After 10 forgettable and ostentatious years, the time has finally come to say goodbye to the DCEU. Poor storytelling and rushed timelines will be the main legacy that lives on, but there were some bright spots to hang their hat on. One of those spots is Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. Since his initial appearance in 2017’s abhorrent Justice League, Momoa has brought an undeniable charisma and charm to the role, and it’s fitting for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to close the book on this chapter of marred stories.
The hard truth is that good castings aside, projects in the DCEU have been, at the very best, a wild rollercoaster. There have been some highs in the form of Blue Beetle, Birds of Prey, and Wonder Woman, but most would prefer if the likes of Justice League, Batman vs. Superman, and The Flash took place in another dimension. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom lands somewhere in the middle, not a perfect project by any means, but nowhere near some laughably bad movies to come before.
‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ Review: A Very Mixed Bag That Stinks of Wasted Potential
What makes Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom even more frustrating than it should be, is that there are many elements at play that all bring something of value to the table. But when each of those elements contradicts another, it ultimately feels like the writers couldn’t decide exactly what kind of story they wanted to tell. Director James Wan does an outstanding job of fusing horror into the story, but many of the spooky moments are undercut by a joke or something unimportant that leaves you feeling silly for being alarmed in the first place.
Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) may not have been a groundbreaking villain in the first film given his arc is a standard revenge story, but his character is anything but interesting in the sequel. After being possessed and ceding progressively more control of his mind and body to the real villain, he’s left as a mere vessel to carry out someone else’s motive. Abdul-Mateen II is extraordinary in the role of Black Manta yet again, but he and his character deserve better than being shackled to the whims of some mysterious and uninteresting entity.
The visuals are another aspect that varies wildly from scene to scene. Critics and audiences alike hailed the underwater cinematography in Aquaman, but despite the many delays, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom feels like it had a tighter budget on a shorter production schedule. Similar to the first film, there are some breathtaking shots, but unlike the first film, you can’t go more than a few minutes without seeing some distractingly bad CGI. Thankfully, it becomes much easier to overlook the many woes after the first 30 minutes or so when Arthur decides to enlist the help of his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson).
Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson’s Chemistry Headlines Great Performances From the Cast
Given the two are on opposite sides, it’s fair to say no one was praising the chemistry between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson in Aquaman. The sequel moves relatively slowly through the first act, with no sighting or mention of Arthur’s brother Orm, but when he finally shows up it is the definition of an arrival. With the brother’s full Atlantean power on display, Arthur breaks Orm out of prison and the two set out on a buddy cop journey that lasts until the credits roll. It’s not an exaggeration to say this duo elevates the film from passably mediocre to a damn good time.
The humor in Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom is largely hit or miss, but everyone involved with bringing this pairing to life knocked it out of the park. While they begin their journey with a genuine, despicable disdain for one another, they develop a beautiful friendship with plenty of bickering along the way that truly feels like brotherhood. Their comedic timing, lightning-fast one-liners, and team-up potential in battle make for endlessly captivating scenes anytime they share the screen. It’s also somewhat of an indictment of the movie’s unwillingness to invest in the other characters, but as soon as the story visits other plots, it’s impossible not to long for more time with the brothers.
Just because the B and C plots flounder in comparison to that of Arthur and Orm’s isn’t a slight on the cast. Randall Park steps into a much larger supporting role and brings all the nervous energy and effortless, innocent humor that fans of his work are familiar with. Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry is also an absolute delight, always there to showcase the more grounded, human side of Arthur. Aside from a few goofy overreactions from some action scene extras, the performances across the board are sublime and charming.
There Are Far Worse Ways To Say Goodbye Than ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’
It may not be sad to say goodbye to the DCEU, but it is bittersweet. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will be remembered for the same thing the DCEU will, wasted potential. Jason Momoa and the entire cast appear to be having a great time in their respective roles, but the cast can only compensate for so much. There may have been a better way to say goodbye to the DCEU than this movie, but given the track record over the last 10 years, it’s obvious things could have been much worse.
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'Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom' Review'Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom' Review
- The brothers have great chemistry.
- Some stunning visuals here and there for eye candy.
- The performances are awesome across the board.
- James Wan brings great directing.
- Villain is ridiculously uninspired.
- The film can't decide exactly what it wants to be.
- Some really poor CGI weighs down a few scenes heavily.
- The story moves slow in the beginning.