Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
The DC Extended Universe closes not with a bang, but with a prolonged Guinness commercial.
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I’m an outlier in that I’ve generally liked the DC Extended Universe and one of my favorite offerings was James Wan’s first “Aquaman.” As such, I’m sad to report that Wan’s sequel “Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom” (now in theaters) is a huge drop-off in quality from its predecessor and concludes the DCEU with a whimper as opposed to a bang before newly-minted DC Studios CEO James Gunn reboots the whole damned thing.
We open with Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) serving as king to Atlantis and father to baby son Arthur, Jr. Aquaman loves doing the latter (although it is tiring and the tot keeps tinkling in his face/mouth) and is beginning to have disdain for doing the former.
The world as a whole is on the brink of destruction as Aquaman’s enemy Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, totally wasted) has gotten ahold of the mythic, powerful Black Trident, which once belonged to the evil Kordax (Pilou Asbæk). Kordax possesses Manta to mine Orichalcum, a fuel source that quickens global warming, which in turn will free Kordax from the icy prison he’s inhabited for generations.
In order to get access to Manta, Aquaman enlists the services of his banished brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). Orm reluctantly agrees to aid Aquaman at the behest of their mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman, a non-factor).
You’ll notice I haven’t brought up Amber Heard nor her character of Mera. She ain’t in the movie much (Perhaps she had other shit to doo-doo?), which is a pity as Momoa and Heard had pretty decent chemistry in the first flick.
The tone of “Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom” is all over the place. David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick returns to script and Wan again directs. I suspect Momoa had more creative control this time out (he’s given a story credit) and I can’t say this is necessarily for the better. The actor doubles down on his dude-bro persona and it grows grating. Most of us have seen the online video of Momoa chugging Guinness and hurling axes … we didn’t need the latest and last “Aquaman” to turn into a two-hour-plus advertisement for the Irish stout.
I really liked the look of “Aquaman,” but its sequel is a garish mishmash of “Star Wars” (Martin Short turns up to voice a man-boobed fish spin on Jabba the Hutt, there’s a CG band right out of George Lucas’ re-releases and prequels) and James Cameron’s “Avatar.” When the coolest visuals occur during the closing credits it’s a problem.
Things are brought up and then summarily dismissed. (Aquaman has an impassioned opening voice-over about his beloved seahorse Storm and then we barely see the bastard again.) I admired the film’s message about being good to one another and to the planet we inhabit, but it’s also fairly ham-fisted.
“Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom” isn’t all bad (Wilson, a seasoned pro, does solid work. Randall Park is fun (and rocks a Manning brothers-style quarter-zip) as Manta’s begrudging scientist lackey Dr. Stephen Shin.), but it’s also not especially good. Maybe I’m just in Ebenezer Scrooge mode? My wife and Little from Big Brothers Big Sisters seemed to enjoy the movie well enough, but to mine eyes the DCEU has sunken to and closed with a new low.