AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM review by Mark Walters – Jason Momoa tries hard to deliver a fun sequel

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM review by Mark Walters – Jason Momoa tries hard to deliver a fun sequel

The DC Cinematic Universe is officially coming to a close with AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM, hitting theaters this weekend. It almost seems a little sad that this version of the popular comic book characters is finishing a ten-year journey, but also perhaps hopeful that James Gunn (the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, THE SUICIDE SQUAD) is rebooting the DC movie universe at this point, considering the films have been very hit and miss, most would say mostly miss, especially lately. BLUE BEETLE was a High Point in terms of recent deliveries, But the SHAZAM sequel and others have been a big let down.

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM has been in the works for a while, even getting a few delays here and there, but now it officially brings to a close the DCEU that we’ve all come to know, for better or worse. Jason Momoa is back as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman in this very exciting and energetic sequel, that hopes to deliver some of the fun that people enjoyed in the first movie, although, while the first movie definitely had its share of heavy CGI to help deliver the story, this new entry is almost all CGI, to the point of where in certain scenes the human characters are the only real thing on the screen. And that may actually be a big part of the problem with what keeps this movie from being fully enjoyable. In this outing, Arthur Currie is now officially king of Atlantis, after dethroning his brother Orm in the first movie, and is also raising a child with his wife Mera, and still living with his land Father played by Temuera Morrison. There is a new threat facing Atlantis and the Earth itself, when Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) discovers a sacred evil trident That contains dark power that allows him to defeat almost anyone and anything that challenges him. Manta uses the trident to capture an ancient form of Atlantean fuel that while being obtained is actually destroying the surface of the Earth, and if Aquaman and his helpers don’t stop manta, then not only will Atlantis be destroyed but the Earth itself may actually perish… yes, you could say that there is a global warming sub-theme in this film, although it never feels like it’s pandering, rather playing to the sensibilities of what we are dealing with in the real world currently. The politics of the film, if you want to call them that, are never right up in your face, although I’m sure some people will try to argue as such.

AQUAMAN 2 is a fun movie, and definitely tries to capture some of the spirit the first film had, especially with the intense and imaginative action, sequences both on land and underwater. But there’s something missing here, perhaps the charm that the first movie exhibited, or maybe just a magical sense of unique and different storytelling that it had, whereas here it just feels like more of the same only louder and quicker. If you liked the first movie, it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy the second film, although probably not to the same degree. Jason Momoa is clearly trying to have fun in the role again, and there are some scenes where it really feels like they try to ramp up the comedic elements or make the character itself more lighthearted and comedic. Momoa has the capability of playing very interesting and engaging characters, as many saw when he stole the show in the latest FAST AND FURIOUS movie. But here it seems like a bit of a desperate play, trying to make the film itself feel more entertaining than it maybe actually is. That’s not to say that this sequel is a total loss. It is quite engaging at times, it just doesn’t feel on par with the first movie in certain ways. Patrick Wilson returns as Orm, Aquaman’s brother, who was defeated in the first movie, but must now work with his brother in this story. And in some ways there are definite comparisons to be made to Thor and Loki in the Marvel, movies, in fact, there’s even a direct reference to Loki in this film, which is a bit surprising, considering it’s a very much a nod to Marvel films. I also found it a bit amusing as in a lot of ways this sequel feels almost identical to THOR: THE DARK WORLD, which many considered to be one of the lesser of the Marvel movie sequels. Here, the brothers working together storyline seems to work a little bit better, but not by much.

One of the more controversial elements of this new entry is the inclusion of Amber Heard returning as Mera, after the very tabloid-heavy Johnny Depp trial, in which Heard appeared to be the clear-cut loser, and many expected her career would be over at that point. But since most of her scenes were already shot, she’s still here, although used very sparingly, in fact, she has very little dialogue by the time the film ends, which may actually be for the best. The character is never that much of a distraction, although I did hear snickers in the audience whenever she appeared on screen, so it’s definitely clear that that court case is still on the minds of many. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II makes for a solid and interesting villain, though the plot essentially makes his character possessed by an evil force, and I kepy expecting his humanity to wrestle with that, and we’re never given that inner conflict… chalk that up to a missed opportunity for a great actor. Nicole Kidman also returns as Arthur’s mother, and although her scenes are very few and far between, you could say she adds some gravitas to the overall story.

Director James one is definitely trying his best to deliver a sequel that is bigger and better than the first, and he knows how to make films that are interesting, and fun, even if the mindset of many in the audience will be that this is the book closing on a cinematic universe that has been shaky at best. And while the CGI used in the film is extremely well done, it’s so heavily used that the visuals lead to a sort of mental check out at times, sort of the way the STAR WARS prequels and their heavy use of CGI made a lot of the visuals appear wooden and phony. There are shots where nothing on the screen (outside of the actors) looks real, and it can be a bit distracting. AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM is not a complete disappointment by any means, and I actually found myself enjoying more than a few sequences, where I was initially expecting to be let down based on some of the lackluster trailers.

I guess you could say it’s worth a watch if you enjoyed the first outing, but probably not the grand finish that the DC films were hoping for, in fact it ironically makes no mention or nod to any of the other DC movie characters from the past decade, even lacking a post credit stinger that references the other films. And maybe that’s for the best, because since this is the final chapter in that franchise of films, it probably should be very much its own thing. I guess you could say AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM is a decent companion piece for the first film, though nothing terribly special in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably best enjoyed for fans of Momoa and the first movie, but is only a moderately satisfying swan song to this iteration of the character.

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM opens December 22, 2023

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