Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom review

It’s been a long and perilous road for the DC Extended Universe and one that has now been brought to a close with the release of ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’. And while this send-off to the current iteration of the DC universe isn’t quite on a high note, it is a fitting one, as the potential was there, but it isn’t quite achieved.

Warner Bros Picture

While some of the narrative decisions in ‘The Lost Kingdom’ aren’t as satisfying as they could have been, the two main leads of the film, Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Patrick Wilson as Orm are fantastic together, especially when they get to bounce off each other in comedic fashion. This is truly the film’s highlight, and when things are at their best.

Alone, Aquaman the King of Atlantis isn’t fun to watch, especially because his politics are boring (though that is somewhat the point). There is a running plotline of Aquaman struggling to bring the seven kingdoms together and there is a council that is also against him, and none of this goes anywhere or influences the story.

But these two characters aren’t the only two in the film. There is an ocean’s worth of side characters, some who are embarrassing – Amber Heard’s Queen Mera and Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna full into this category – others who have a genuine purpose and heart – Dolph Lundgren’s King Nereus and Temuera Morrison’s Tom Curry – and ones whose role is focused more on comedy, like Randall Park’s Doctor Stephen Shin or the return of the recognizable and John Rhys-Davis as the Brine King. Topo, the drum-playing octopus, makes a welcome return in a more sizeable role, but in the movie’s most unforgivable sin is that his musical talent has been replaced by a much worse pirate band.

This just leaves the villains, and while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II does what he can with what he’s given, Black Manta is neutered of what made him compelling in the first ‘Aquaman’. His vendetta against Aquaman has been put aside so he can become a plot device for the Black Trident and the Lost Kingdom, the latter of which doesn’t appear until the third act of the film, dumping its lore for a CGI fight at the end. If the film had just focused on Manta, there would be a personal feeling for the conflict that other superhero films lack, but this opportunity is lost to the depths below.

One thing that is tied to the villains is the theme of the film of climate change and global warming. The villains don’t care that the fuel source they’re burning, called orichalcum (which is allegedly highly volatile, but this is never shown to be the case), is causing global warming, and that the surface world is also ruining the planet. While there is no reason why a comic book film shouldn’t take on a weighty theme and give a message, ‘The Lost Kingdom’ offers none, merely saying that the technological and scientifically superior Atlantean people can save humanity from their own stupidity.

‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ does get its visuals and locations right, from Atlantis, to the island of Devil’s Deep, to Black Manta’s Bond-esque lair complete with submarines. The Lost Kingdom feels like a variation of Mordor if it was snowier, with the black tower dominating the icy landscape below. It’s a VFX feat that makes these locations unique and memorable, which mostly applies to the action too.

Finally, is the film’s ending Everyone knows that they’re important. Everyone it seems, apart from James Wan and the executives at Warner Bros. Discovery. There seems to have been a directive throughout the DCEU to make it like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, each time to its detriment. That’s squarely epitomized in this ending, which takes cues from ‘Black Panther’ but most egregiously ‘Iron Man’. It feels like the start of a cruel joke, the ending that launched the MCU is the one that shutters the DCEU.

Despite the darker spots that keep the film from reaching its full potential, ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ manages to bring the current era of the DCEU to a good if not great end. There are a handful of actors that help elevate the work over the mediocre script, and the visuals delight as usual. All that’s left to do now, is to wait and see what James Gunn and Peter Safran can do to carve out a new universe.

Kieran Burt

My name is Kieran and I am based in the UK. I love writing about all things science fiction and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Marvel. When I’m not writing or watching anything sci-fi related, you can probably find me exploring the open worlds of alternate lands through my Xbox.

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