Aquamaniac!: Why Are Atlantis Movies SO Barmy?!

Fish And Quips With Jason Momomoaa!

“Arthur Curry. Also known as Protector of the Oceans. The Aquaman. I hear you can talk to fish…” – Bruce Wayne.

“My mother was a lighthouse keeper. My father was a queen…”

YAY!

At long last, the Aquaman movie has dived into our popcorn parlours!

Once more, Brad, that nautical nerd, can flex his flippers and reactivate his fervour for all things Atlantean by enjoying a CGIfest of florescent undersea vistas! Mermen speaking underwater in American accents! Scaly warriors mounted on seahorses! 

Or can he…? 

Reinventing one of the most lameass characters in DC Comics – a derisory figure traditionally clad in an orange spandex vest and green tights (>_<) – as a hulking, tattooed badass turned out to be not only a wise move, but a necessary one. Out of the abysmal Justice League movie, Aquaman turned out to be the only character to root for.

Months ago, especially when the promising trailer for this standalone movie splashed across the ‘net, it seemed like Jason (“My Man!”) Momomoaa could single-handedly revive the hapless fortunes of the DC Cinematic Universe, and – despite having never read any of the Aquaman comics (well really, has anybody?!) – even yours truly pondered: yeah, why not? Let’s give them one last chance….

But…

December has arrived all-too-quickly and my current mood towards blockbuster movies in general is – shall we say – not as effervescent as the bubbly visuals supposedly on offer in this latest addition to the ever-bulging mass of comic book movies.

Is this soggy saga seaworthy enough to make ol’ barnacle-ridden Brad part with his hard-scrounged pieces of eight…?  

Cynical wisecracks AHOY! 

Charles Aitken: “Seven cities to Atlantis? You know, the Greeks always claimed there were nine.”

Atmir: “Plato was not always right.”

Charles Aitken: “You know about our history?”

Atmir: “Far more than you realize…”

It may not stand up so well these days, but upon first viewing at the age of 6, Warlords of Atlantis (1978) instantly won me over with its action, adventure, striking visuals, and mutated leviathans and instilled in me an overwhelming urge to gather any scrap of info concerning Atlantis and other ancient mysteries of the deep. Back then, you see, anything starring Doug McClure automatically became my favourite movie. 

That creepy moment when the faceless Guardians emerge from under the sea remains one of my all-time groovy moments in SF/fantasy movie history!

Although it is difficult to deduce now, this film looks like the main contender for inspiring me to write (at the age of 6) my very first short story: “City Beneath Th Sea.”

For a long time, yours truly thought Warlords of Atlantis had the best movie title of all time; mention those three precious words – or play that theme music – and this ’70s cult classic still gives me goose pimples after all these decades!

Some of the models, particularly that prehistoric plesiosaur – “It got my pencil!” – not to mention the all-too-obviously-rubber tentacles of the giant octopus are undeniably smirkworthy, but one never tires of those startling matte paintings, sets, costume design and some atmospheric sound effects. And the one and only Doug McClure, of course!

“From our dying planet, we journeyed across space… A comet wrecked our charted course. Thrown into the gravitational field of your planet, Earth, we fell into the life-preserving waters of the ocean now above us…” -Atsil. 

 

“I am Captain Nemo. I have been asleep for 100 years aboard my submarine, Nautilus. I would probably still be left encapsulated had it not been for two intrepid agents of American Naval Intelligence…who quite by chance came upon my ship trapped by seismic underwater quakes…” – Captain Nemo.

Wow!

In the depths of my infant mind lie murky recollections of a truly bizarre TV mini-series that had me enthralled across three consecutive Friday evenings during April 1981. The Amazing Captain Nemo produced by Irwin Allen, was a shoddy attempt to replicate his TV success with Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. 

The premise: Captain Nemo emerges from a hundred-year-cryogenic-sleep to be recruited by the US government to thwart the world domination plans of evil genius: Professor Cunningham (played by Burgess Meredith!) is daft enough, but this was made in 1978, when ALL the studios clamoured for sci-fi in the wake of that phenomenal catch known as Star Wars. So, to make it even more ridiculous, add an army of blaster-wielding golden androids, laser battles between divers on the sea bed, plus a lumbering bionic henchman in a snazzy silver suit (Tor! Thought he was so cool! Wished that he had his own action figure…) 

And never forgotten that diminutive fella wearing the golden mask, responsible for firing the deadly Delta ray. 

