Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review: The Finale of the DCEU

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Thomas Richards
| January 6, 2024
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After ten years, the DCEU is coming to an end. There’ve been some ups, a lot of downs, but mostly films that, for one reason or another, were controversial. But I’m not here today to regurgitate what you’ve probably already heard about the current state of DC films. Instead, I’m going to look at the final movie to be released in the DCEU, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Seeing as I was a fan of the original Aquaman film, I was always going to be excited about the sequel. With Director James Wan and most of the original cast returning, I went into this finale with my only expectation being to have fun. Luckily for me, this film had it in spades (minus the overall plot).

A Shadow of the Former Plot

Aquaman is sitting on the throne of Atlantis. The throne is white and the surrounding room is also white. Light is coming in from the top of the screen.
A very intricate chair. (DC)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom takes place a couple of years after the first film. Arthur Curry (also known as Aquaman) is the King of Atlantis, married Mera, and has a kid named Arthur Jr. But being King isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, with most of the improvements Arthur wants to make getting shot down by the Atlantean council (don’t worry about these guys, the film doesn’t). If Arthur’s life wasn’t stressful enough, Black Manta has returned, and he’s got a whole lot tougher. Armed with ancient technology, Arthur will have to turn to his brother/former Ocean Master, Orm, for help. Together, they’ll have to track down and stop Black Manta and prevent an ancient evil from destroying the world with Global Warming (which makes sense if you think about it). A bunch of other stuff happens in between, but this is the gist of the story.

If I could sum up this plot in one word, it would be messy. I could tell this film has been through multiple rewrites, re-shoots, and edits before it saw the light of day. The story jumps from plot point to plot point, and it can feel a bit awkward, to say the least. The film also sets up plot points and characters in the beginning act, like the Atlantean council, that are tossed aside within mere minutes of being introduced. But what I think hurts this plot most of all is the fact that this is the last film in the DCEU. All of the potential setups or teases that may have been in the original script had to be changed to make this film feel complete by itself. And while I understand that’s how these things go sometimes, it’s resulted in a plot that, while it has some bright spots, isn’t all that good. Luckily for this film, the characters make this messy plot an enjoyable ride.

Everyone is Having Fun

Aquaman is raising his hand towards Orm. Aquaman is wearing a stealth suit and is hunched over. Orm has long hair and a beard and is also shirtless. The two are standing on a beach.
Don’t leave a bro hanging. (DC)

One of the main reasons I enjoyed Aquaman was the characters, and I’m glad I can say the same about the sequel (minus one or two). Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry is as fun as ever to watch, and you can tell that he enjoys playing the King of Atlantis. Even with some of the admittedly corny dialogue, Jason makes it work. Another person who’s just having a blast is Patrick Wilson as Orm. After being the villain in the first film, Orm is now helping Arthur stop Black Manta, which allows for a very fun buddy-cop dynamic that I enjoyed a lot. I’m also glad Patrick Willson got to play a comic book character who isn’t evil or depressed. I was a tad let down at the lack of Willem Dafoe, and the explanation in universe of his character dying due to a virus was a bit lame. Nicole Kidman, as Atlanna, also felt a bit wasted as she didn’t have much to do.

On the villain side of things, we had the duo of Black Manta and Stephen Shin. These two had some of my favourite moments in the film, and I wish they had more. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II killed it as Black Manta and gave me everything I wanted after the cliffhanger at the end of the first film. He looked cool, he got a power boost, and he actually kicked some ass this time around. He even still had his theme music from the first film, which I greatly appreciated. The only part of his character that I didn’t like was the whole evil possession thing. I think that his character and the plot of the film would’ve been better if it was just Manta being the number 1 Aquaman hater with none of the mystical voodoo crap. Randall Park also returns as Dr. Shin after his brief appearance in the first film, and he was so much fun to watch. He may be on the evil side this time around, but you just can’t hate the guy.

Visually Distinct

Aquaman and Black Manta are fighting. They are both wielding tridents and are clashing in the middle. The background has a green hue to it.
Trident vs Trident. (DC)

On the visual side, this film is one of the better showings from the DCEU. It won’t be winning any awards, but it wasn’t bad enough to take you out of the experience (I’m looking at you, Flash). James Wan once again brings his unique style and flare to this film with the gorgeous Atlantis and the not-so-pretty zombie things. Yeah, this film has essentially zombies but with green lights instead of eyes. I’m not the biggest fan of zombies in general, but they at least looked cool. What I do like are the fantastic fight scenes, and this film has plenty of them. I particularly liked it when Manta and his crew invaded Atlantis at the beginning of the film and had a decent scuffle with the Atlanteans. I also enjoyed the final fight between Aquaman and Black Manta, which wasn’t the best-looking in terms of CGI, but it looked cool enough that I didn’t care. That was pretty much my overall takeaway about this film and its faults; it looked cool, so I don’t care.

Black Manta is in the ocean while holding a black trident that is glowing green. Various marine life is behind him.
I don’t care, he looks cool as shit. (DC)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life. The actors did terrific, given the circumstances, and looked like they were having a blast. The special effects are on the better end of the superhero spectrum and had some really dope fight scenes. While I wish the plot were different or taken in another direction, their hands were tied. All in all, while not for everyone, I enjoyed the final film in the DCEU and am cautiously optimistic about the future of DC.

Have you seen Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom? What did you think? What did you think about the DCEU? Let us know in the comments where we can talk about that end credits scene with the burger.

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