Fixing the Aquaman Movie

Alright folks, this post is for me.

Yeah, I know – if I wanted to write something for myself I should get a journal. Well, I promise by the end of this I’ll turn my rant into a general writing lesson. ‘Cause it’s OK as long as it’s educational, right?

So, I saw Aquaman yesterday. The DC cinematic universe has really been floundering, but the trailers for this movie honestly looked promising. (I’m sorry, I just love superheroes. I’m gullible I guess.)

Honestly, the movie was not terrible – I’d give it a solid “meh.” BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME! And I’m going to break down, right here, what I think could have been done to take it there.

First up, what was good about the movie. There were some solid ideas going into this story – unfortunately, they were strung together with filler and clichés, but they were solid ideas nonetheless. My list of the good things:

  • Aquaman’s parent’s love story

I’ll admit, that was a bit cliché, but this is a superhero movie and they’re allowed a little of it if it fits well enough. And this was a sweet and logical origin story of Aquaman’s existence.

  •  Aquaman taming the giant lava crab and the army of zombie fish monsters. (Awesome!)
  • The bar scene with Aquaman and those dudes asking for his autograph (Funny!)
  • The banter between Aquaman and the red-haired atlantis girl (Wanted more!)
  • Crab centaurs (Because of course!)
  • Atlantians taming and riding water dinosaurs (Duh, dinosaurs!)
  • The basic elements of how Black Manta was integrated into the modern world (I’m a sucker for that sort of thing in general.)
  • Oh, and I can’t forget the:

There’s probably a few other things as well, but you at least get the idea here. And, honestly, the plot at its most basic was a solid start to an enjoyable movie. Aquaman and that red-haired girl (Mira?) are both likeable characters. THIS WAS SO CLOSE TO A GOOD MOVIE!

But it wasn’t. And that really bothers me. My family was not interested in hearing me rant about this on the way home from the theater (Ok, they were quiet as I spoke but I don’t think they were listening per say…) But you are here now! Lean in, eager ear…

Here’s what I think needed to have happened to take the movie to the next level:

  • Figure out the villain’s motivations

One minute Aquaman’s brother was tearing up at the thought he’d killed his betrothed, and the next he was ordering his minions to kill her in cold blood. And then I’m supposed to be happy this flip-flopping psycho reunites with his mommy? Nope!

The brother should have been poorly influenced by his father, and only done terrible things because he truly believed it was best for Atlantis. He should not have taken pleasure in any of it, then he would naturally be relieved to find his mother alive and him no longer having to keep trying to fulfil his dead father’s vision for Atlantis. I would have been happy for that guy.

  • Cut down on the PC pandering.

Yes, pollution and war are bad things. But, how are the Atlantians faulting humans for hunting whales when Ms. Queen Atlantis just goes and eats a dude’s goldfish like sushi and that’s cool and funny? And how are we savages while they still have a monarchy enforced through royals killing each other, and they sacrifice social dissidents to zombie fish monsters? There’s a better reason for the Atlantians to go to war with the surface-dwellers – maybe they want to conquer and then sink the land so that the entire world is underwater? That would make more sense, especially considering the average Atlantian cannot breathe air… (I mean, talk about the 1%: the royal elites making an army go die to conquer land the most of them have no use for.)

After that I would:

  • Create a culture where it is reasonable that a man like Arthur could become king.

Arthur and Mira (I’m just going with it) have a conversation about Arthur becoming king. It goes something like this:

Arthur: I would be a terrible king. I’m reckless and impulsive, and that’s kind of dangerous for a ruler to be.  

Mira: You say you don’t belong in Atlantis, like you feel trapped between two worlds…

No, lady, he said he’s reckless! And he is – that’s part of what makes his character so awesome! You make him not reckless he’s not fun anymore. So, if Arthur is going to retain his charm and still be king of Atlantis, Atlantis needs to be a society were a reckless person would best rule.

Ok, this is the best of my ideas here so get ready:

What are some words that describe the ocean? How about powerful, dangerous, reckless? So, why are a people who live in the ocean so tame and so just like generic medieval Europe? The people of the ocean should be as free and reckless as the ocean – powerful and untamable. Here’s how that conversation should have gone:

Arthur: I would be a terrible king. I’m reckless and impulsive, and that’s kind of dangerous for a ruler to be.

Mira: (Laughs) Maybe for a leader among the surface-dwellers. But we Atlantians are as free as the currents and as untamable as the sea. We are a reckless people.

That would have been so awesome, right? Ok, next:

  • Change the history of the Super-Trident.

