The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – how to make “Aquaman” better. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!
Was “Aquaman” a flawless film? No. Was it still a fun movie? Absolutely.
With over $1 billion at the box office (and still counting), “Aquaman” was a much-needed shot of adrenaline for the DC cinematic/extended universe, commonly known as the DCEU.
The DCEU has navigated through some choppy waters over the past several years, earning mixed responses to major films like “Batman v. Superman,” “Justice League,” and “Suicide Squad.” However, the franchise finally appears to have found smoother sailing with “Wonder Woman” and “Aquaman.” (Also, I’d apologize for all the water-related puns in this blog but if you’re writing an article about “Aquaman,” I feel like you pretty much have to include some water puns…right?).
Anyway, even though I had a good time watching “Aquaman,” there are still several ways it could have been a stronger film. Here are my three picks for how to make Aquaman better!
1. Let’s talk about the villain.
“Aquaman” actually has two main villains — Black Manta and Orm, Arthur Curry’s half brother. Black Manta was awesome; the look of the character was very cool, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II gave a good performance. I don’t really have any complaints about Black Manta, aside from wishing he could have played an even bigger role in the plot. Though I’m sure part of that involves wanting to save the character’s main arc for the sequel.
I would have liked to see more depth from Orm’s character, though. Overall, he kinda feels like a missed opportunity. While I like Patrick Wilson as an actor and his performance is okay, I wish the script had given him more to do besides just chewing scenery. They could have really delved into Orm’s feelings about his mother’s exile and her ties to the surface.
Sometimes I feel like I overuse the term “nuance” when talking about movies (it’s not an Ashley Pauls review unless the word “nuance” pops up at least once!). But giving Orm more internal conflict definitely would have added nuance to the character. I always love a good anti-hero and/or sympathetic villain.
I appreciated that the film didn’t kill off Orm in a big “boss battle” at the end, and he could potentially play a really fascinating role in the sequel as Arthur embraces his destiny as king and tries to maintain peace between two worlds — land and sea.
2. Tidy up the middle section.
The movie caught my attention in the beginning with the story of how Arthur’s parents met (I loved Temuera Morrison’s performance as Arthur’s father, and how he keeps returning to the dock to wait for Arthur’s mother, despite not knowing if she will ever return). The movie also definitely held my attention at the end with a delightfully bonkers underwater battle that featured Jason Momoa riding a kaiju-type creature into a battle involving armies of crabs and sharks.
The middle section was where things dragged a little, at least for me. A LOT of stuff happens — Arthur duels Orm, Arthur goes on a quest for a trident in the desert, Arthur and Mera fight Black Manta in Italy, Arthur finds a hidden world underneath the sea where his mother has been exiled, etc. While all these scenes do play a role in the film’s resolution, the movie’s middle section gets a bit convoluted. I feel like there’s some room for condensing or streamlining the plot here, maybe shaving off some of the runtime as well.
3. Cut out the romantic subplot (for now).
I love a good romantic subplot in a movie, as long as it feels authentic to the story. For example, the relationship between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor added depth and emotion to that film. And of course the Star Wars original trilogy just wouldn’t be the same without the banter between Han and Leia.
However, the romance between Aquaman and Mera felt a little forced here. I actually really enjoyed seeing them work together and fight side-by-side; I just wasn’t really feeling a lot of chemistry between them in terms of a romantic relationship.
I would have preferred to save that plot development for the sequel, and go for more of a slow build over time. There’s enough going on in the film already, and their relationship might have felt more natural if it had been given more time and space to develop.