Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review

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You know that feeling when a family member you didn’t really like dies? You can’t say that they’ll be missed terribly, but in the wake of their passing, you reflect on the good times. That sums up the experience of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the last entry in the DCEU. Bidding bon voyage to this mixed bag of a cinematic universe, we can be grateful for the highs of the first Wonder Woman, Shazam!, and Aquaman. Yet, we’re also reminded of the many lows, from Batman v Superman, to the Whedon cut of Justice League, to… the past several box office flops. The Lost Kingdom ranks somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t sink to the fathoms below, but as a farewell, it doesn’t rise above the surface.

As was the case in Fast X, Jason Momoa is having the most fun here as Arthur Curry. Arthur is struggling to adapt as the King of Atlantis and a new father. He’s also a husband now, although Amber Heard’s Mera spends most of the film on the sidelines. Maybe this was always the plan, but considering how few lines Mera is given, Depp v Heard feels like an elephant in the room. At least Heard is given more screen time than Willem Dafoe, who’s written out of the equation in Alien 3 style.

The setup for The Last Kingdom is nonetheless a promising one. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is back as Black Manta, still seeking revenge against Arthur after leaving his father to die. He plans to make Arthur suffer by destroying both of the worlds he holds so dear. Manta becomes possessed by the Black Trident, an on-the-nose metaphor for global warming. This looks like a job for the Justice League… or maybe just Aquaman and his estranged brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). Giving Orm a redemption arc while Manta asserts himself as the big bag is a solid idea for a sequel, but The Lost Kingdom doesn’t spend enough time developing Arthur’s relationship with either character.

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While we understand the root of Arthur and Manta’s rivalry, the two barely interact outside of fight scenes. Manta shares more moments with his timid sidekick (Randall Park), who continually makes it known that he’s going to betray his leader by the end. Yet, Manta keeps him around because… he kind of likes him? The Lost Kingdom banks on us getting invested in the bromance between Arthur and Orm. Although Momoa and Wilson do the best they can, the chemistry never quite sparks. You get the impression that the filmmakers wanted this to be the Thor: Ragnarok of the series. Arthur even calls his brother Loki at one point. Alas, the film is closer to Thor: The Dark World.

Like the Dark World, the titular Lost Kingdom isn’t as engaging as it’s built up to be. Director James Wan still delivers a well-crafted picture, even if these visuals aren’t as fresh the second time around. The action, while not dull, feels par for the course. The Lost Kingdom lacks a wow factor, although perhaps that’s to be expected with a reboot around the corner. If you’re a completionist who has seen all of the other DCEU movies, there’s little that’s going to stop you from crossing this one off your list. For those who want a superhero movie that restores their interest in the genre, let’s see if those rumors about Momoa playing Lobo are true.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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