A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… Well, not a galaxy, exactly, but a variety of undersea kingdoms. Aquaman, the next anticipated DC movie, hit the big screen a few weeks ago. In watching it I experienced many moments when I felt I was watching something out of a different genre. As the credits began to roll, I thought “this movie wasn’t that bad for a Star Wars prequel”. For better or for worse, the feel of Aquaman fits in perfectly with the common tropes of any good (or not so good) Star Wars film.
Stop right here if you haven’t seen the film yet. If you want the spoiler-free version, check out Nick Kush’s review here. The following article WILL HAVE SPOILERS.
The film starts in a small rural setting where an old moisture farmer — oops, I mean a fisherman and lighthouse wickie — meets a woman who is essentially from another world and has magical abilities. The two live a montaged happy life and raise a young boy named Arthur. One day, however, mysterious soldiers wearing white armor and toting energy weapons storm their quiet life. Arthur’s mother Atlanna decides that she poses too great a risk to her family and hands herself over.
We first see Arthur as an adult when he rescues a submarine crew from pirates led by Black Manta. Arthur then experiences a brief (but essential to any Star Wars film) scene in a pub. He subsequently finds himself immersed in an adventure that spans several realms. In keeping with the typical Star Wars approach to planets, each realm has distinctly different features. Perhaps most notable of these realms is Atlantis itself, an enormous undersea city with submarines that look very similar to airships traveling along designated airways through Coruscant’s skyline.
Technological Blend of Past and Future
When Arthur battles his brother Orm in the arena (in Atlantis, not Geonosis) I began making connections between the two franchises. Arthur and Orm use elegant melee weapons from a more civilized age (and yes, we know from a flashback sequence that a past age was indeed more civilized). Their community has multiple energy-based ranged weapons ranging in all sizes from cannons to sidearms. Yet despite this fact, the fight still revolves around the art of wielding a lightsaber — I mean, a trident. The fight even concludes with a high-speed, high-intensity getaway chase in Jedi-spaceship-shaped submarines. Arthur and his rescuer Mera take a quick detour from Star Wars to hang out with Pixar’s fishy characters Marlin and Dory inside a humpback whale. Luckily, Arthur speaks Whale even better than Dory does.
Arthur and Mera travel across Tatooine (I mean the Sahara) and delve into an ancient crypt to find a clue that could lead them to a legendary trident that would make Arthur strong enough to defeat Orm. This clue subsequently leads them to a small Mediterranean town where they face off with Arthur’s adversary Black Manta. Interestingly, Manta’s hatred of Arthur came about as a result of Arthur’s execution of Manta’s father. Similarly, Boba Fett’s rise as the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy stemmed directly from Mace Windu murdering his father, Jango Fett. (Side note: Jango Fett himself was in Aquaman. Watch the film closely.) Boba Fett and Black Manta are strikingly similar in their origins, equipment, and fighting styles.
The Climactic Showdown
After besting Manta, Arthur and Mera travel to the earth’s core… which is made of water? In other words, they went to Naboo, which always has a bigger fish (in this case, the Karathen, a mystical sea creature of enormous proportions, perhaps equivalent to those of a Sarlacc).
Finally, when Arthur acquires the fabled trident from the earth’s core and returns to Atlantis, Orm has gone to war with the undersea mud kingdom in an action-packed battle sequence heavily reminiscent of the Battle of Geonosis, the beginning of the Clone Wars. Of course, this battle culminates in one final lightsaber/trident battle between Arthur and Orm, in which Arthur finally demonstrates his newly developed abilities and overcomes his brother.
Can We Still Make Original Movies?
Throughout Aquaman, I could not stop making comparisons to Star Wars, Marvel, and even Finding Nemo at one point. This left me with an interesting question: is it possible to make a completely original and unique movie at this point in the game?
To be frank, I think that the answer is no. No matter how well a movie is written, certain tropes, plot elements, and character dynamics in any modern movie have almost certainly been implemented in a previous movie or TV show. However, I think something that can be accomplished is crafting a film that draws its audience in to the point that they don’t take the time to draw comparisons in their head.
For example, when I watched Thor: Ragnarok, I did not stop once to compare the arena scene to the scenes in Gladiator. Rather, I remained caught up in the action the whole time. However, in the Aquaman arena scene, I immediately thought of Thor: Ragnarok. I believe that while no new movie can ever be fully original, it is still possible to create such compelling movies that an audience does not draw connections to other movies until well after the new film’s magic has worked its wonders.
Still a Decent Movie
I want to be clear: I did thoroughly enjoy watching Aquaman, and I would recommend it to a friend. However, I enjoyed it much for the same reason I enjoy a Star Wars movie. It’s fast-paced, has fun action sequences, features cool alien-ish technology and exotic landscapes, and has a plot that feels just a little too convenient. Furthermore, while I enjoyed the film, it did not capture me enough to immerse me fully in its depths. Rather, it left me drawing parallels to other prior films the entire time. This did detract from my overall enjoyment of the film, but I would still recommend it.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Aquaman? Do you think original concepts can still be unearthed? Comment down below!
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