Thinking Above and Beyond the Plot: Aquaman and the Motif of Dynasties

This post contains SPOILERS for Aquaman

I have noticed that a lot of people, both professional critics and random people in comment sections, seem to completely write off a story if the plot feels at all familiar to them. If they can guess any aspect of what’s coming, the story is trash. This worries me because it seems that both critics and average viewers are thinking mainly on a plot level, and not seeing that even mainstream stories (or the good-ish ones, at least) have themes and motifs that recur throughout the narrative.

Additionally, because of this plot-level thinking, there are entire essays and videos dedicated to 1) trying to figure out the internal logic of fictional universes (spoilers: there are almost always plot holes and inconsistencies), or 2) nitpicking lines or moments that the reviewer didn’t like.

An example of the first kind of video/essay is this 10-minute video of a guy trying to figure out how the Tablet of Akhmenrah works in the Night at the Museum franchise. While I agree with him that the Tablet probably imbues the statues (like Teddy Roosevelt and Sacagawea) with the souls of the people they represent, I think that he spends too much time trying to make the Tablet’s behavior throughout the series make consistent sense. NATM is a silly franchise (though it has its merits in terms of themes and character development), so the Tablet works whichever way the screenwriters want it to work to advance the plot. Yes, sometimes the inner works of fictional plots and plot devices really are that simple.

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