The longshots of the ruined temples of Atlantis are just murky enough to conceal any hint of being tacky models. King Tibor of Atlantis is played by that member of The Magnificent Seven who nobody can name; and Lynda Day George shows up simply because the producers realised that the cast included no women. 

Watched it again, this week, after all these years – well aware that its poor reputation could spoil my fond childhood memories.

However, ship mates!

Having already sat through the truly abysmal likes of BS: Dawn Of Just Ass, Assassins’ Creed and Star Wars: Can’t Even Remember The Bally Name One Year On, An’ Ah Ain’t Gonna Google It At This Time O’ Night, Ma’am!, in comparison, this Captain Nemo turned out just Amazing enough to be harmlessly entertaining in its own, albeit cheap and dodgy, way!

Not sure if Jules Verne would have approved though…

 

That Nerk Wearing The Crystal Skull: “We have come back to the world that has always been ours! You have no place in it. You cannot defend yourselves!”

Mike: “One hell of a welcoming committee!” 

Mohammed: “Yeah, but what do we have to welcome them with? We only got three rounds…” 

Ahaaaar!

We arrive, inevitably, at that notorious Italian bilge-ridden oddity from 1983: Raiders of Atlantis, aka Atlantis Inferno or, as my gang knew it, when we rented it on video: The Atlantis Interceptors.

After being disturbed by modern scientific deep sea experiments, the fabled island of Atlantis rises again, and its denizens – who just happen to be a demented punk bunch of Mad Max rejects! – wreak havoc on land and kill all landlubbers who cross the path of their dune-buggies and motorcycles…

This is the sort of exercise where any type of script is not required – any vestige of sanity is wiped out halfway through in a relentless 30-minute volley of non-stop violence. Bearing in mind we were only 12 at that time, this is the sort of mindless mess for which we craved. Yeah, we thought it outrageous and completely nonsensical, but that only increased our enjoyment! 

The credits state this is “directed”(?! HA!!) by “Roger Franklin.” Uff, 80s kids like me can sniff the “work”(??) of Ruggero Deodato fathoms away.

Knowing that The Atlantis Interceptors is freely available on YouTube, a re-watch proved simply irresistible. Now, viewing it alone, and with what some would call a “mature” perspective, the whole point of it all just seems so baffling. Considering what “fun” it gave us thirty years ago, this is NOT the worse movie ever made; the most bonkers movie ever made? Oh, almost certainly! 

Could this video rental really be so atrocious when it boasts a theme song as groovy as THIS?!:

Arthur Curry: “Of course it’s not working. It’s been sitting here gathering dust since before the Sahara was a desert!”

Mera: “Before the Sahara was a desert… You do your best thinking when you’re not thinking at all. Hold still… We need water. You’re the closest source.”

Speaking of crap movies, back to Aquaman. 

Director James Wan impressed me with The Conjuring (2013), and he appears to have made a concerted effort to brighten the mood/look of Warner/DC movies, before the whole lousy DC Cinematic Universe sinks without trace… 

Plus, the always-reliable presence of Willem Defoe – and Black Manta, who looks cool in the trailer – are the strongest factors pulling me in. Sure, it offers “stunning visuals,” but considering how the state of special effects now has become so sophisticated, no sense of magic or charm can be attained; moreover, some of the poorest-received movies of recent times were weakly defended with claims of “stunning visuals”

Blimey, not even that legendary thesp: Dolph Lundgren – as the King of The Lost Continent – can get me out on a stormy night like this. Besides, Arthur Curry’s descent into Atlantis (seen in the trailer) reminds me too much of that cringe-inducing moment in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Liam Neeson visited that undersea kingdom… 

And, judging from the awful quote above, the script sounds ready to make me seasick. 

Ugh, permission to throw myself overboard…

Have a pretty good idea that Aquaman could never inspire the 6-year-old Brad, and my mates would definitely have slung in a few mocking jibes if they’d caught this in my VCR back in the day…

Can the Aquaman movie really be as clever as this trailer?

Methinks not: 

“A war is coming to the surface. And I am bringing my rubber ducky with me!” – Orm. 

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

 

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