Plenty to laugh about in the car home from Branford Regal Theaters last night after a family trip to see “Aquaman.” But my sea-fever makes me susceptible even to the underwater glimmer of the DC logo in the opening credits. So I’m going list the things I enjoyed about this $200 billion dollar and two-and-a-half hour romp.
- The first spoken words, in voice-over from Jason Mamoa, were “Jules Verne,” and then the quotation, “Put two ships in the open sea, without wind or tide, and at last they will come together.” The phrase glosses the Atlantan queen-lighthouse keeper romance of Aquaman’s parents, but I was happy just to get Verne’s name up front where it belongs.
- Pollution: The bad brother / Ocean Master Orm, played by Patrick Wilson, wants to attack the surface in revenge for centuries of pollution. At one point he causes the sea to vomit up plastic and sunken warships on all the world’s beaches. He’s not the good guy, but it’s not a bad idea.
- The movie opens on a remote lighthouse on the Maine Coast, and a running vision imagines this place as a maritime edge, jutting out into the rocky coastline. Maybe my favorite CGI spectacle moment saw a massive wave surge over this coast, with our guy Aquaman trying to drive his father’s pickup truck ahead of the storm, with his sleeping-it-off father snoozing in the passanger seat. Spoiler alert: they don’t make it, but Dad ends up OK.
- Among many A-list actors in what doesn’t always feel like an A-list movie was Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanta, undersea royalty who flees from an arranged marriage, falls in love with the lighthouse keeper, has a half-human son, and then returns when she realizes she can only keep her human family safe by going back to Atlantis. Why she leaves her son on land is never clear — but in the end she comes back to the lighthouse keeper, which makes a nice twist on the siren/selkie stories of feminine sea-creatures who lure sailors to their doom.
- Jason Mamoa’s a fun actor and physical specimen, though I’ve always seen him as a bit too musclebound to be a swimmer. They kept his comic side mostly reined in by melodrama and action scenes, though I did enjoy a goofy moment where what looked to be a developing bar fight became instead a series of selfie poses with burly locals and the “Fish-man.” But mostly I loved Mamoa’s tattoos, which make me think of my favorite maritime Pacific islander, Queequeg. As the Captain says when looking at the body art, “Oh, devilish tantalization of the gods!”
- It’s hard not to love the giant crab-god Karathen, voiced by Julie Andrews, who joins up with the good guys after Aquaman secures the ancestral Trident. I admit I wanted the ocean-liner sized beastie to burst out into the crab-song from Moana, “Shiny,” and in fact at various points I started thinking that a Moana-Aquaman mashup might really be an excellent thing. “I was a drab little crab once…”
- King Arthur of Atlantis! The plotline was basically sword from the stone-familiar, which maybe supports longstanding fantasies about the sea being the “English national chemical” (Ezra Pound) or England having some special connection to the ocean (Joseph Conrad). Or maybe they could not think of a more original plot? But in any case — what’s not to like?
Maybe I’m just in the holiday spirit, but I’m tempted to go see it again.
Happy watery holidays to all!