The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ is a disappointing farewell to the DCEU

Photo courtesy of IMDb
Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson in sequel DC superhero 2023 film “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”

After several poor test screenings, delays and behind-the-scenes drama, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the sequel to James Wan’s 2018 superhero film “Aquaman,” is finally in theaters. 

The film is an awful continuation of what was already a mediocre-at-best movie.

Taking place years after the events of the first film, Aquaman (Jason Momoa) has now taken the responsibility of being the King of Atlantis with his wife Mera (Amber Heard) while balancing his new role as a father.

Returning from the first film is Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), hellbent on getting revenge on Aquaman for killing his father. 

While looking for Atlantean tech to repair his suit, he comes in contact with a mystical weapon, the Black Trident. He then gets influenced and possessed by an evil force to resurrect its army to rule the world.

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When it’s revealed that Black Manta plans to take over the planet by releasing harmful gasses into the environment with the goal of poisoning the ocean, it’s up to Aquaman to free his brother Orm from prison to stop him before it’s too late.

The first act is painfully slow and uninteresting, with much of it consisting of characters recapping what happened in the previous movie and delivering an exposition of the world around them.

The second act was actually watchable and fairly fun at times as it acts as a buddy comedy with Aquaman and Ocean Master’s (Patrick Wilson) chemistry being entertaining and intriguing considering how different their characters are supposed to be. 

The third act was bloated with characters and conflicts, resulting in a finale that was extremely weak and rushed, with an unsatisfying resolution.  

You can tell that all the reshoots and test screenings of the movie affected it, as the film feels very mangled and out of order with its scenes and editing.

The movie does benefit from embracing the goofier side of Aquaman, but it’s comparable to what director Taika Watiti did with Marvel’s Thor in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” where most of the main character’s dialogue is cheesy and played for laughs. 

A big issue with the movie is its villains. It’s not a good sign for a superhero movie when you don’t get much time or character development with the main antagonist — and that’s exactly the case with “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”

The movie doesn’t give its main villain Black Manta any sort of character arc, and by the time the credits roll, you end up having spent more time with Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), who gets a very simple character development arc. 

All things considered, Park’s performance was entertaining for the amount of time he was present on screen, and it seemed as if he had a fun time during the filming process. 

The same cannot be said about other actors in the movie, specifically Heard’s performance and Nicole Kidman’s performance as Atlanna. It feels as if they don’t really want to be involved with the project and are simply reading their lines to receive another paycheck. 

This could have been a result of the script’s cheesy nature, but being actors of their high caliber, the movie would’ve benefited from a tighter performance from both actors.

CGI and special effects are also a big aspect of the “Aquaman” franchise as the majority of the movies take place underwater, and there are a variety of creatures and weapons that are present throughout the film.

Unfortunately, the special effects in this movie are fairly ugly and questionable in various scenes. Specifically, in moments where characters are fighting underwater at a rapid pace, actors’ faces and models tend to seem as if they are made of cheap plastic and devoid of life. 

The CGI doesn’t stoop as low as it did with this year’s previous DC movie “The Flash,” but considering that “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” had an estimated budget of $205 million, it’s surprising to see such low quality effects on one of the most expensive superhero films ever.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” not only acts as a dissatisfying sequel for “Aquaman” fans, but is also a disappointing way to end the DC Extended Universe after 10 years of its existence.

The DCEU lasted a total of 15 movies — 16 if you count “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” — and one TV series.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is so close to being a “so bad it’s good” kind of movie, but there’s a lot of questionable writing and performances that just make the watching experience a challenge to sit through.


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