Aquaman rocks. Also, the future of superhero flicks.

Summary: I watched Aquaman. I saw a good flick (here’s my review) – and the future of superhero films. It will blow your minds today. In ten years you will say this was obvious.

Poster for "Aquaman" (2018)

Let’s do the obvious first. Aquaman is a fun flick. The cinematography is excellent. The undersea cities show a level of imagination seldom seen in films, as does the the giant battle scene at the end. It gives us glimpses of the undersea world more stunning than anything in Avatar.

The acting is good. Jason Momoa perfectly plays Aquaman, giving him a depth seldom seen in the comics. Amber Heard nicely portrays Princess Mera (in a fun interview. Heard does not understand the genre; she thinks it is serious drama with more than cardboard characters). The big bads are done with skillful intensity by Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

Amber Heard as Mera

The music is heavy-handed, without a trace of subtly (perhaps that’s what American audiences want). The script is mediocre, giving the actors little to work with.

Watch it as you should all modern superhero films. Do not ask “why” about anything. Stuff happens. There are lots of well-timed explosions. The viewers get information from crude expositions, not the natural flow of the action. The tropes are those you have seen scores or hundreds of times. A guy’s coming of age story. The hero’s journey. The hero and big bad fight at the start – the hero gets his ass kicked. They fight at the end – with (no spoilers!) XXX winning. The well-balanced, brilliant, beautiful girl falls in love with the big strong doofus. (There is zero chemistry between the guy and gal in Aquaman. Dude, she’s marrying you because you’re the King!)

Aquaman closely follows the hero’s journey – the great monomyth in which a hero goes on an adventure, encountered a crisis, wins a victory, and then comes home changed into a new man (there are 10 -20 steps to the journey). Joseph Campbell described this in his great work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I felt that I had seen this film a thousand times before. In a sense, I had. Also, must every action film end with two guys beating on each other?

I saw Aquaman in IMAX. The big screen was nice, although I am uncertain if it was worth the extra money.

Who Is Your Hero?

The secret: how superhero films will evolve

“Please let us continue the tradition of telling stories about men who proudly don’t care about anything thrust into positions of power and authority purely by dint of birthright. I mean, as long as they have some smart, dedicated, noble-minded women around to support them and guide them and show them the way to wise manhood, that’s fine, right? Like, maybe some women who have been working toward whatever lofty goals the man will eventually ‘achieve’ even though he’s just arrived on the scene and, as previously noted, couldn’t give a shit about the things they will now step aside and let him take all the credit for.”

— “Deep blah sea” by MaryAnn Johanson at Flickfilosopher. She nails it.

How many films have you seen where the woman is far better – in most or all ways (especially intelligence) – than the male lead?

  • Princess Lea would have made a better Jedi than her twin brother Luke, who was a doofus at the start.
  • In Ant-Man and the Wasp, the Wasp was stronger both intellectually and morally than Ant Man.
  • In Black Panther, T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri, would have made a better Black Panger (ruler of Wakanda) than T’Challa.
  • The nameless Valkyrie is an Einstein compared to Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. – and would better rule the survivors of Asgard.
  • Wonder Woman rightly says in Justice League, her partners are like children to her.
  • Mera would make a better ruler of Atlantis than Aquaman. She kicks ass with the best of them – with no weapons, simple weapons, or using her magic powers. And she is smart.

In all of these films, there is a moment in which the female lead visibly wonders “why am I not running this show?” Look at their plots. The big male heroes (and often the villains) are guys with too much testosterone, thinking with their balls and their fists, whose motives a 16-year old girl would consider crude. The bad King of Atlantis is a moron. It does not occur to his testosterone-poisoned brain to reveal Atlantis to the surface world – and trade their superior tech for a cleaner ocean. Like most dumb-ass superhero protagonists, Aquaman stumbles his way to success without a glimmer of intelligence (except for one scene totally out-of-character with the rest of the film – in which he shows extraordinary knowledge of ancient history).

