Even though it was the movie about “the superhero who can talk to fish,” nothing could have prepared the Ringer staff for Aquaman, a movie that featured Khal Drogo, crab-people, Nicole Kidman, a Pitbull cover of Toto’s “Africa,” and several laser-filled, underwater action scenes. After experiencing the film, the staff attempted to explain what they had just seen.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Aquaman?
Mose Bergmann: This weekend, America’s hottest movie is Aquaman. This movie has everything: superheroes, fish men, Pitbull, laser sharks, underwater storms, at least three tridents, gargantuan laser helmets, Pitbull, jellyfish dresses, dinosaurs, Dolph Lundgren reading cue cards, narwhal skewers, percussion-playing octopi, a kaiju voiced by Dame Julie Andrews, Pitbull, and more.
Andrew Gruttadaro: It’s part DC movie, part Star Wars movie, part Tron underwater, part National Treasure, part When Harry Met Sally, part Raiders of the Lost Ark, part The Light Between Oceans, part Furious 7, part Pirates of the Caribbean, and part Patrick Wilson yelling.
Say what you want about James Wan, but that dude is not afraid to commit.
Sean Fennessey: Under Siege + Avatar + Romancing the Stone + The Little Mermaid = fine!
Miles Surrey: I watched Aquaman twice in the span of seven days. I think I’m going to an IMAX matinee tomorrow?
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Fennessey: Patrick Wilson, underwater, with Pat Riley’s haircut, shouting “I will be … Ocean Master!” is the hardest I laughed in a movie theater in 2018.
Bergmann: The Trench escape scene was legitimately terrifying and beautiful. It’s a quiet, tense moment in a movie that for the most part has the subtlety of a watery slap to the face.
Surrey: The brief detour to Sicily was a perfect blend of entertaining action set pieces and overt vacation porn. Imagine how cheap the Airbnbs are after Black Manta wiped out half the town.
Gruttadaro: “Your fish boat’s been wading in chum butter; I don’t wanna come out smelling like swamp butt.” I’ve been repeating this line in my head ever since I heard it in Aquaman. I can’t stop. Please help.
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Gruttadaro: I’ve never seen so many people puke water.
Bergmann: As sincerely and thoroughly as this movie cares about making Aquaman a hunky badass, the fact remains that his main power—the ability to communicate with marine animals—is profoundly uncool. To be reminded of that during the film’s climactic battle scene, when Arthur harnesses totally normal, milquetoast whales and fishes to defeat armies of laser sharks, megalodons, and trebuchet crab catapults (crab-tapults?), was a little disappointing.
Fennessey: The scenes set on the earth’s surface looked more digitally animated than those that happened under water.
Surrey: I know we’re supposed to leave our brains at the door, but when Orm randomly revealed he knew that Vulko was secretly colluding with Aquaman the whole time, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell he put that all together and why he waited until the end of the film to arrest him. Even one sentence would’ve sufficed, but they just—nevermind, I just got distracted thinking about Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress. Let’s just move on.
4. Rank the movie’s top three most WTF moments.
3. The scene in a quaint Sicilian plaza that’s set to Roy Orbison’s “She’s a Mystery to Me,” when Arthur and Mera flirt and eat flowers. The weird thing about it is this it’s literally 40 minutes long. Not joking.
2. During the emotional moment beneath the sea when Arthur deliberates whether he is truly worthy to be king of Atlantis, distinct flecks of spittle fly from Momoa’s mouth. Underwater!
1. Julie Andrews voicing a massive undersea kaiju.
3. They really had Nicole Kidman out here wearing a lobster claw.
2. The ARMY OF CRABS.
1. The implication that dinosaurs aren’t extinct—they’re just living in a paradise located IN THE EARTH’S CORE.
3. The giant octopus playing the drums.
2. Julie Andrews voicing a mythical, man-eating leviathan in the same weekend that Mary Poppins Returns—the sequel to a legendary movie she notably starred in—came out.
