The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

By Josh Bate & George Bate

Aquaman lost kingdom review

The DCEU began in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, a reimagining of the classic hero Superman. Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in 2016, becoming more and more divisive with every new release. After several attempted shifts to get the franchise back on track, the DCEU is now coming to an end with the release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

The Aquaman sequel stars Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson, this time in an acting role after directing Insidious: The Red Door earlier this year. The two returning actors are also joined here again by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, and Amber Heard. The story sees Abdul-Mateen’s villainous Black Manta go to extreme lengths to get revenge after Aquaman killed his father. 

In terms of a finale for the DCEU, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom fails dramatically. That being said, this film was never planned to be the last in the universe, and was actually set to be one of the first films in a new look franchise that included Michael Keaton as this world’s Batman (Keaton was at one point confirmed to feature in The Lost Kingdom, but his scenes were cut). Ben Affleck was also set to appear at one point as well, but those scenes were again cut in order to avoid confusion with the impending DCU, the new universe from James Gunn and Peter Safran. 

Aquaman lost kingdom review

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is directed by James Wan, who brings his usual dynamic filmmaking approach to this sequuel. Wan prioritizes camera movement, clear action sequences, and creative visuals, all of which are on display here. Wan is by far the biggest asset to these Aquaman movies; his work as director on the first film was a big reason why it worked as well as it did, despite a below average story and script. 

In many ways, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom feels like an improvement from the last movie. Patrick Wilson getting a starring role and solid character development is a welcome addition to the sequel, and Wan’s decision to focus on his dynamic with Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is a highlight of the movie. That doesn’t mean that everything works, however, as Momoa is tasked with delivering some cringeworthy comedic lines alongside Wilson that fall so flat that it’s somewhat painful to watch. Years after Warner Bros. made the decision to have DC move in the same tonal and creative direction as Marvel, these comic book movies still feel awkward and uncomfortable in their own skin. 

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom still struggles with the same problems as the first film, with a subpar script needing significant revisions if the story is to work. Again, the first movie got away with that because of Wan’s direction and the freshness of seeing Jason Momoa as Aquaman, but The Lost Kingdom isn’t so fortunate. The script for the new film fails to capture the same sort of size and scale that the first movie had, which was a significant selling point for audiences back in 2018, and audiences knowing that the DCEU will end means this entire movie feels underwhelming and flat. 

Aquaman lost kingdom review

In an attempt to restart the DC universe, Warner Bros. have essentially killed almost every movie in their crowning franchise this year. Shazam: Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and now Aquaman 2 have had no excitement, buildup, or attention that wasn’t manufactured by the studio. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is far from a great movie, but it still feels as though James Wan’s sequel deserved better than the dead-upon-arrival approach that Warner Bros. Discovery led with. 

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom may have its flaws, and there are plenty of them, but it’s important to note that it’s still an improvement on last year’s Black Adam or the latest Shazam! sequel. The quality of DC movies have fallen off so drastically that it wouldn’t take much to improve on those films, but at least this universe didn’t end on as low of a note as some of its previous installments. 

VERDICT: 5/10

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a minimally entertaining follow up to the 2018 film, and not much more than that. James Wan’s dynamic style of direction carries much of the film, but he can only do so much when up against a poorly written story and a studio that is intent on moving on from this universe as quickly as possible.

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