Do not assume that the Social Justice Warriors who run Hollywood produce these unaware. Unawoke. They show us a world ruled by toxic masculinity. Fortunately, there are glimmers of a better future world. For example, in films and on TV men almost never initiate kisses. Momoa’s acting tour de force is Aquaman, the brew-swilling bruiser,  bewildered – like a shy virgin (what do I do now?) – when Mera kisses him. Women initiate kisses in films and TV. This must baffle teenage boys, future incels, waiting – politely, respectfully – in vain for girls to kiss them.

The solution comes, film by film. The Black Widow. The Wasp. Wonder Woman. Captain Marvel. These heroines are practically perfect in every way. Well suited (and coiffed) to lead testosterone-poisoned male heroes..

To see the future of super-hero films, look to their history in comics. The Wasp takes over the Avengers (Ant Man is an abuser; Iron Man an alcoholic). Storm takes over the X-Men (Cyclops becomes a dick). Shuri becomes queen of Wakanda. Maria Hill becomes director of SHIELD (naturally, since in the films she seems better suited to lead than Nick Fury – who alternates between stupid and evil).

Watching this evolution in films, a new generation of children will be woke. Girls will become leaders. Boys – squished by school, often drugged if they refuse to comply – will learn their place in the new America.

The trailer

For more information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all film reviews, reviews of films about DC comics, posts about heroes, and especially these …

  1. “Passengers” – see it because the critics hate it.
  2. See Solo, a Star Wars film that says much about America.
  3. Incredibles 2, a Father’s Day gift from Disney.
  4. See “Constantine” – challenging your ideas about God and the good.
  5. Mary Poppins shows us how we’ve changed since 1964.

Do we have to come back and kick your asses to make you into men?

Heroes from "The Alamo"
Heroes from The Alamo.

 

20 thoughts on “Aquaman rocks. Also, the future of superhero flicks.

  1. Another interesting trope to keep a lookout for: The man (in earlier, better times, he’d have been the stoic hero) who loses emotional control and almost (or actually) beats someone to death either with his bare hands or a blunt instrument.

    Ideally best done while a woman eventually succeeds in getting through to him to pull the raging testosterone monster off his victim so he can fall back panting, confused and begin to reflect on the violent monster that resides in all men…

    1. Steve,

      I remember being shocked while watching Mr. Incredible beat up his smaller weaker boss (in the first film), putting him in the hospital. Why didn’t he go to jail?

      What are other examples of that trope?

    2. Captain America coming close to using his shield to behead Iron Man. It was the first time I sat up and thought, hang on, this is just mad. Capt. America, Mr Self control Mr Decency, a man who wouldn’t swear, so fit to be a ruler that he could *almost* wield Thor’s hammer, but yet, inside him lurks the mad testosterone monster… If he’s not safe to be with, then *no* man is safe to be with.

      Chiwetel Ejiofor in “Secret In Their Eyes” having been the calm, caring methodical investigator becomes the testosterone monster during an interrogation.

      The ‘Doc Durant’ character in ‘Hell On Wheels’ beats an enemy to a bloody pulp in a complete loss of self control.

      I should take notes, it’s always so difficult to remember specific instances…

  2. Good recommendation. Any plan to see the Spider-Man one? I’m weighing which to see myself after Christmas.

    There has been an exception in the Marvel films for Captain America, who has not seemed to have any flaws other than a surfeit of virtue. I have always wondered why people accepted that for him but not for Superman. My running theory has been that people can comprehend a good person, but not a good powerful person – and Superman, of course, is the sine qua non of a powerful person, while Captain America is only a few arms’ lengths past an Olympic athlete.

    1. SF,

      “Any plan to see the Spider-Man one?”

      The plot sounds dumb (to me). Lots of spiderpeople?

  3. Yep women run everything and no more role models for little boys. Women become masculine and men become feminine. I wonder how it will turn out?

