate them. In the process, we are teased the creation of Black Manta and that Arthur's mother might be alive. The movie ends with him tentatively becoming the King of Atlantis. That's it. That's your movie. Everything else, shy of a really brief origin story (which I enjoyed) should be saved for the next film. There is so much nonsense in this film that distracts from what the focus should be. He has to look for a mythical trident? There are different categories of Altanteans, include cannibalistic ones? There's a lost world? There's an abandoned kingdom in the desert? There's a series of clues that lead to the true ruler? Why should I care about an ancient king? Why do I need to know the origins of Atlantis? What is that giant monster? Who made a war? Honestly, even going as far as the mentor who trained Arthur? That can be saved for the future. Give us someone to care about in part 2.
This leads to the Black Manta problem. Imagine if the Joker was treated as a second fiddle in a movie. It wouldn't work in a second. Black Manta is the end all, be all villain for Aquaman. James Wan and DC knew this. They talk about him as unstoppable. But Arthur keeps beating him down in this movie. BIGGER SPOILER: The next movie teases the return of Black Manta. But we found out in this one that he is very defeatable. Sure, he's going to be more of a threat in the next one. Who cares? He's a guy. He's a guy who keeps losing. On top of that, Black Manta kind of has a point. Arthur didn't need to kill his dad. Based on the tone of this one, I don't think that the next one is going to be Arthur fighting for his very soul. It's not that kind of movie. The big villain in this one is Ocean Master. I guess this all ties into my greater thoughts on the movie: direct translation doesn't mean that it is good. Ocean Master looks exactly like he does in the comics. I'm actually blown away how much he looks like his comic book counterpart. But it came across as silly. I mean, he looked real cosplay-y. Add onto that the very odd casting choices throughout this movie. I loved Patrick Wilson in a lot of the things he does. He is great in James Wan's other franchise, The Conjuring. I actually mostly liked him in Watchmen. But Ocean Master? He doesn't really seem all that villainous. He's just kind of goofy. Putting him in that helmet made me feel something that I've never really felt before. A lot of people look at sci-fi and fantasy as silly. This felt like that. I felt like I was watching Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. (I'm getting bored writing this. That's how bored I was.) It's exactly what I want genre fiction to avoid. On one side, I don't want it to be afraid of being fun. Looking at Bryan Singer's original X-Men, that movie was afraid to embrace comic book elements. But then there's this comic book-y throw-up. This seems so mean because I didn't hate the movie. But this is the example of being too inside baseball. But I must be insane. People clearly loved it enough to give it a billion dollars. I know that China lost its mind over this movie. But you know what I most compare this to? Tim Burton's Batman. Tim Burton's Batman is a perfectly fine, even great movie, for 1989. But I don't think it would survive in an era where superhero films have become their own subgenre. Superhero movies shouldn't be one thing, but Aquaman is so entrenched (pun intended) in its own mythology that there's very little to ground the film. A film is allowed to be comic book-y. Look at Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. There is a way to embrace a heritage, but I don't think that Aquaman really achieves that.
But I don't want to hate on this movie altogether. I don't regret watching Aquaman. It did its job, kind of. They finally shifted the tone. This is a big step for the DCEU. I was discussing with Bob how tonally awful the other movies are and this one has a little bit of fun. Again, I'm a Jason Momoa fan. He seems like he really enjoys being Aquaman and mazel to that. There's a scene in a bar where he has fun with these bikers. Yes, more of that. He jumps out of an airplane. That's great. Oh, no. I just remembered what I thought during the movie and it's going to make me look bad. I remember liking Jason Momoa's Aquaman, but thinking, "Is this Aquaman?" Flashback to Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. changed Tony Stark to being a funny guy. But Arthur Curry has always been a stick in the mud. Jason Momoa might actually be a better Aquaman than the actual Aquaman. It's just so odd to think what goes into making these movies. The movie gets overly obsessed with the mythology of Aquaman, but then just makes Aquaman a surfer bro? I don't...I don't get it. I mean, it works. It's probably the only part of the movie that does work. But I also never really felt like I was watching Aquaman. I felt like it was an Uncharted movie with a guy who could breathe underwater. Geez, the more I think about it, that kind of does work. There are these giant action sequences that are way too insane to actually exist, but Aquaman does it. I also don't get Aquaman's power base. Now I've lost the forest through the trees. The big point I'm trying to make is that Jason Momoa is fun and thank God that the DCEU learned to be fun, but Aquaman himself isn't supposed to be fun. Superman is supposed to be fun, but he's terrible. Aquaman is supposed to be grumpy, but he's a delight. I don't get what I'm watching anymore. The only one that really hit the right tone is Wonder Woman. Good job, Wonder Woman. You really are the successful one.
Again, this might be the second best DCEU movie. I find these movies so distracting and gross. Honestly, it is CGI throwup everywhere you look. There are so many moments where I just kept pinching my temples and thinking about how corny the movie is. I hate that I'm dunking on this movie so hard because I really wanted to have a good time with this film. But the movie is boring and silly. I would have been ashamed if I convinced my wife to join me for this one. Still, it is leaps and bounds better than Man of Steel and that's a shift in the right direction. I want these movies to be good. I know that they aren't going to scrap anything at this point. But they need to be way better than this to get my attention.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.