If you know me a little, you might be surprised at what I am going to say. If you don’t know me, I can tell you that I am a country girl who paints her toenails, that I love staring at a full moon through the trees on a clear night, that I have 22 ridiculous chickens that live a (some might say) pampered life (they have a heat lamp for the cold nights of Virginia), that a thrill for me is watching a beautiful dog run in the sunshine or hearing the sound of frogs in the creek. I don’t like roller coasters, fast cars, explosions or violence.
But I thought Aquaman was awesome!
I’m just not a superhero kind of girl so this is an odd thing for me to think, say or feel – more than odd, you might say. Unexpected. Shocking even. I like crime dramas that are intelligently done, historical dramas that are reasonably realistic and romantic comedies that are not overly sappy or predictable. I love Blue Planet and Planet Earth (I and II). I love zoos, aquariums, mountains, beaches, lightly falling rain, the soft smile of a child, the velvety fur of a puppy, the natural. I don’t generally go for the glitzy, the fake, the fast, the wicked, the destruction.
I didn’t go see this film unwillingly though. When we went to Mary Poppins last week, we saw the poster for Aquaman and laughed. That’s the poster picture above. C’mon, look at that guy. How unnatural is that! But Samuel wanted to see it, said he “would be happy to go.” The fact that I would even consider it rather shocked him I expect, and then I brought it up again today. Sure, let’s go. I said to myself Someday I’ll look back at the time when Samuel was here and when that day comes, I don’t want to think Why didn’t I just go to the movie he thought would be fun to see? What would have been the harm? Why be a fuddy-dud?
It’s not that I thought it would be any good. I just didn’t want Samuel to think he knows me too well. It’s good to stay a little unpredictable, contributes to an unboring path. And I was curious. What’s all the fuss? Nonetheless I can say honestly that “It was awesome” was the last thing I expected to be saying afterward. Why was it awesome (to me)?
Genuine love portrayed: Love between man and a woman (he of the land, she of the sea – stay with me here) – they meet and love and have a child, Arthur, who is called a half-breed by his enemies later. A mother’s love for her son: She leaves for the child’s protection when he is young, and (back to love between man and a woman) every day afterward the man goes looking for her, hoping she will return, which she couldn’t for a long time because she was trapped. A son’s love for his father: Instead of leaving the scene to save himself, Arthur pulls his dad from his truck after the sea went crazy and tidal-waved it upside down. I love seeing genuine love portrayed because I believe there is such a thing and I love to see it, even in a superhero movie.
Genuine good guys and bad guys: No moral ambiguity, no hidden or not-so-hidden political agenda (I hate it when movies insert their political agendas). No wondering whose side anybody’s on. No sympathy lost on undeserving scumbags. Just good guys who fight valiantly for the good and bad guys who lust for power and don’t care who or how they hurt to get it. (And I don’t mean good males and bad males. I’m from New Jersey where “you guys” is not gender-specific.)
The hilarity of the over-the-top, fantastical creatures in their bizarre underwater world: Who gets to make this stuff up!? How much fun they must have had! For example, the “trenchers” attacking the fishing boat that Arthur/Aquaman and the somehow-also-air-breathing female lead named Mera had used for one of their escapes: Really?! Someone had a lot of fun with this scene (and all the rest) and you can tell. I could scoff, but why? Instead why not marvel at this (yet another) creative way of saying Evil tries so hard to get the better of them! But it does not succeed.
Evil fails to prevail. Of course it fails. That is why we love superheros. They triumph! They conquer evil against the odds. They defy norms and expectations. They survive absurd battle scenes. They encounter yet another challenge and they don’t let it defeat them. They act with integrity despite having cause for cynicism, bitterness and exhaustion. They use strength and power for good, mirroring longstanding archetypes that we know within ourselves hold true. They even make us laugh. And when they have the opportunity to kill the bad guy, what do they do?? You’ll find out. All you have to do is go see Aquaman, even if that’s the last thing someone expects you to do. Maybe you should defy their expectations…