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Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM SUMMARY:

Sometime after becoming King of Atlantis, Arthur Curry finds that the job is not everything it’s cracked up to be. There is mundane bureaucracy, endless meetings, and tedious mediation between bickering factions.

Arthur must also deal with a council that not only wants to overrule him at every turn but has no interest in revealing Atlantis to the surface world. He’d like nothing more than to settle in on the surface with his wife Mera, his newborn son Junior, and his father Tom. Unfortunately, there are forces that do not want Arthur to find the peace he longs for.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review

After the death of his father at the hands of Aquaman, Black Manta has scoured the Earth for Atlantean technology to aid him in his quest for revenge. With the help of Dr. Stephen Shin, he finds a previously lost Atlantean city.

There, he recovers a mysterious trident that contains the spirit of a long-lost Atlantean king. As the spirit possesses Black Manta, it grants him the power to destroy Aquaman and Atlantis. But it may be more than even he bargained for.

As Black Manta begins to execute his plan for revenge, Arthur realizes that his best shot at tracking him down is by teaming with his rebellious brother Orm. However, he is in prison, serving time for his crimes, and his jailers have no intention of letting him out.

Arthur hatches a plan to break out Orm but risks the wrath of the Atlantean kingdom in the process. And can he even trust his brother to help him battle Black Manta?

WHAT WORKED:

With Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, we get the last dying gasp of the “Snyderverse.” Ironically, this Aquaman sequel tends to go against everything that Zack Snyder established. While Man of Steel was reality-based, dark, and serious, this film is cartoony, bright neon, and comedic. But in an odd way, it works.

You feel like you’re watching an episode of the Saturday Morning Cartoon Super-Friends thrown on the big screen with a massive budget. Looking at it more as a comic book off of the 7-Eleven spinner rack makes this bizarre film a bit more palatable.

As with the previous film, Jason Momoa carries the entire story on his back as Arthur Curry / Aquaman. He’s determined to be the anti-Superman and effectively does so. But he constantly dances the line of what works and what’s trying too hard.

Fortunately, his wild man schtick works more often than it doesn’t, and Momoa’s likeability covers a multitude of acting sins. We also get to see him venture into the perils of fatherhood and everything that comes with it to great comedic effect. Yes, there are pee jokes.

Jason Momoa is well paired with Patrick Wilson as his brother Orm. It’s quite clear that by having the two team up on screen, James Wan is trying to do his version of Thor: Ragnarok.

It alternately comes across as desperate and actually working, but Momoa and Wilson’s charm make it entertaining. Momoa even blatantly acknowledges they’re ripping off the MCU when he refers to Orm as “Loki.” At least they’re self-aware.

The rest of the cast return as their original characters and are at least consistent. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is menacing as Black Manta. Randall Park helps Momoa with the comic relief as Dr. Stephen Shin. Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, and Dolph Lundgren all get nice paychecks while being charming.

There was a lot of speculation about how much screen time Amber Heard would get as Mera due to her off-screen drama in the media. I was a little surprised to see she has a fairly significant role in the film, and it does not feel pared down due to the focus on the brothers’ relationship. Also, look for an odd cameo by Martin Short as Kingfish, essentially this world’s Jabba the Hutt.

One of the most notable things about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the production design. Those artists brought their A-games. The sets look like they could have been in The Lord of the Rings. The vehicles look like they came from classic pulp adventures or even the Fleischer Superman cartoons. The aliens feel like they could have come from Star Wars. All of this helps take the story to another level. Pair it with a 3-D presentation, and it’s a film well worth seeing on a large screen at the theater.

Part of this incredible world is a new creature named Topo. He’s an octopus ally to Aquaman and a character long seen in the comics. He’s a fun sidekick that they probably could have shown more of. In fact, for a movie about a guy who can talk to fish, he has very few interactions with fish. Topo shows the potential of what could have been done with more of the sea creatures.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

Despite the impressive production design and the cast doing their best, the plot of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is basic, predictable, and dull. It was like the script was made by AI that had put a bunch of other comic book movies in a blender and spit it out. The end result is something that’s neither particularly good nor bad, just overwhelmingly average.

I feel like it could have focused a bit more on interesting aspects like Arthur’s fatherhood, the introduction of Atlantis to the modern surface world, or the history of Atlantis. These things are only touched on at a high level in favor of the schtick between Arthur and Orm.

As fun as the undersea world is here, on more than one occasion, I found myself saying, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this on an IMAX screen in a modern movie.” One of these times was when Nicole Kidman was swimming into battle on a neon robotic shark. Another was when Aquaman raced through the water on a giant glowing seahorse (who neighs like a land horse) with his large blue octopus sidekick Topo.

I would have loved to have seen the creators trying to explain this to WB executives. While I applaud the creators for pushing the envelope, like with Momoa’s performance, it occasionally crossed the line into the realm of “too silly.”

Finally, the plot of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom does become wearily preachy at times. Black Manta’s plot is to accelerate climate change, so we’re treated to repeated sermons on how bad it is. Manta is literally releasing massive quantities of greenhouse gases into the air.

The lost kingdom even died because it was using the Aquaman equivalent of fossil fuels. There were a lot of other more interesting ways to destroy the world, but this film didn’t choose them.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Is Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom worth seeing on the big screen? Considering there’s no other popcorn flick in theaters now, this is the last gasp of the “Snyderverse,” and it is undeniably visually cool, then yes, it is worth seeing in theaters. Just don’t go in expecting anything particularly great or bad. It’s solidly average and primarily for comic book movie fans.

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM REVIEW SCORE: 6 OUT OF 10

Warner Bros. PicturesAquaman and the Lost Kingdom is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some language. The film opens in theaters on Friday, December 22, 2023.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review

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