AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Theatrical Release Date: December 22, 2023
Digital Media Release Date: January 23, 2024
Physical Media Release Date: 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD – March 12, 2024
Description: Director James Wan and Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa—along with Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman—return in the sequel to the highest-grossing DC film of all time: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Having failed to defeat Aquaman the first time, Black Manta, still driven by the need to avenge his father’s death, will stop at nothing to take Aquaman down once and for all. This time Black Manta is more formidable than ever before, wielding the power of the mythic Black Trident, which unleashes an ancient and malevolent force. To defeat him, Aquaman will turn to his imprisoned brother Orm, the former King of Atlantis, to forge an unlikely alliance. Together, they must set aside their differences in order to protect their kingdom and save Aquaman’s family, and the world, from irreversible destruction.
All returning to the roles they originated, Jason Momoa plays Arthur Curry/Aquaman, now balancing his duties as both the King of Atlantis and a new father; Patrick Wilson is Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and his nemesis, who must now step into a new role as his brother’s reluctant ally; Amber Heard is Mera, Atlantis’ Queen and mother of the heir to the throne; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is Black Manta, committed more than ever to avenge his father’s death by destroying Aquaman, his family and Atlantis; and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, a fierce leader and mother with the heart of a warrior. Also reprising their roles are Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Randall Park as Dr. Stephen Shin.
Directed by Wan, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is produced by Peter Safran, Wan and Rob Cowan. The executive producers are Galen Vaisman and Walter Hamada.
The screenplay is by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, from a story by James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Jason Momoa & Thomas Pa’a Sibbett, based on characters from DC, Aquaman created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger.
Joining Wan behind-the-camera is his sterling team of
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents An Atomic Monster / A Peter Safran Production of A James Wan Film, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, set to open in theaters internationally beginning 22 December 2023 and in North America on December 20, 2023; it will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.
By James Harvey
Even with its clunky, paper-thin story and occasional wonky special effects, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom manages to be quite entertaining despite being an ultimately forgettable jaunt. There’s plenty of good set pieces, solid design work and striking visuals, but the film stumbles with its disappointingly bland foes, non-existent plot and comically unsubtle commentary on global warning, among other reasons. Still, fans of the original Aquaman should find the Aquatic Ace’s second cinematic outing a fun time despite never hitting the same creative heights as its predecessor.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom finds Aquaman still adjusting to his new role as King of Atlantis when Black Manta finally gains the means to avenge his father’s death. Wielding the power of the mythic Black Trident, which unleashes an ancient and malevolent force, a now-unstoppable Black Manta sets out to destroy the world and kill Aquaman’s family. To defeat him, Aquaman must turn to his imprisoned brother Orm in order to turn the tides back in their favor.
With its breezy pace, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is never boring, but viewers may find their patience tested with its haphazard story-telling and essentially throwing everything at the wall hoping for anything to stick. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom desperately wants to recapture what made the first Aquaman movie such a huge hit, but it tries too hard and becomes scattered. Director James Wan is clearly trying to put together a blockbuster with substance and a message, but it’s as though he can’t quite decide what he wants the movie to be (though this could also possibly be the result of executive meddling and the film getting chopped up in post).
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom wants to be another fun globe-trotting adventure, but it also wants to be a semi-serious look at family and responsibility. Oh, but the movie also wants to be a dire warning about the impending, catastrophic threat of global warming, as well as a story of how revenge can completely consume a person, a tale of redemption, what makes a true king, and about ten other things. The movie spreads itself too thin and doesn’t have the run-time to do adequate justice to any of its characters, themes or plotlines.
There’s also a lot of cool and crazy awesome ideas in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (like the hilariously bonkers giant mutant grasshoppers), but there’s no narrative to really string them together properly. Instead the movie just speeds from one scene to the next with no real pace or intent. There’s a lot of big moments and epic action, but they fall a little flat since there’s no real, tangible build-up to any of it. Even the big climactic fight just sorta happens and then it’s done.
It doesn’t help that most scenes, especially in the opening act, are clearly trimmed down to the bone or shuffled around in order to keep things moving. There are plenty of moments where it feels like crucial snippets of dialogue or dramatic and/or key monologues are removed, just so the movie can hop to the next scene, and then the next scene, and so on. It’s difficult to latch on to characters or settle into moments when every scene has the same hasty vibe as the one before it. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom desperately needed another 30 minutes or so to allow the film to breathe and to develop something of a pace.
