Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
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Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a complete dud as the last gasp of the Snyderverse. It’s a bonkers nail in the coffin of a DC superhero vision abandoned by its corporate overlords. The zany romp tosses around terms like “orichalcum” in an incomprehensible narrative that looks like Skittles threw up on the screen. Nothing is taken seriously as characters trade inane banter and silly sight gags while ostensibly trying to save the world. Clearly, Amber Heard’s role was vastly cut down in post-production. The movie is a mess but not unwatchable — you can’t look away from it.

The story picks up with Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) living his best life. He’s married to Mera (Amber Heard) and they have an infant son together, splitting time with dad (Temuera Morrison) on land and Atlantean royalty below sea level. Arthur loves being a dad, but has grown to hate being king — he’s constantly stymied by a governing council who still see him as an outsider that favors humans.

Meanwhile, scientist Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), working for vengeful David Kane aka Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), makes a terrifying discovery at the bottom of the ocean floor. In his search for Atlantis, Shin uncovers a powerful trident once wielded by some ruthless monarch (Pilou Asbæk). Kane is transformed by its spell — he finally has what he needs to destroy Aquaman and his beloved family … never mind that everybody else might die too.

Let’s kick things off positively with what does work here: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom might be worth springing for a 3D ticket just for some cool visual popcorn moments. The film has good depth-of-field sharpness and definition for background objects, which admittedly is kind of neat in non-CGI-overrun scenes. The frenetic battles go full “Matrix Reloaded” with computerized characters wailing on each other like they’re in a video game. I didn’t have an issue with the visual effects from Ezra Miller’s Flash, but that same realism problem remains here and might turn some people off.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has a hard time finding its footing tone-wise. Director James Wan (yes, of “The Conjuring”; also “Malignant”), a competent filmmaker, strays wildly from what made the first film such a hit at the box office. Arthur Curry’s rebel attitude and mischievousness were part of his character — but there was also some gravitas there; he wanted to find belonging and identity. The sequel cranks up the buffoonery way too much: Aquaman’s flippant demeanor and sunny outlook are wildly out of context for the deadly circumstances of his current situation. It can’t all be chuckles when your mortal enemy wants to gut your family.

Wan might have been in a no-win situation. This version of Aquaman died when DC Studios put James Gunn and Peter Safran in charge. But the movie was already made and must have been re-edited to reflect the direction of a new regime. There was never going to be a third Aquaman film with this cast. Do you wrap everything up nicely in a lighthearted bow, or go hardcore and end guns blazing? The former happens. It’s lame covered in weak sauce. Momoa’s Aquaman deserved better.Fans of the character are not going to be happy.

Unfortunately, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, who wrote the first movie and is also a frequent Wan collaborator, scripts a dud. There were audible laughs in the theater when the global warming aspect of the storyline comes into play.Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) has a monologue about climate change — insert “orichalcum,” you’ll have to watch to find out what that is — that is comically stupid.It may make you cringe and lose all hope that somehow we will regain logical footing here.Here’s an Oscar-winning actress spouting drivel you’d expect from a ’70s B-movie.

Amber Heard’s personal travails are of zero interest to me as a reviewer or this website.But she was an integral part of the original, had a key role in Justice League,is Arthur’s wife,the Queen of Atlantis,and mother to his royal heir.She probably has five minutes of screentime in the sequel.She isextremely importanttotheplotbutdisappears forhuge swaths ofthefilm.This wasamistake.Ezra Miller was greatin The Flash despite public meltdowns and criminal troubles.Extra scenesofArthurandOrm chumming around aren’tabelievable replacement.Heard needstobepresentandseen.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will have you rubbernecking. It’s an accidental disaster movie. Another thought creeps into my head. Batgirl was shelved and destined to rot away unseen in some vault. It couldn’t be worse than this, could it?

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