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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Big Heart on an Orange Sleeve

Maybe it's just because I watched this movie at a very vulnerable moment with low expectations, but I was shocked to find myself loving Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom


Sincerity and genuine heroism. Above all else, a superhero movie should feature heroism, and far too often in this genre we've gotten what I would call surface-level heroism without the heart--witness especially the DC films of Zack Snyder. 

Yes, this movie is silly and cheesy, but it embraces those qualities and invites you to participate in that silliness. There's a moment where two characters reconcile and seal that reconciliation by shaking hands, and their gauntlets go "clang." But by that point of the film, you KNOW those gauntlets are going to clang, and it's okay because that's the tone this movie sets. 

But beyond the cheese we have a story about the importance of empathy and forgiveness told through the lens of broken families and climate catastrophe. There are no subtle metaphors here, but given the issues presented, I'm fine with that. 

This movie touched me with its aspirational qualities.  Too often, superheroes are really just keepers of the status quo who get involved in senseless fistfights, resulting in tremendous property damage and (presumably) loss of life. There are, of course, battles in this film, but the motivations feel organic and the crises authentic. Is it cheesy to call for a more united world? Is it silly to imagine people working together to fight climate change? 

Maybe what I appreciate most is that Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom isn't cynical; it doesn't try to be profound or gritty. Everything's on the surface--despite the movie being set underwater. 

Say what you will about the uneven quality of the DC Extended Universe films, but the project gave us a handful of good to great movies, and with this one, at least the DCEU ends on a high note.

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