I like the Super-Trident. It’s cliché, but expected of a superhero movie and still awesome. But the story of how it came about is unnecessarily cliché, and does not at all reflect the idea of the Atlantis society I’ve just hinted at above. So, here’s how I’d change it:

  • “The Lost City of Atlantis” is only a thing from a land-dwellers perspective. For Atlantians, Atlantis was never lost – they would have no need to ‘explain’ how Atlantis ‘disappeared.’ It’s always been in the same place, it’s only humans who lost sight of it as they could no longer hear the call of the sea. Atlantis would always have been under water, only regular people used to be allowed to visit long ago.
  • The king dude with the Super-Trident would have been greatly beloved, and very much alike in personality to Arthur. However, eventually the king dude’s advisors convinced him to settle down and attempt to grow a rigid, structured city of Atlantis. But, the Atlantians are “as free as the currents and as untamable as the sea” and so that didn’t go over well and led to a long and bloody civil war. It was eventually won by the rigid and strict fellows, and the king dude when off into self-imposed exile (just like in the movie) and locked his Super-Trident away, putting his lava crab monster there to guard it (also like the movie) until one who had “the spirit of the ocean” could come and claim it. (Of course that person would still be Arthur, and he would free the Atlantians from the rigid structure imposed on them by kings past.)

This next one is a bit more minor, but:

  • Change the origin story of the Blank Manta.

Aquaman would not have let that dude’s dad die. It would have taken him 2 seconds to move that torpedo – he would have done it begrudgingly, but he would have done it. The dude’s dad should have just died, unbeknownst to Aquaman, during the submarine raid or something and the dude just unjustly blamed Aquaman for it. They were cutting corners with Arthur’s character just to make sure the plot happened and so he could have a little (totally unnecessary) guilt later on. I’m all for nuanced villains (I mean, I’m writing one) but let Arthur’s brother be the nuance, let Black Manta be the pure bad.

One last thing:

  • Restructure the plot to lean into the comedy and fun action sequences.

Cut the arena fight scene, it was dull and useless and only made me think of Thor:Ragnarok – and Thor and the hulk did it better.

Cut the ship chase scene. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 1 and Thor:Ragnarok both did it better.

Cut all the expositional dialogue. The movie seriously ‘read’ like a first or second draft in that regard. I mean, I swear I was told and shown the same information several times over the course of the thing. Blech. I was so tired of that, when actual important slow scenes were happening I was struggling to care.

Cut and/or restructure the flash backs. Some of them were interesting, some of them were useless. I’d need a second watch of the movie to really know which was which at this point, but still.

This is what I’m thinking the movie should have been structured like:

  • 1st third: a “fish out of water” type story with Mira going on an Indiana Jones-esque archeological adventure on land with Arthur. Mira would have funny misunderstandings of land culture, but come to appreciate it.  
  • 2nd third: a “fish out of water” story again, this time with Arthur going through the ocean and Atlantis and stuff with Mira. This would be exploratory of the ocean world/Atlantian culture, and maybe be spy-esque as they would have to be sneaking around. Arthur would have funny misunderstandings of ocean culture, but would come to appreciate it.
  • 3rd third: the big battle, climax, and conclusion. (Arthur still gets the Super-Trident and defeats his brother and his army in spectacular ways.)

Alright, I think I got that rant out of my system. *whew* What, I promised a lesson at the end of this didn’t I? Just kidding – I remembered, and here it is:

  • DON’T BE TOO QUICK TO PUBLISH YOUR DRAFT!

Yeah, that’s not deep. But it is so true. This movie had so much promise, and the things like the brother-king riding that dinosaur and then those awesome crab-centaur things show me that there were some clever people at work on this story. But they compromised, possibly rushed their story, and filled in gaps with clichés that they didn’t need. Don’t make that same mistake with your manuscript, or you might just get some disgruntled, nobody blogger picking your work apart on the internet. (I know, threatening right?)

Well, what did you think? Did you see Aquaman? Did you like it? Do you have any hope for the DC cinematic universe? (Those Shazam trailers look pretty good… I already told you I’m gullible when it comes to super heroes, remember?) What do you think of my suggested edits? I’d love to talk with you in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Fixing the Aquaman Movie

Add yours

  1. For me, the most egregiously bad thing was the huge war at the end where Aquaman is doing his best to destroy all his subjects, who are simply following their perceived legitimate king. There were plenty of egregiously bad things, but that was the most egregiously bad thing that really ended even vicarious enjoyment of the movie.

    First draft indeed!

    Hate to be a grammar Nazi, but it’s “per se” not “per say.”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: