Review: Aquaman


In the US:
Available on iTunes. One episode and one episode only.

In the UK: Fake a US address and get it from iTunes. Or something.

As discussed earlier this week, Aquaman is a dead pilot. It has ceased to be. Or to WB, which was its original destination. Then The WB network decided to merge with UPN to create The CW (it’s all a bit Reggie Perrin, isn’t it?) and Aquaman got squeezed out.

The question is: was Aquaman unfairly denied airtime? Should it be up in the Brilliant But Cancelled Hall of Fame?

No. It shouldn’t. It’s pants. Or should that be trunks?

The plot

Hot Mum and little boy are flying in the Bermuda Triangle. Great big tornado appears and knocks the plane out of the sky and into the water. Nasty sea thing attacks Hot Mum, but only after she’s demoed some incredible strength in freeing her son from his seatbelts. Boy floats to the surface and is rescued by whales.

As, as they say, you do.

Ten years later and floating boy aka “A.C.” has turned into a cross between a surfer dude and a Greenpeace activist. One minute he’s running a diving school, the next he’s freeing dolphins from wildlife parks because he feels a connection with them. Adoptive Dad (Lou Diamond Phillips) isn’t impressed, and neither is the grumpy old lighthouse keeper (Ving Rhames) who frequents the nearby bar.

But on the anniversary of his mother’s disappearance, a man wearing a seahorse necklace just like the one Hot Mum gave him turns up in hospital. Pretty soon, one of the nasty things turns up disguised as a Hot Girl in a Bikini and tries to kill them both.

Fortunately, Mr Lighthouse Keeper, clearly not coming from the Fraggle Rock school of lighthouse keeping, frightens her off with a harpoon gun and reveals all. It turns out that just like AC, he’s from the lost continent of Atlantis, which is currently lurking in the Bermuda Triangle. AC is the prince of Atlantis and Hot Mum was the queen. They escaped from the mythical land once the Nasty Things (aka Sirens, not doing a lot of singing, I might add) had taken over and the Sirens have been looking for him since.

And that’s basically it. Big clash with the Siren. Silly subplot about secret FBI agents investigating the secret war with the Sirens that’s claimed hundreds of people (ie everyone who’s ever disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle). Even sillier subplot about a fighter pilot who doesn’t remember she was a singer in Cuba 50-odd years ago and hasn’t aged a day since.

The denouement, since this was a pilot, is of Ving Rhames becoming AC’s mentor to teach him how to be a prince, read Shakespeare, find his mum, rescue Atlantis. Usual sort of mentor thing, in fact.

The verdict

Basically, just an average episode of Smallville. Not a good episode, not a bad episode. Just average. I’m sure hormonally charged teenagers would have loved it though.

Ving Rhames might as well have sent a cardboard cutout with a tape recorder stapled to it for all the effort he was putting in. Everything involving the FBI and the fighter pilot is abysmal and makes Angela’s Eyes look like an episode of The Wire.

Justin Hartley, who plays Aquaman, is clearly a gadzillion times better than the plank of wood that appeared in Smallville this year in the proxy-Aquaman-pilot. Who knows how much better he is than the guy they originally cast, but replaced at The WB’s instigation. Ironically enough, though, he’s clearly still working on that ‘depth’ thing. Never fear, in case you’re worried he’s going to be unemployed, he’s Green Arrow in the next season of Smallville. (Let’s see exactly how much of a socialist they make that well known people’s champion.)

The plot’s pretty silly and shares much with Jaws IV in that respect. “I took you away from them to save you,” says Rhames, explaining why they’re not living underwater like Nemo. You took him to the Florida Keys, Ving. If you want to keep him away from the sea beasties, why not try Idaho next time? The middle of Canada? You know, somewhere relatively landlocked and thousands of miles away from the sea.

The absurdities of the plot reach their lowest ebb when AC is finally informed of his true lineage. It’s not that the Atlantis thing is inherently absurd, which of course it is, but there are some things you have to accept with every show. The absurdity is that the half-man, half-herring prince of Atlantis, last seen swimming underwater, pacing a fighter jet, seems to think it’s absurd.

Dude, when you swim at 400mph, hold your breath for hours, and can get messages from dolphins, Atlantis is the least stupid option.

Anyway, it’s all a bit academic, since unless it does a Nobody’s Watching, there isn’t going to be a series. Still, it’s always interesting to see what might have been.

You can get the basic gist of the show from this ‘ere trailer:


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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