A Lame Duck Farewell Full of Flaws

The Pitch: Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is delighted to inform you that since last you saw him, he’s become a happy family man, thanks to his new wife Mera (Amber Heard) and baby boy Arthur, Jr. Like a lot of happy family men, Arthur doesn’t love his job — but that’s because being King of Atlantis involves a lot of tedious meetings with a council of fish-people who won’t let him do anything cool or fun.

Still, Arthur’s doing his best to make it work, until he learns that his old foe Black Manta/David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is causing trouble: Specifically, Manta, having been possessed by the spirit within an ancient evil trident that originated in Atlantis, is raising global temperatures, causing extreme weather conditions and threatening the overall safety of the planet. So, Arthur will have to work with his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to stop Manta — as soon as he breaks Orm out of ocean prison, that is.

The End of the DCEU: Did anyone involved with the making of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom even want to make an Aquaman movie? Because it sure doesn’t feel like that’s the case. Seriously, when even Jason Momoa — a guy who whose entire vibe is “I’m happy to be here” — visibly struggles to wring any sense of enjoyment out of a scene, there’s a real problem.

It doesn’t help that with the DCEU era now coming to a close, there’s no built-in MCU-esque interest in seeing how this second Aquaman film might connect with the rest of the franchise. (For those curious, there is pretty much zero connection with any other member of the Justice League — there’s not even an attempt made to acknowledge The Lost Kingdom as the final chapter of this story-verse.)

And, on its own, The Lost Kingdom faces numerous issues. The plotting is undercut by a dull villain (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a brilliant talent, but “possessed by an ancient god” just isn’t that compelling dramatically) and stakes that feel flat. The world-building, when it comes to Atlantis (or any of the ocean kingdoms), is pretty much non-existent. This is a movie where the character who undergoes the most significant change is Randall Park’s eventually-less-sinister scientist. Not, you know, the guy with his name in the title.

The Kraken Is Missed: Director James Wan’s original film suffered from many of the same flaws that have haunted the lesser superhero films of late — rote recitation of exposition-heavy dialogue, CGI that’s just not quite good enough to make us truly buy into what we’re seeing on screen. Yet Wan also leaned hard into occasional spurts of madness, like Nicole Kidman’s mid-film return dressed in immaculately tailored fish lady armor, and the casting of Dame Julie Andrews as a dang evil kraken; details that really made the picture sing, in its own demented way.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Warner Bros.)

Author: Michael

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