The final movie in the DC Extended Universe struggles to stay afloat in a time when superhero movies are a dime a dozen.
by CHIN JIAN WEI
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the sequel to 2018’s Aquaman, which perhaps surprisingly, remains the highest-grossing movie based on a DC Comics character. If you’ve seen the first movie, you might already know what to expect. After the events of the first movie, Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry (played by Jason Momoa) is the new king of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, as well as a new father. He now has to balance his duties as a father, his responsibilities as a king, and his work as a superhero.
Also surviving the events of the first movie is the villainous Black Manta (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is hellbent on a quest for revenge against Aquaman, who he believes is responsible for the death of his father. Black Manta works with scientist Stephen Shin (played by Randall Park) to find Atlantean artefacts to use in his crusade. It is during one of these expeditions that Black Manta finds the black trident, a relic of a long-ago age, which possesses him with the spirit of Kordax, vengeful brother of Atlan, the founder of Atlantis. With his newfound power, Black Manta is able to strike against Atlantis and Aquaman.
To combat this, Aquaman recruits the antagonist from the first movie, Orm, also known as Ocean Master (played by Patrick Wilson), by breaking him out of prison. Despite this, Orm, his estranged brother, still resents him for foiling his schemes. The two brothers must then learn to work together for the greater good.
Like so many contemporary superhero movies, this is unfortunately a bog-standard superhero movie where it feels like the writers and director wanted to tick off a checklist of “things that must happen in the movie”. There is nothing to set Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom apart from other superhero movies, no cool concepts, ingenious plot twists, or particularly compelling characters. It has become somewhat of a recent practice for movies to have layered and complex villains with believable motivations. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom ignores this completely. Black Manta, despite how unique his costume looks, is a one-dimensional villain who is completely absorbed by vengeance and is also manipulated by Kordax, who again is a one-dimensional “dark lord” type of archvillain. This is even more disappointing given that the villain of the first movie, Ocean Master, had legitimate reasons for his villainy, and seemed to genuinely care about the wellbeing of Atlantis.
Of course, the movie is not without redeeming qualities. It works well enough as an entertaining popcorn flick, with explosions, superpowered fight scenes and other mainstays of the genre. The lead actors, Momoa and Wilson bounce off each other well, their bickering siblings dynamic serving as the beating heart of the movie. Momoa, as always, embodies the hotheaded dudebro while Wilson plays the rational tactician.
As the last movie in the DC Extended Universe before James Gunn’s imminent reboot, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a rather disappointing sendoff. In this age where superhero movies strive to stand out from the pack, Aquaman sinks into the depths of mediocrity.
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