Movie Review – Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom

Principal Cast : Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Randall Park, Dolph Lundgren, Temuera Morrison, Martin Short, Nicole Kidman, Vincent Regan, Indya Moore, Pilou Asbæk, John Rhys-Davies.
Synopsis: Black Manta seeks revenge on Aquaman for his father’s death. Wielding the Black Trident’s power, he becomes a formidable foe. To defend Atlantis, Aquaman forges an alliance with his imprisoned brother. They must protect the kingdom.


One of the big hits from the early part of DC’s ghastly miscalculation that was the DCEU – the Zack Snyder founded version of the world finest comic book heroes – was James Wan’s Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa as the title role fresh from his full debut in Justice League. Bonkers plotting, equally bananas visual effects and action sequences, and a full-throated “this is a comic book movie” tone drew in over a billion dollars in global box-office before the water king disappeared from our screens for a bit. The first film was an out-and-out champ, a thoroughly enjoyable throwback to early 2000’s action sensibilities mixed with modern VFX and Momoa’s lovable rogue screen persona. Capital B big, capital D dumb, capital F fun; Aquaman ticked all the boxes of popcorn entertainment and actually delivered for audiences largely disinterested with DC’s film properties to that point.

Now that we’ve hit the end point of the DCEU, Aquaman And The The Lost Kingdom represents the full-stop prior to James Gunn rebooting everything with Superman: Legacy in 2025. Sadly, this sequel isn’t a patch on the original, although there’s some nice comedic beats threaded through the nonsense masquerading as a script. Again, bananas VFX and design work goes a long way, and Momoa remains arguably the best version of this character we’ve had to-date, but the plot is an absurdity and feels very thrown together, the character development is overly simplistic and lacks the same sense of cohesion as the first film deployed, and no matter how much he tries Patrick Wilson feels severely out of place as Momoa’s on-screen half-brother Orm. The background to The Lost Kingdom of the title is patently absurd, in keeping with Aquaman’s overall aesthetic anyway, and a returning Black Manta’s mission to kill Arthur Curry feels a touch over-the-top – perhaps its the Doctor Evil-like lairs and equipment and incompetent faceless henchmen that did it, but at no point did I ever feel like the villains’ motivation or struggles were worth the time spent on them.

It’s rare that a character gets the chance to so obviously put his hand up for another DC character mid-film, but at one point Momoa is circling around on a motorcycle on the sand of some distant beach somewhere and all I could think about was how DC missed an opportunity for the actor to play Lobo. Such is life, I guess. Anyway, fanboy dreaming out of the way, Aquaman & The Lost Kingdom plays very fast and loose with the franchise mythology, although it does do fans some justice by putting Momoa in the classic orange and green uniform, albeit sporadically. There’s a lot of humour to be found – one joke involving Orm running had me cackling – and the logic of the film often defies belief, but its all played with such gusto and pulp serialised tones you kinda don’t really give a shit. I admit, despite the copious flaws in plot and character, The Lost Kingdom is a heck of a lot of fun, mainly due to the return of favourite characters and James Wan’s go-for-broke pacing. Virtuosic camerawork also helps; Aquaman’s adventures below the waves are incredibly cinematic, with Atlantis once again looking absolutely gorgeous on the big screen.

Aquaman & The Lost Kingdom is crazy, bohemian fun that never once stops to satisfy the multitude of plot threads it drops in its opening act. Arthur and Mera’s young baby drops in briefly, displays a similar ability to “talk” to fish like his father, before we never really see or hear from him again. Mera, played again by Amber Heard much to the chagrin of vociferous Johnny Depp fans, seems to be written out as quickly as humanly possible once Arthur and Orm take to the water again, as if Heard’s inclusion was initially fully fleshed out but replaced by Orm at the last minute – Heard is solid in the part, again, but underwritten and (sadly) underseen. Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison reprise their roles as Aquaman’s mum and dad, respectively, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II tries his best to amp up the silly return of Black Manta as Aquaman’s chief nemesis. Throw in a confusing and confused Randall Park as a scientist forced to help the Manta, Dolph Lundgren as another Atlantean warrior, and a briefly seen Pilou Asbæk as the supernatural ancient king of the Lost Kingdom, and you have a film filled to overflowing with talent, if only there was enough time in the 90-minute runtime to accommodate them.

Bristling with inventive ideas and pushing the boundaries on stuffing them all into this movie, James Wan proves once again to have the golden touch behind the camera – I don’t think I’ve seen a film of his that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed in some form or another. Aquaman’s second solo outing (and his last within this particular franchise world) is a blast of solid comic book film fun, light on pathos and depth and heavy with CG artifice, explosions, interrupted conversations (like, every conversation in this film is interrupted by something exploding, I swear) and Jason Momoa’s “haw yeah” acting style. Admittedly, The Lost Kingdom lacks the weight of its predecessor by virtue of the film likely not having to carry over into any more instalments, but for brisk, brain-off entertainment its a sure fire winner.

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