Dumb Things In Aquaman That Everyone Ignored

Aquaman came swimming into theaters in December 2018 with a tricky set of goals in place: The film had to reestablish the public's faith in DC movie adaptations after Justice League. It had to set a tone that wasn't so dour. Most importantly, it had to be a feature-length film about a guy who talks to fish and it needed to not — and this was important — suck.

And overall? It did all right. Sure, in the coming years Aquaman will probably be looked at as the awkward adolescent phase that gets us all from Zack Snyder's vision of a world where heroism is a bloodsport over to the brightly colored, wholly untraumatizing feel of movies like Shazam. There's intense action, eye-roll-inducing one-liners, and an unironic octopus that plays the drums. Maybe it's a little uneven, but it keeps you engaged the whole time, and who doesn't want to watch an army of crab people fight giant seahorses while Mary Poppins voices the Kraken?

But this is the internet. Let's not focus on Aquaman's many charming qualities. Instead, let us take a moment to memorialize all of the moments that made you laugh-spit popcorn out of your mouth and go "Heh. That's dumb."

Under pressure

Poor Black Manta. The guy had a rough go of it. Living in a wetsuit that will definitely make your body smell like feet all the time is one thing, but having a dad who thinks submarine piracy is 1) a job and 2) an acceptable family business to pass down? That can't be easy.

Still, nice to have a mentor though, right? From the information we glean on the Russian sub just before Aquaman rolls in wearing the world's most water-resistant eyeliner, the Kane family has been up to all kinds of underwater no-goodery since World War II. Three generations in, they're well-equipped, dressed to the nines, and frankly, they should really be better at all this piracy by now.

During Manta's opening attack on the submarine, his seasoned team of pirates kicks things off by firing automatic weapons inside a pressurized tube. Hull breach? Not super likely, but man, what happens when you hit the pipes responsible for maintaining buoyancy? What happens when the bullets ricochet off of any number of surfaces and hit one of your hermetically sealed buddies? And that's not even mentioning Old Man Manta's absolute willingness to fire not one but two grenades inside a torpedo bay before killing himself with an explosive a minute later. Wasn't the plan to have a working submarine at the end of this? And how have these people not been killed before now?

Sea HORSES! Get it?!

There are plenty of small details in Aquaman to rip on. Mera, an undersea princess, somehow knows how to play the flute, a famously air-dependent instrument. Aquaman has bulletproof skin, but somehow he figured out how to get sweet tattoos. Everything in Atlantis kind of looks like the art at a mini golf course. These are tiny problems that can be solved by recognizing that boats are more pleasant with flute music and that tattoos look really cool. Let's not focus on those. Instead, let's turn our attention to an even more minute issue, shining through like a pinhole in the ceiling of an underground bunker.

King Nereus, played by Ivan Drago, arrives at a meeting with Patrick Wilson's Orm. Orm and his boys are riding armored sharks, like any self respecting aquatic military operation. The King? He propels himself through the seas in style, with his envoy atop giant seahorses.

There's really no poetic way to transition into this next observation, so here it is: The seahorses whinny and neigh. Those are the noises they make. They make the same noises as regular horses. Why do they do this? It's not because seahorses are related to regular horses. Seahorses are just weird fish that got that name because of their distinctive face shape. And that's not the sort of thing you'd think would need pointing out, but then a $200 million movie had seahorses making pony noises and all assumptions about the baseline intelligence of humanity were lost at sea.

The 90-degree security flaw

Atlantis, as depicted in Aquaman, is an unfamiliar domain. It's filled with advanced technology and a reclusive utopian society and colorful creatures and it's all underwater. It's like if Wakanda and the Gungan city from Phantom Menace had a city baby.

The proud nation has strict border security; so strict that when it's first introduced, it almost shouts "the good guys are going to chase-scene their way out of here in about 20 minutes!" The entrances and exits are guarded by very Power Rangers-looking enforcers, and the walls are peppered with hydro cannons. There is, we're told, no unprotected way in or out.