    1. Sven,

      There is a lot of macho posturing about the reaction to successful Fourth Wave feminism (seeking superiority). The Great Day Will Come When Men Arise And Violently (Ug, Ug) Beat Up The Women Who Oppress Them!

      For those that prefer reality to fantasy, I see only two paths. One involves cohesion and organization (which in the past came naturally to men):

      1. Men standing together can end the gender wars.
      2. A surprise end to the gender wars: men stand together.

      As for the second path – nature abhors a vacuum: Conversions to Islam will reshape the West. The West’s future was clearly seen by Sayyid Qutb when he studied in 1949 at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, Colorado. He became an Egyptian intellectual and Islamist (1906 – 1966). The “Architect of Global Jihad.” See the story here (in the second half of the post).

  4. So the future is female. Everyone is insisting on this so strongly. Well a sad goodbye to innovation then, because there will be absolutely none coming from our new leaders

    1. John,

      “So the future is female.”

      NO! I see only two paths. “The Future is Female” is not one of those. The first involves cohesion and organization (which in the past came naturally to men):

      1. Men standing together can end the gender wars.
      2. A surprise end to the gender wars: men stand together.

      There is a second path, because nature abhors a vacuum: Conversions to Islam will reshape the West. The West’s future was clearly seen by Sayyid Qutb when he studied in 1949 at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, Colorado. He became an Egyptian intellectual and Islamist (1906 – 1966). The “Architect of Global Jihad.” See the story here (in the second half of the post).

    2. I was ‘agree and amplifying’ there, so not too serious about it. I can’t see how the future will be female when they have shown a stunning lack of ability to innovate, build, fabricate or problem solve. All I’ve seen from females who have already ‘led’ is that they go straight back to the well of feminist indignation. They see leadership positions as an opportunity to address imagined female inequities. Margaret Thatcher excepted.

      1. John,

        Thank you for the explanation!

        The most common responses by guys to posts about the gender wars are macho fantasy (me Tarzan, live alone in the jungle with my animal friends) and surrender/defeatism. Any variety from those are appreciated!

  5. “The Great Day Will Come When Men Arise And Violently (Ug, Ug) Beat Up The Women Who Oppress Them!”

    I haven’t heard anyone claiming that, but you may be keeping closer track of some of those sorts of discussions than I am. I tend to think of feminism as a luxury good that society can afford (Or thinks it can afford) rather a lot of at the moment. I’ll point out though that in event that Islam turns out to be the Final Solution of the Feminism Problem that some version of that is more or less what’s going to happen. At the very least, feminists won’t be able to call on the government’s enforcers to provide them with legal coercion and muscle anymore.

    And I think that Islam may well be the Final Solution, at least in Europe.

  6. While I admire the Editor’s take on this (as in his gleaming review) of — yet another superhero; I have a cognitive crisis with the genre:

    Super-Heroes! What a concept.
    A viable study subject: “Cult of superheroes as a reflection on social injustice.”

    A quote from Smithsonian:
    “At their best, superhero origin stories inspire us and provide models of coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose. (Wearing a cape or tights is optional.)”
    (There was no “at their worst” — well, typical of the mainstream BS.)

    Even if one tends to ignore most of this “cultural phenomenon,” and while yet another kind appears, one just try to relate the old ones to it and…; one may became tired of that endeavor, however entertaining.

    What the hell was wrong with Jesus? Is it really that simple: “… turn the other cheek!”? The virtue of suppressing one’s natural response is not associated with real strength any longer. So, as these sorry replacement models became the real-life options; our super abilities applied abundantly to avenge anything our pitiful cabal of witches declares as “unacceptable,” demonstrated for generations, had done what exactly? These instant gratifications just diluted the meaning of the real strength to the point that arbitrary use of nuclear weapons seems acceptable, even desirable (as of late 2018 CE).

    No, I don’t condone the concept of Super Heroes, I deplore them!

