WHY AQUAMAN DIDN'T WORKI'm a superhero fan. Several times I have loved a superhero movie even though critics have not. For example, I thought, Superman Returns was one of the best Superman movies ever made (despite Jor-El returning from his few years of absence in search of his home planet Krypton quite a bit younger than when he left). I even found something to like in the Batman Versus Superman movie! Which is why I could ignore the many critics who had slammed the latest Aquaman movie.
Most of the superhero characters of DC and Marvel were developed by Jewish creators who infused an almost messianic identity into their superheroes. Aquaman was originally illustrated by Paul Norris and written by Mortimer Weisinger (who was also an editor of the Superman series). Aquaman first appeared in 1941 and was then re-invented to be the king of the lost city of Atlantis in the 1990s (not by Weisinger though). The 2018 movie is built on this storyline. But it has some problems.
SUPERHEROES ARE MEANT TO BE SUPERThe Graeco-Roman gods were fornicating, uncaring, distant, and unreliable. The best superheroes were not. The pre-eminent superhero, Superman, possessed many Christ-like attributes including moral virtue. Their mission was simple: uphold justice and protect the innocent.
Perhaps it's not surprising that in this post-modern world of moral-relativism, the superhero story writers now have our superheroes behaving more like 'bad boys' than exemplars of virtue. If there's any doubt about this, then consider the latest instalment: Aquaman. He's a swearing, hard-drinking, life-taking, super-powered descendent of Neptune. While all this might seem odd, there's more.
As I watched Aquaman I couldn't help but think of the Inkling, the famous pub-based drinking writers' group which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis created the world of Narnia. Tolkien created the world of Middle Earth. Their stories have become classics. This Aquaman story will never be a classic. The worlds of Lewis and Tolkien were mythological worlds where the rules were clear and virtuous. The rules within the Aquaman story are not clear or are the characters virtuous. The struggles within these worlds is not primarily one of power but of good versus evil. The struggle within Aquaman is for power, not about good overcoming evil. The characters within these worlds are relatable. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy enter the world of Narnia and with them so do every other 8, 10, 12, and 14 year old boy and girl. When Frodo is selected to carry the Ring to its destruction, it's not just Bilbo Baggins who befriends him for the journey, we all do. Even though they are hobbits, we relate to them. But in the Aquaman story, there's not much we can relate to. In the mythological worlds of Lewis and Tolkien, there is certain logical consistency. In Aquaman, these underwater breathing people (UBP) need underwater space-ships and harnessed sea-creatures to travel - although they can travel quite effortlessly without them. These UBPs can also breathe air when out of the sea. Yet, when their water-filled face-masks are broken when on the surface, they can't breathe. This inconsistency was confusing. In essence, the thing that makes Lewis's and Tolkien's mythological worlds work, is that they conform to the grand metanarrative, the ultimate story of reality.
Ordinarily at this point in my criticisms, Aquaman purists would protest that I have failed to grasp the finer points of the mythology. But since this version of the myth was only created around 2016 it hasn't really had time to garner such purists. But if there were to be such criticism, I would take issue with such a mythology that lacks a virtuous hero, does not offer hope against evil, is not coherent, and does not conform to the grans metanarrative.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.