Eagle-eyed viewers, however, may have spotted a flaw in the merfolks' impeccable defenses. It's subtle, but it's there: umm ... swimming up.

The walled city doesn't have a roof. Not a solitary hint of a roof. For whatever reason, everyone just turns a blind eye to the giant literal hole in border security. Good luck with the cannons covering all of that in a city that big.

How Atlantis got its groove back

Imagine if you will: You're a futuristic civilization, thousands of years advanced when compared to any other people on Earth. Your technology allows you the use of airships and steampunk AT-STs from Return of the Jedi. Everything's going pretty swimmingly, until one day that gets really literal. Due to a science whoops, your metropolis falls into the ocean. Everyone's kind of bummed about it. But what are you going to do? You can either mope, or you can try to make lemonade. Do you...

A) Follow your city to the ocean floor, rebuilding at the bottom of the punishing sea, permanently genetically altering your citizens so they can breathe underwater, propel themselves through the murky depths, and communicate with one another while submerged, all the while adapting your entire industrial, commercial, and residential infrastructure to exist in the ocean, a feat unparalleled in this or any other society?

B) Move somewhere dry.

If you chose A, congratulations! You're only several eons removed from having your very own Aquaman.

If you chose B, you're sort of a quitter, but on the plus side, anywhere not underwater is, relatively speaking, really nice this time of year.

The Aqua-clothes make the Aqua-man

A costume is just as important as the hero who wears it, iconography wise, and where they get their outfit can add significant depth to their story. Superman's costume was left to him by his parents, or made for him by his adoptive parents, or one of several other variations on the whole parental legacy jive. Batman pieced his armor together as he grew to be the symbol Gotham needed.

Aquaman, on the other hand, was out on a field trip to Jurassic Park taking a dead guy's MacGuffin and figured "eh, while I'm here, might as well nab his threads." Yes, the protagonist of the franchise went grave-robbing and, unsatisfied with just a weapon capable of commanding the seas themselves, also thought he should try a new look.

Nobody's arguing that Aquaman's costume has the instantly recognizable quality as some of the other DC A-listers, so maybe it doesn't matter where he got it. It's just that it'd be kind of a turn-off if Indiana Jones got his hat out of a particularly jazzy dead knight's tomb and kind of just kept it forever.

Give peace a chance

Okay, follow along now: Love the Zack Snyder movies or don't, but there's a scene from Man of Steel that's just never going to stop being troubling. Superman is told that he's remarkable, and that he has it in him to save a bunch of Metropolitans, to save them all, by his father, Space Ghost. Afterward, he contributes to the unscheduled partial demolition of Metropolis and makes out with his new lady friend on the ashes of a hundred thousand people.

It was off-putting. Wouldn't a real hero put aside his baser needs (like mouth-grappling with Amy Adams) in favor of, oh, something crazy like saving them. Saving them all. Instead, perhaps the most recognizable character in modern fiction takes a break from saving the day so he can excavate Lois Lane's mouth with his tongue. Tone-deaf? Yes. But at least that exact thing was never going to happen again.

Smash cut to: Aquaman, having just been told that he's more than a king, he's a hero because he'll fight for everyone, promptly kills everyone with his bad-to-the-bone new Julie Andrews squid crab. Then, as the ensuing battle rages around him, he and Mera tongue-mash as the soldiers he's sworn to bring to peace explode all around them like it's New Year at the Hunger Games. Never change, DC.

Arthur's got fish for brains

During the movie's first act, a young Arthur is getting exposition splattered all over him by Court Visser Vulko, his Dafriend played by the irreplaceable Willem Dafoe. Vulko starts telling Arthur about the Legend of Foreshadowing, and Arthur sort of gives him a "yeah, yeah, I've heard this one." Maybe Dafoe deserves it. He killed a lot of people in that first Spider-Man. But then, undeterred, Vulko keeps telling the story, and Arthur suddenly has nothing but questions.

