We have reached the end of an era in the DCEU, with the final film released before James Gunn's era begins in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Does the DCEU end on a high note? Or does it fall short on the way out the door? Below, I share my thoughts on the film and let you know if it's worth checking out on the big screen.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom follows the story of Black Manta wielding the power of the mythic Black Trident to seek revenge against Aquaman, who defeated him earlier. The film sees Jason Momoa reprise his role as Aquaman, alongside Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta.
Since James Gunn agreed to take over the DCEU, we have seen many lame-duck films with Flash, Blue Beetle, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and now with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Another big issue plaguing this universe is the controversy surrounding the cast members. Much has been talked about "superhero fatigue," which I agree with, but I also believe the general audience's fatigue (and my own) stems from the lack of quality superhero films.
Heading into Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, my expectations were low because of the lack of quality from DCEU, the massive reshoots of the film, and the first Aquaman, which I consider one of the worst comic book movies ever made. That said, I always keep an open mind, hoping to be proven wrong.
Life for Aquaman (Jason Momoa) has been a whirlwind since we last saw him with him marrying Mera (Amber Heard) and them having a baby, Arthur Jr. Of course, through this, he is also doing typical superhero stuff like saving the world and ruling as the King of Atlantis. However, one man named David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) seeks revenge for Aquaman killing his father, setting the tone for the next two hours.
Once Kane's powers grow too strong, Aquaman realizes he must break out his brother Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson) to help him save Atlantis and the land. Marius obviously holds a grudge against his brother since he is in jail because of him and he took over his kingdom, but he agrees to help him.
The brother dynamic between Aquaman and Marius is fun until it's not. It felt like they were trying to mimic the love/hate relationship that we've seen develop between Thor and Loki's relationship (even joking about it). It's not bad, but whoever wrote or, let me say, "overwrote" Aquaman's one-liners deserves to be thrown in comedy jail because they were bad.
Momoa and Wilson play well off each other and seem to be having the time of their lives together throughout the movie. That was probably the only reason their relationship didn't turn me completely off because they had fun with it. Momoa is the drunk Uncle who doesn't have a filter, and Wilson is the serious Uncle who doesn't like fun, and it works. Also, it was great seeing Amber Heard back on the big screen. She radiates the type of energy that these types of superhero movies need.
Director James Wan knows how to shoot action sequences. Whether it was in the water or land, I had a blast watching the action unfold. Nothing ever came off really dumb or cheesy, and each fight felt like it was part of the big plan leading to the final battle.
Speaking of the final battle, DC has always had a villain issue, and it didn't end with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. While we understood why David Kane wanted Aquaman dead, the development of his character and the battle felt so underwhelming. You spend almost two hours building an arc for it to be quickly diminished.
Ultimately, I walked into the film with low expectations and walked out pleased with what I had just watched. It's not the best superhero movie of all time or even a great superhero movie, and that is fine. It served its purpose by closing a chapter of a series of films that will be studied for the next few decades on "what not to do" with superhero franchises.
If you go into Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom with the mindframe of "I just want dumb fun," then you will be pleased. Otherwise, do yourself a favor, skip this one, and see something else. I had fun, I liked it, and cheers to the next phase in the world of the DCEU.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom hits theaters on December 22, 2023.