quarantine stream aquaman

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Aquaman

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Now, HBO Go

The Pitch: James Wan takes Aquaman, the superhero who talks to fish, and makes a go-for-broke, over-the-top, wacky-as-hell comic book movie with humor, heart, and impressive world-building. Also, the title card is made up of fish.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: To hell with dark and serious superheroes. And forget about the MCU’s paint-by-numbers approach. Aquaman is a great reminder that it’s okay to get a little silly with these things and have fun. Also, did I mention the title card is made up of fish?

When it comes to big Hollywood comic book blockbusters these days, I happily embrace Aquaman over pretty much everything released by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not that Aquaman is a better movie than what comes out of the MCU. No, what makes James Wan‘s Aquaman so damn memorable is how unafraid it is of being big and weird. Unlike the Marvel movies, which all seem to have the same bland, Walmart parking lot color palette, Aquaman is bright and colorful. And yes, silly.

As a character, Aquaman has always been a bit of a joke. Zack Snyder attempted to subvert this by making the DCEU Aquaman, as played by Jason Momoa, a badass bro who chugs beers and says things like, “My man!” Wan’s take on the character has some of those traits, but he’s also less concerned with making Aquaman look “cool” than Snyder was. In Wan’s hands, Momoa’s Aquaman is kind of a dope. But he’s a lovable dope – it’s easy to be won over by Momoa’s performance.

But beyond Momoa, Aquaman has an entire world to showcase. After a wacky opening in which Nicole Kidman – as Aquaman’s mom – eats a goldfish and then fights a bunch of dudes with a trident, the movie gets to the real meat and potatoes: taking Aquaman down to Atlantis. He’s an outsider in this undersea kingdom, and he’s at odds with his half-brother, King Orm, played by a delightfully hammy Patrick Wilson. Orm wants to bring a war to the surface world, and Aquaman has to stop him. And this set up lets Wan go wild, creating a weird, trippy, Atlantis where people ride seahorses and an octopus plays some war drums. And if that’s not enough for you, there are also Lovecraftian sea monsters thrown in.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Aquaman is a “so bad it’s good” movie. Because it’s not bad at all – it’s immensely entertaining. But the film is also so lighthearted – even when it’s trying to be serious – that it ends up being somewhat light and fluffy. It’s exactly the type of distraction you need right now – one that transports you to another world beneath the waves, where Patrick Wilson yells a lot and Willem Dafoe cashes a paycheck.

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