1. Nicole Kidman plays Patrick Wilson’s mom. Nicole Kidman is 51. Patrick Wilson is 45.
3. The abrupt introduction of the crustacean underwater kingdom right before the climactic big battle. Where’s the crab-king movie?
2. The Sicily-set rom-com interlude.
1. Every Nicole Kidman scene.
5. Grade Jason Momoa’s performance as Aquaman.
Surrey: [Raises both hands above head, throws up dual shaka signs.]
Gruttadaro: B+. He isn’t a revelation or anything, but he’s just so damn comfortable and confident in this extremely weird movie. There’s one moment when Wetsuit Willem Dafoe is expositioning, and it cuts back to Momoa, who for absolutely no reason is standing with his legs way more than shoulder-width apart. It’s ridiculous, but it’s very much him.
Bergmann: Momoa gets a solid B. He’s perfectly jacked and handsome and brings the right amount of charm to some of the movie’s potty humor. On the scale of dumb, epic movie hunks, he fits somewhere in between Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim and Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord.
Fennessey: I don’t think the movie works without his beer-commercial charm, but I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a bad MADtv parody of Aquaman in which an actor was playing the Rock playing a newfangled “edgy” Aquaman.
6. Attempt to explain your emotions when, as Aquaman and Mera made landfall, a Pitbull song sampling Toto’s “Africa” blared from the screen.
Bergmann: Since the Lumière brothers were quoted as saying, “The cinema is an invention without any future,” we’ve never really been able to quantify how wrong they were. Until now.
Gruttadaro: Pure joy? Mixed with fear that I may have died and gone to hell?
Surrey: On my first viewing of Aquaman, I’d come down with a pretty bad illness and had taken a lot of medication ahead of the screening. I thought I legitimately hallucinated this song, because it lasts about 15 seconds and then—bam—it’s gone.
Fennessey: True story, I’d gone to the bathroom when this needle dropped. I still don’t think I’ve heard this song. This movie is too long.
7. Which is your favorite underwater kingdom?
Gruttadaro: The crabs from the Brine Kingdom seem like they’d be dope to grab a beer with.
Fennessey: Shouts to my crab homies.
Surrey: I liked the Kingdom of the … um, where Nicole Kidman, the Julie Andrews Kraken, and the dinosaurs were hanging out? I don’t entirely understand what that was. Something about the earth’s core? All I ask is that Aquaman 2 gives us a full-blown T-Rex or something.
Bergmann: I liked the kingdom of the Fisherman, especially the part where the creature who looks like a fish-man gestures to the rest of his fish-men friends saying, “We the fish-men.”
8. Do you have any qualms with the underwater political system?
Fennessey: Four branches of government is too many. These underwater societies need an odd number of kingdoms to create a quorum. Perhaps they’d avoid internecine warfare.
Gruttadaro: Uhh, SEVERAL. At one point, Dolph Lundgren—oh, yeah, Dolph Lundgren’s in this movie—is like, “You need approval from four of the seven kingdoms, and two of them are gone and the other one hasn’t been heard from in years!” Well, OK, maybe y’all should update your system?
Bergmann: Strange giant undersea monsters lying in ponds distributing tridents is no basis for a government!
Surrey: No underwater political system that includes a judicial “ring of fire” and the power to label someone an “ocean master” needs fixing. Find a new slant.
9. Where does Aquaman rank in the DC Extended Universe?
Gruttadaro: I [ducks] may have enjoyed this more than Wonder Woman …
Bergmann: It’s far and away the most fun DC movie with the greatest amount of spectacle, but Aquaman’s dumb charm and visual imagination still doesn’t stack up to Wonder Woman’s sincerity and tenderness.
Fennessey: It is less artful and also less important than Wonder Woman, but also more ludicrous and marvelously weird. So it’s no. 1 by heavy default.
Surrey: Honestly, it has to be no. 1. By process of elimination, Aquaman is the best. It’s the wacky Thor: Ragnarok of the DCEU. I will watch it five more times, at least.