Tom Jolliffe looks at Aquaman, and how it dials up the crazy to whole new levels…
Some films are ridiculous. Of those, some are self aware of the sheer lunacy of their concept. Some are not aware of their own ridiculousness. The self aware films can often be a little too self-aware, and then feel like they can do anything, even with little care, and because their tongue is firmly in cheek, think anything goes (Sharknado). ‘So bad it’s good’ is another term. It tends to be those which had the sincerity to make something good, failing dismally, or blissfully unaware of their own brilliant badness (The Room) which are most enjoyable (for me).
In B movie cinema there are often moments which propel plot, or take the protagonist through a situation requiring them to escape danger elaborately. Occasionally these are so ridiculous as to virtually derail all semblance of logic in a film. When something isn’t quite working within that world, and needs a dash of silly (but the top on the shaker falls off and the whole load of silly falls in the pot). This saw a coining of the term ‘Jump the shark’ which originates from an episode of Happy Days where ‘The Fonz’ literally jumps over a shark…in Happy Days… a shark… and of course Indiana Jones escaping nuclear destruction in a fridge.
Aquaman as a comic book hero has spent almost his entire run in DC comics subjected to derision for being completely lame. He’s a gag. A walking punchline. The film goes some way to making him badass, but at the same time also acknowledges that as far as superhero canon, he’s one of the more ludicrous creations. Everything about him and his world is inherently uncool, to a degree that only someone as gruffly badass and sardonically cool as Jason Momoa can play Arthur Curry. They could have clean cut him, made him Superman of the sea, but that would have been totes lame (did I just say totes lame?).
I’ve seen Aquaman now. There came a moment in the film, whilst watching with my brother. He was laughing uncontrollably. He almost soiled himself… I say almost, it’s possible he did. We’d been laughing on/off throughout, sometimes with Aquaman, sometimes at, and sometimes not quite sure, because tonally it’s a mixed bag. The reason he had this moment is that the fourth wall of audience participation had been smashed. I’d come basically because as a Dolph Lundgren aficionado, I had to. Don’t get me wrong, I like Momoa too, but this wouldn’t have been high on my list otherwise…because it’s…well…Aquaman. He just had this moment of realisation that I, approaching 40, was watching this on screen barrage of laser sharks pew pewing each other in an eye blistering haze of colour, in the lucid wet dream of a 12 year old who’s accidentally drunk his granddad’s dusty bottle of Absinthe, because Dolph Lundgren is in the film.
I’m still not sure just how much I liked Aquaman, or even if I hated it a little bit. As I sit and digest and try to comprehend the uncomprehendable, I can only (somewhat begrudgingly) tip my cap to levels of batshit craziness that have never been seen before (and probably won’t again…until Aquaman 2). Visually the film is amazing. I say that as a CGI poo-pooer. I don’t generally like live action films with an over abundance of CG. This, particularly once we dive under the sea, looks dazzling. It’s ridiculously colourful, brilliantly designed and the action sequences are also great throughout (technically, even if you sometimes don’t feel involved in the danger).
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