Even though Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom can’t quite find its groove in the end, it still pulls out plenty of laughs, some impressive action beats and some pretty good performances from the cast. Jason Momoa continues to be charming in the role of Arthur Curry/Aquaman, though some of his character’s antics may get a little grating for some. While the “aqua-bro” persona can still be a little overbearing, the character’s rough edges here have been thankfully softened up a little. When it comes to the action, however, Momoa is unsurprisingly in top form.
When it comes to the rest of the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom cast, it’s a bit of a mixed bag but there’s still plenty of good work to be found. Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry, returning as Aquaman’s dad, remains as likable as ever and has great chemistry with Momoa. Randall Park, returning as Dr. Stephen Shin, gets significantly more to do this time around, and puts in a solid performance, thanks to an expanded role that substantially fleshes out his character.
The supporting cast’s standout is unquestionably Patrick Wilson, returning here as Orm and absolutely killing it. He’s clearly putting every bit of himself in the role and becomes a great “straight man” to Momoa’s bombastic Aquaman. Wilson also gets some of the movie’s biggest laughs, thanks to some great bits of physical comedy, and his redemption-tinged arc makes it easy for audiences to root for him. Heck, there are a few instances here where he even looks and acts like a more clean-cut, straight-laced take on Aquaman. Simply, he puts in a heckuva performance.
Unfortunately, the same really can’t be said for the rest of the cast. Amber Heard returns as Mera and, frankly, appears to make little effort and seems visibly disinterested in what’s going on in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Mera’s mostly relegated to background dressing, but the movie does give her a few enjoyable action beats. While Mera is on screen more than expected, she’s given nothing really interesting to do as the movie itself seems unsure what to do with her (and even weirdly gives the impression Mera has died off-screen during the first act).
For Black Manta’s return, it’s kind of the opposite. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II acts his heart out, and makes for an imposing presence on screen, but he’s let down by the movie’s underwhelming script and is ultimately wasted. Abdul-Matee isn’t given much to do but scowl and look angry, which (don’t get me wrong) he absolutely sells, but it rings a little hollow on a character lacking any depth whatsoever. Manta’s one-track mission of revenge against Aquaman (carried over from the first Aquaman movie) is pretty thin, even ridiculous, and eventually robs the character of any empathy or autonomy.
Also returning is Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, Aquaman’s mother, and Dolph Lundgren’s Nereus, Mera’s father, but neither are given enough screen-time to register as actual characters. They just spout off some silly dialogue and get in on the action for a scene or two (well, their CGI doubles), and that’s it. As with Abdul-Matee, both Kidman and Lundgren are just wasted and these two roles could’ve been snipped from the movie without losing a single thing.
As with the script and performances, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom‘s special effects range is a mix of jaw-dropping great to jaw-droppingly terrible. There are moments where the CG is near-perfect and slips seamlessly into frame, but those moments are fleeting and few. More often than not, the special effects look garish, often incomprehensible and distractingly bad. Aquaman and Black Manta’s climactic battle features arguably the movie’s most offensive use of CG, reducing a life-or-death battle between two arch-foes into a glorified video game cutscene that moves way too fast to make sense of what’s happening. It robs the scene of any emotion and turns things into a boring, blurry tussle.
The weak special effects are just another irksome aspect of the film, especially since there is some strong CG character work to be found here, like with Kingfish, hilariously voiced by Martin Short in a small role, and the imposing Brine King, voiced to perfection by John Rhys-Davies‘ Brine King. But that gets swallowed up in a murky sea of unconvincing CG that frequently looks outdated and unfinished. And that’s really the overall problem with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom: any moment of true greatness is buried under near-unrelenting mediocrity and indecisiveness.
Despite the clear efforts made by most, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom falls considerably short of the 2018 original in nearly every regard. The film’s attempt to be “everything for everyone” results in a cluttered, overstuffed jumble that feels directionless and weightless. The film is never short on ideas, and there’s a lot of crazy and neat ones scattered about in here, but the lack of strong narrative, plot and pace just makes everything kinda blur together in the end. Any strong moments and performances are washed away as the film just forcibly limps along to the end credits.
Even with all its problems, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom still somehow manages to be a pretty fun watch. Momoa is charming, Wilson stands tall as the film’s clear MVP, and there’s the occasional show-stopping set piece and some super cool ideas strewn across the screen. While it doesn’t live up to the hefty expectations set by its predecessor, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom manages to just barely to overcome its many, many missteps to become something somewhat watchable. Just don’t expect this trip to be anywhere near as memorable or coherent. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is Worth a watch, but Enter at your own Risk.
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” Digital, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and Soundtrack
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