It's sort of a nitpicky technical problem, but the thing is, in most movies, a writer or director will give you something called an "audience surrogate" — someone who's as removed from the story as you are. That way, that character can ask questions and learn at the same pace as we, the popcorn-munching masses. In this, they went into that idea half-cocked by putting the hero in charge of requesting clarification after he had just told us he did not need clarification. It just sort of fell flat. Either make the hero smart or don't, you know?

Parking was a nightmare

Arthur and Mera head to Atlantis, riding in style in Mera's golden submarine. They slip past border patrol thanks to her diplomatic immunity, presumably because either the guards recognized her slick ride or she already has some sort of tracking system on her, which brings up a lot of other problems later on. Onward, to surreptitious plotting in an abandoned air bubble, where plots can be developed and animators can take a break from making Jason Momoa's beard do that swishy back-and-forth thing.

Sadly, the team's Shakespearean meet-up to discuss deposing the king is cut short. A series of video game-adjacent, scaling-difficulty grunts dressed as Happy Meal toys with glow faces come bursting into their bubble, guns blazing. Aquaman does his thing, Hulk-smashing his way through the brutes, while Mera hides behind some detritus. Why? Because Vulko says "you can't be seen here!" And he's right. It would be a political disaster for a member of the royal family to be caught getting into tomfoolery with some half-man, half-fishman pretender to the throne. Better for her to stay hidden.

It's just too bad she parked her remarkably recognizable Aquacar right outside. Seems like that might throw a wrench in the whole "shadow in the night" aesthetic they were shooting for.

How in the heck did they find us?

Our heroes go to the ends of the Earth on their quest for Arthur's new trident. They keep a pretty low profile, aside from eating too many flowers and using water magic to freak out a kid. But twist! The bad guys find them. It seems that the bracelet Orm gave her was (brace yourselves) a tracking device all along! How was she to know?

If only Mera (or the writers) had thought back to the time that happened to Catwoman when she took Bruce's mom's pearls in Dark Knight Rises or to Uhura when Spock gave her a radioactive necklace in Star Trek Beyond or to the children when their dad implanted their teeth with GPS devices in Spy Kids.

Or to the Millenium Falcon when Boba tracked it in Empire Strikes Back or to Johnny 5 when his creators are trying to find him in Short Circuit or to Neo when the Agents shoved a robot squid into his tummy in The Matrix and honestly, we could go on and on and on. The point is, if you want to create a compelling villain, maybe let them find the heroes in a fresh, interesting way instead of letting them lean on old standards like KISS autopiloting their way through Detroit Rock City every time they play a concert. Bad guys are better when they're smart.

Black Manta on a deadline

So you're a hardcore badass mercenary with a penchant for underwater shenanigans. As is wont to happen, a species of aquatic merpeople make contact with you, liking the way you swim all deadly and the general cut of your jib. Their leader asks you to kill his nigh-invulnerable brother, outfitting you with a hyper-advanced suit of armor and a gun working on technology hundreds of years beyond anything you've ever seen before.

So clearly you rip the whole thing apart, right? It's machinery that borders on alien that you just used to turn a mini mountain into pea gravel. It's natural. When most people are handed a life-changing weapon, they think, "This is cool and all, but it'd be cooler if I made it into clothes." It's like that time when Obi Wan handed Luke Skywalker his father's lightsaber and Luke was all, "This would make a sweet belt buckle!"

So yes, taking Atlantean technology so fresh that even the people you got it from are amazed by it and turning it into a murder hat? That's pretty impressive. But what takes it from "impressive" to "super dumb" is that Manta appears to get the whole thing done in, like, an afternoon. He also spills goop from the inside of the gun everywhere, which has to make you wonder how the deathbeams kept working. Unless it was, like, cosmetic goo? One of those fluids they stick in weapons so they'll be heavier and more cumbersome?