AQUAMAN. Very strong drugs taken in poor company

“Aquaman” is an experience in its pure form.

Jakub Koisz

11 October 2023

In the case of “weird” movies, sometimes it means “good.” Strange are Mad Max: Fury Road or the first Guardians of the Galaxy because they gallop as their creators wish, nothing restrains them, and the constant stream of creativity is not blocked by any producer’s slap on the wrist. When you have a good helmsman and a full sack of cash, you can feel confident, even on Hollywood waves. James Wan’s Aquaman has just that feel – a smiling child born of love but slightly wobbly.

After the premiere, the internet circulated the soundtrack, especially Pitbull covering the song Africa by Toto, and the scene in which it appeared illustrates the tone of Aquaman – things just happen here. There may be a conscious mockery of politically engaged blockbusters like Black Panther; Wan’s spectacle offers no commentary in a similar style. It’s a story about a guy whose father is a lighthouse keeper, and his mother is an underwater queen of Atlantis, a man composed of two worlds and a hundred other heroes. And then this person has to reclaim his throne, the underwater one, surrounded by guards wielding plasma shooters. Along the way, you have to fight, jump on rooftops, swim, gain allies, enemies, ride a few giant sea horses and crabs, mess with your inner ear, watching underwater, pulsating fluorescent cities, and above all, deliver a ton of amusing exposition. It should be noted – perhaps unnecessarily because Aquaman consists of components borrowed from many other adventure films. Obtain a weapon, reclaim the throne, avenge the mother, give the bad guy a thrashing. Been there. Seen that. Although this kid is doing it on his own, even pushing away from the DCEU (we only hear a small mention of the adventures of the Justice League), sometimes he falls on his back, pretending that nothing happened. Jason Momoa’s pearly smile is very helpful in this process. The merits of this spectacle are based on a constant escalation of tension and the execution of visual surprises. What don’t we have here? Mysterious underwater artifacts, treasures guarded by monster creatures, arena fights surrounded by lava, submarine chases, epic battles between sharks with lasers, desert civilizations, romantic scenes straight out of classic Disney animations…

And also Dolph Lundgren, who is somewhat confused by the fact that in the role of the king of the underwater state, he probably never had the chance to stand on a set that isn’t a green screen. It’s much more enjoyable to watch Jason Momoa in this setting, embodying the titular hero. He plays with ease and flair, and above all, a sense of convention. He knows that it’s not the time to create shades of complicated humanity for his character, so he tries to be what he seems in interviews – happy, amused by the wonder around him and hiding that “I’m a gentle giant, but don’t piss me off” attitude. This fits perfectly into the Shakespearean elements of the plot but leaves the impression that sometimes there’s not enough “mana” in all this underwater “aqua.” The second plan is pleasing to the eye – Amber Heard is nothing more than a little mermaid who can give a half-turn (and at the same time a carrier of very cringe-worthy romantic scenes), emotionally transparent Nicole Kidman, whom we see in both today’s and digitally rejuvenated versions, and also interesting because it again reveals lightness and warmth, Willem Dafoe. Somewhere in this multitude of characters, Patrick Wilson suffered, embodying the well-thought-out Orm, the main adversary, as you can see a touch of boyish confusion in this character, which always nuances the villain. Why the main adversary? Because the film has another villain, Black Manta, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, but reviews mention him probably only out of politeness. It is not known why, due to the mentioned congestion of attractions, he was not kept for a completely different occasion.

In one of the scenes, when Aquaman and Mara arrive at the Black Land, the mentioned Pitbull song starts playing at full volume. It becomes very strange – the characters start bantering, and the whole thing turns into a spiritual successor to The Mummy and The Scorpion King. From this moment on, with a solid, memorable soundtrack, toys and blocks are scattered on the carpet, which somehow miraculously fit together in cinematography, and if this wonderfully looking but narratively silly film does not receive an Oscar for special effects direction, there is no justice in this world. James Wan’s Aquaman is like a very strong drug taken in very poor company – anecdotes will remain in memory, pictures will too, but unfortunately also the question, why all of this? Perhaps only for the sake of boosting endorphins and visual orgasm. An experience in its pure form. Without characters, without depth, but with heart and surprisingly – immersion.