Before I forget, I did promise to share my thoughts on The Grinch. It was cute and fun, better than the Jim Carey version, not as good as the original, and definitely appealing to kids. I don’t have much more to say about it, really, so on to the main event.
Clash of the Superhero Movies
I love superheros. I’ve been a comic book fan since I was a kid, and it’s awesome that so many of my favorite characters have hit the big screen in great films. With two new offerings in the theater, I would be thrilled to be able to recommend them both…
…but I just can’t. I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse on Thursday, and thought it was a great film that succeeds on so many levels. I saw Aquaman on Friday, and was decidedly underwhelmed. (Critical and fan reactions have been mixed on this one, and a bunch of people in the theater applauded when it was over, so take my opinion for just that: an opinion.)
Let’s get a little more specific:
I’m happy to give Aquaman an unqualified two thumbs up here. The movie is gorgeous, with stunning depictions of the world beneath the sea and some amazing visual effects on land. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, it’s a serious success.
Spider-Man also features great visuals. The animated film shows clear evidence of careful consideration by the filmmakers in terms of character design, settings, action sequences, etc. It takes full advantage of the freedom animation allows, and knocks it out of the park. I really enjoyed the frequent (but not overwhelming) integration of stylistic elements straight out of comic books.
So Aquaman contains an origin story, a hero’s journey, one major villain (and a moderate level bad guy), and some exploration of the fish out of water problem (pun intended).
Into the Spiderverse contains the origin story of a new superhero, issues with family dynamics and growing up, a multi-dimensional threat, three major villains (and a few supporting bad guys), and seven incarnations of Spider-Man.
Given that, it’s really telling that Aquaman manages to feel more convoluted and harder to follow. The issue is that while Spider-Man is carefully paced, controls the flow of information, and makes sure the audience sees situations developing, Aquaman jumps from scene to scene and from action beat to action beat, relying on awkward exposition monologues to fill in the gaps. If your attention wanders for half a second during one of these explanatory moments, be prepared to be confused in an upcoming scene.
Speaking of awkward exposition monologues…they also served as the bulk of the “characterization” in Aquaman. Characters told us why they were doing (or had done, previously, off-screen) certain things, but rarely was a decision, motivation, etc. really explored. Instead, there was a lot more dialogue. And most of the dialogue was really, really awkward.
Spider-Man, on the other hand, had great characters, especially Miles Morales, who really shines as the protagonist. The characters made sense and were easy to relate to, and I felt invested in their goals and struggles.
Let’s Wrap This Up
I had a few more thoughts in mind, but I really don’t want to belabor the point. Although Aquaman looked great, I felt the script was overstuffed and underdeveloped, and after a while I honestly got bored.
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse was a definite win for me (a comic book geek), and my best friend (who’s a casual fan of the movies) also thought it was great. If you’re heading to the movies any time soon, my advice is to choose the webs over the water.
Agree? Disagree? Have your own movie recommendations? Just want to say hi? Leave a comment below.