One sequence in particular as Momoa and Amber Heard (Mera) have to swim through a swarm of zombie fish (not sure how else to describe them…yeah, zombie fish) is brilliantly realised and actually gripping. I also loved the score, which underwater particularly, tips a cap to 80’s synth soundtracks from the likes of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. Then you go back to the inconsistency issue and the accompanying soundtrack songs, including a hideous cover of Toto’s Africa, just slash the musical output of Aquaman right down a center between superb (score) and dreadful (soundtrack).
This film has Dolph (with ginger beard and persistently floaty hair) riding a sea horse. It’s got Mary Poppins voicing a sea monster Kraken-type thing. It has an Octopus drumming. There’s a crab man giving a heroic death speech (20 seconds after he’s introduced). It’s got some of the most ridiculously awful lines ever. Sometimes they know it, and kind of wink, other times the film is trying to be a bit more sincere, and it’s a laugh ‘at’ kind of a moment. Tonally this is all over the shop, but kind of adds to an odd, goofy and unique charm. It floats between underwater Naked Gun, and underwater Tommy Wiseau sea epic, as if produced by Cannon Films.
There are some ‘high brow’ actors who look perpetually uncomfortable reciting the dialogue. Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard (who’s largely an indie actress of late) and Willem Dafoe all seem a bit uncomfortable. Patrick Wilson is a little campy as the villain, but a little bland (I always find him a little bland if I’m honest…). He could have dialled it up a bit I think, just let the tide overwhelm him. Ironically, my boy Dolph, who critics would pick out as the weak link of a cast of thesps, is actually most at ease in this. Years of training in films like Masters of the Universe (Wilson could have learned a lot from Frank Langella’s Skeletor), Universal Soldier and countless others. He’s a B movie specialist. He should have given Defoe et al classes. Momoa too has had plenty of training between being in a range of TV (Game of Thrones), to being an action star (Conan).
It’s exhausting to say the least, but it’s almost astonishing just how ridiculous the film gets. So much is thrown on screen with all the subtlety of a toe capped punt to the bollocks. Nicolas Cage, having recently received critical praise for yet another cult classic in the making, Mandy, essentially said (to paraphrase) ‘oh, you think Mandy is my craziest film?…hold my beer.’ His next is apparently his craziest. But I would love to see just whether anyone can top the insanity of Aquaman. The daftness of it. Where every line sounds ludicrous. It’s an astonishing exercise in impish excess. James Wan definitely cracked his knuckles aggressively before launching into this. On a further note I will say on the basis of this, Wan helming the off/on/off reboot of Masters of the Universe would be a great choice. Aquaman is as bright, colourful, fun, but also clunky and awkward as the old He-Man cartoons were.
Given the box office and fan reception, despite the lack of narrative cohesion and structure, the jumpy nature of the editing, the bizarre and self-aware (or not) musical montage portions, it seems modern audiences (particularly I would wager, young boys) don’t mind this kind of thing. I grew up in an era of daft fantasy films and loved them. I’ve also seen this film being compared with Saturday morning cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s. That certainly rings true. So yeah, maybe dialling the crazy so far up that you pull your knob off (take that as you will) could become a game of ‘hold my beer’ between studios. Who’s next? Who wants a shot at the title?
What did you make of Aquaman? Is it the craziest film ever made? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see… http://tomjolliffe.wordpress.com/films/