Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review: Floats on Charm, Drowns in Plot
by Tom Landrigan January 4, 2024
Atlantis is back in our screens, and this time, the stakes are… murky. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the long-awaited sequel to the surprisingly delightful 2018 original, dives back into the ocean realm with promises of grandeur and deeper lore. Does it resurface with a glistening pearl or get tangled in the seaweed of predictability? Prepare your scuba gear, landlubbers, because we’re taking a critical plunge.
Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry remains the film’s undeniable life raft. His gruff charisma and playful swagger propel the narrative forward, even when the script throws him a leaky dinghy. He’s joined by an expanded cast, including the return of Patrick Wilson’s delightfully villainous Orm to fight Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Manta, now wielding a cosmically charged trident that would make Poseidon jealous. Nicole Kidman’s Queen Atlanna resurfaces with secrets that ripple through the coral palaces… and Amber Heard’s Mera, yeah, she’s kinda there too.
Where the film truly shines is in its visual spectacle. Director James Wan, a maestro of fantastical worlds, paints Atlantis with bioluminescent hues and populates it with creatures straight out of Jules Verne’s wildest dreams. From adorable seahorses to leviathans that would make Godzilla blush, the underwater world is a sensory overload, putting something like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s sea sequences to shame. The action sequences are suitably bombastic, with chase scenes through coral canyons and underwater brawls that defy gravity… and common sense.
But amidst the CGI wizardry, the film loses its emotional footing. The family drama between Arthur and Orm feels rushed, like a coral formation stunted by pollution. Despite apocalyptic pronouncements, the stakes never truly resonate, leaving you feeling like you’re watching a particularly dramatic fish tank cleaning.
But the biggest culprit is the plot itself: a convoluted mess of warring kingdoms, mythical MacGuffins, and environmental finger-wagging, that juggles too many threads and ultimately delivers a resolution that feels like a deflated beach ball. The titular “lost kingdom” feels like an afterthought, introduced late and then swiftly forgotten, leaving you wondering why it was ever mentioned in the first place.
So, while visually stunning, with the underwater world begging for further exploration and featuring a powerhouse performance by Momoa to keep the film afloat with his infectious charm, the lack of the fresh energy and surprising emotional depth that made the first “Aquaman” such a delightful surprise leaves “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” a fun, albeit forgettable, underwater adventure. A movie that ultimately feels like treading water, and as it wraps DC’s current universe; one wonders how the new DC movies from James Gunn’s creative oversight might right some of the wrongs done these last few years.
RATING: 3.0 out of 5.0
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is now in theaters.