  7. It is interesting to me how Batman, at least in Nolan’s trilogy, does not follow this trope at all.

    Bruce Wayne is a self-directed individual that seeks mastery over his mind and body in order to strike out against the criminality and corruption that took his parents away from him.

    Despite being born into wealth, he doesn’t have any sort of birthright when it comes to being a hero and he effectively earns the mantle of Batman by his own will.

    Further, he forms partnerships with others because he is aware of his limitations and thus avoids the trap of merely being a savior, seeking instead to become a catalyst for change in Gotham, a change led not by himself but by ordinary citizens and lawful authorities.

    For me Nolan’s Batman represents a masculine force that is tempered, disciplined and mature, rather than the brutish caricature of manhood Hollywood often presents us with.

    Contrast Nolan’s Batman to Zack Snyder’s Batman who is paranoid, reckless, full of violent rage, a borderline alcoholic, and is stopped from murdering Superman only because of a last minute intervention by Lois.

    1. Dave,

      Nicely said. Batman is an exception in the superhero literature. More than the usual heroic amateur (e.g., Zoro), but without the blessings of the gods (e.g., unearned superpowers).

      “Smallville”, at least in the first season, was also a bit different. Clark Kent was different not just because of his powers, but also in his discipline to not abuse them – and to use them to help others.

      Both have useful lessons for us, unlike most of these stories.

    2. It’s interesting you mention Smallville because I do remember the show was different in the early seasons before the killed off Johnathan Kent.

      I loved the way he was portrayed as a traditionally strong father that despite trying to raise a superkid, was nonetheless succeeding in teaching him hard work, humility and responsibility.

      Contrast that with Man of Steel, where Johnathan Kent teaches his son to stay in the shadows, even forcing him to sit back and do nothing while a tornado kills him and who knows how many others.

      The result is an alienated, loner Clark Kent who only becomes superman out of pure chance and “destiny” when coming across the kryptonian spaceship.

      Even in superhero stories, fathers and how they raise their children matter.

  8. Larry, what you’re describing isn’t cinematic progress, it’s regress. At the center of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is character development: learning from failures and overcoming shortcomings to become the hero. In this case, Luke Skywalker was the ideal hero because you can see the arc of his growth from the beginning to the end of the trilogy. At the end he isn’t just a stronger fighter: he has emotional maturity and confidence that were earned.

    Compare this to every Strong Female Protagonist in modern cinema, who have no faults or shortcomings to overcome and are already perfect from the outset. Rey from the new Star Wars begins with all the magic powers that Luke had to earn, but that makes her simply a boring power fantasy. This is the nature of Young-Adult fiction: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, the new Star Wars: they feature already-perfect protagonists for teenagers to live vicariously through, rather than developing characters that adults can relate to. That’s what Hollywood is embracing with these perfect female characters: easily relatable power fantasies.

    1. Jaquio,

      “what you’re describing isn’t cinematic progress, it’s regress.”

      Old films are mirror showing who we were. Current films are a mirror in which we can see who we are and who we are becoming. Changes in the mirror’s image are not progress or regress. They show how we are changing.

      “Luke Skywalker was the ideal hero because you can see the arc of his growth from the beginning to the end of the trilogy.”

      Remakes are especially useful mirrors. As you note, the contrast between Luke and Rey shows how our ideal hero has changed. Luke works to evolve. Rey’s power is like a woman’s beauty – it just is.

      Another perspective is in the 1964 Mary Poppins vs. this years Returns. The original was about the father’s growth, with the key point being his extraordinary courage when defending his children to the Board of Directors. His sorrow afterwards expresses the high price he paid for it. And then we see how spirit is contagious: he got it from Poppins, and the other bankers got it from him. What a powerful ending.

      In Returns the family discovers an inheritance, followed by a magic day at the park. How is this inspiring? Like the new Star Wars, there is no character arc in any meaningful sense.

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