March 10, 2024


2023 / 124 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾

Throughout much of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, I felt like I was watching a cartoon. Granted, a very nicely animated cartoon, but even more so than the first film, the overall aesthetic reeks of artifice. Rarely did I feel like the performers were ever interacting with their environment.

CGI runs rampant in nearly every scene, with action sequences so busy that they cease to be logistically convincing. Elaborate new worlds, machines and creatures are obviously intended to instill awe, but we’re mostly impressed with the technology that created them. Special effects shouldn’t call this much attention to themselves, especially if they don’t depict anything we haven’t seen before (and are used more sparingly). Visually, there ain’t a lot of difference between Atlantis and the Land of the Dead from Coco.

Storywise, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom offers no real surprises. Having defeated his tyrannical brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) in the first film, Arthur curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is now the ruler of Atlantis. He doesn’t particularly enjoy being king, preferring to spend time on land with Mera (Amber Heard) and their new son, Arthur Jr. 

"Yeah, it was me...I stole your shirt."
Meanwhile, David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is still obsessed with avenging his father’s death by killing Aquaman, only now he has a new crew of henchmen and a supersub equipped with ancient Atlantean technology. After finding a trident that once belonged to Kordax, the ruler of the lost kingdom of Necrus, he becomes possessed and empowered with strength that equals Aquaman’s. Adding apocalyptic implications to the narrative is the fuel required for Manta to hatch his plan, which is environmentally devastating. In true supervillain fashion, he isn’t concerned with such trifles…

…which is part of the problem. Mantas is so single-minded and hateful that there’s little Abdul-Mateen can do with the character but glower and rage. He’s more of a video game villain than a dynamic antagonist. Elsewhere, many returning characters are given little to do that significantly impacts the narrative, especially Mera, who’s almost persona non grata until the climax. Fortunately, Arthur is forced to tap his incarcerated brother for help defeating Manta because the scenes they share nearly save the movie. Not only is their antagonistic brotherly banter pretty amusing, Momoa and Wilson’s performances manage to stand out amid all the spectacle.

For the most part, however, Aquaman and Lost Lost Kingdom is emblematic of many recent superhero movies…watchable without ever being engaging, with no attempts to bring anything new to an increasingly rote formula. The film is pretty, but also pretty redundant.


FEATURETTES - Finding the Lost Kingdom (the most substantive of the bonus material, featuring Jason Momoa, director James Wan and other cast & crew); Aquaman: Worlds Above and Below; Atlantean Blood is Thicker Than Water (the history of Arthur & Orm); It’s a Manta World (about the primary villain, featuring interviews with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II & others); Necrus: The Lost City; Escape from the Deserter World; Brawling at the Kingfish’s Lair; Oh, Topo! (brief segment about the scene stealing octopus.


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