Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom Review: A Bonkers Adventure Film All About Family   

The first "Aquaman" was a huge surprise, a movie that made Aquaman gritty and serious but also goofy and funny. Sure, the movie had a very generic plot, but it shined when it went full bonkers, like when Julie Andrews voiced a sea monster, or when the film played a Pitbull cover of Toto's "Africa" during a scene where Aquaman heads to the Sahara desert. 

"Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom" has glimpses of that greatness when its core adventure finally gets going, but we have to slog through some stuff before that. The opening minutes in particular don't do a good job of selling this movie, with a montage of Arthur Curry taking care of his newborn son while also kicking ass as Aquaman, while at the same time also being rather bored at his job as King of Atlantis. It is a montage that screams last-minute reshoot, with horrible ADR jokes that feel like a poor imitation of a James Gunn movie — like when Jason Momoa's Arthur literally opens the movie by saying "Everybody is good at something. Me? I talk to fish."

Much of the first act of "Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom" is about Arthur's dissatisfaction with his life, getting peed on by his baby, and sitting on boring council meetings in Atlantis. Meanwhile, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's Black Manta is back, and he's found a magical evil trident that can resurrect an evil army through the power of ... global warming. The only way to stop him is for Arthur to team up with his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who is in prison, and for the two to go on a fun little road trip across the world.

Underwater Middle-earth

Though the film takes a bit to properly get going, once the adventure and the road trip begin, "Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom" swims. This is clearly a film made by the same guy who directed "Furious 7," as the humor is silly and there are plenty of bonkers moments, but they work because of how earnest the film is, with director James Wan grounding it in one idea — family. 

Wan is good at balancing silliness with emotion. We see this in the Orm and Arthur dynamic, which is equal parts funny and also sweet. Patrick Wilson steals the film as Orm, literally doing a fish out of water as Orm learns about the human world (including how not to Naruto-run). Sure, the rest of the Aquaman family is back, but they all play second-fiddle to the Orm-Arthur duo, and it works. This is half a road trip movie and half an old-school adventure movie, as we go from one exotic location to the other.

Much like with the first film, the key to "Aquaman 2" is its world-building and fantastical creatures. Favorites like The Brine King and Topo are back, while new creatures and locations make this an exciting sci-fi/fantasy blend that makes Aquaman unique. From a pirate citadel made out of sunken ships, to a vast desert kingdom, to the film's answer to Mordor. The lost kingdom of Necrus looks stunning, with a mix of VFX and practical sets to make it feel like a real place, and a neat visual style that informs its history and lore through visuals. It's the kind of lived-in location that can sustain countless other stories.

The end of the DCEU

"Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom" is not just a fun adventure. It also tries to tell an important story about the environment and how we are polluting our planet. Sadly, the film never goes hard enough with this idea, which gets bogged down with the plot and the lore of Atlantis.

Still, when the plot gets going and we're on a road trip through fantastical locations, the movie becomes a fun ride. It's not as good as the original, but it is still one of the better superhero films of the year. Sadly, it is not just a sequel, but the end to both the Aquaman story, and the DC Expanded Universe as a whole. In that regard, this is a rather disappointing conclusion, as there is not even a hint that this movie ever belonged in a larger universe. That being said, at least the story of Arthur is wrapped up in a cute way. Regardless of what happens with James Gunn and Peter Safran's DC Universe and what Aquaman's place is in it, at least we got two wildly creative superhero movies that also featured an octopus spy that plays drums.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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