Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom Review

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom
When Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) discovers an ancient weapon and sets out to destroy Atlantis, Aquaman (Jason Momoa) turns to his imprisoned half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) for help.

by James Dyer |
Updated on
Release Date:

16 Dec 2022

Original Title:

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom

And so it ends. After 10 years, 15 films, two Marthas and one Snyder Cut, the grand DCEU experiment draws to a close. But if you were hoping for a unifying finale that brings all the disparate threads together for a grand send-off, then you bet on the wrong seahorse. Like its $1.1 billion-earning predecessor — the DCEU’s most successful graduate by some distance — Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom entirely ignores the broader mythology, focusing solely on Momoa’s muscled merman for the saga’s final bow.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom

Since last we swam together, Arthur Curry has married Mera (Amber Heard, largely mute), had an Aquababy (cute, talks to goldfish), been crowned king of Atlantis and discovered that governance is, disappointingly, more about intransigent bureaucracy than riding around on stingrays. Meanwhile, Abdul-Mateen’s David Kane (aka Manta — still ridiculous, twice as glowery) has not given up his quest for revenge and discovers a cache of ancient weapons beneath the Arctic ice (“Thank God for global warming!”), including a sonic submarine and a magic trident containing the spirit of an undead Atlantean warlord (Game Of Thrones’ Pilou Asbæk, sounds bored). Pissed off and newly possessed, Manta launches a bafflingly successful attack on Atlantis’ capital, forcing King Arthur to break his megalomaniacal half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson, now eats cockroaches) out of fish jail to help fend off the new threat.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom

Once the pair have buried the trident via a group hug with mum Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), we’re off to the races and the film begins to hit its stride. Conceived from the outset as a buddy comedy, this sees Momoa double down on his loveable-fratboy routine, while Wilson’s straight man eyerolls his disapproval. The aquatic duo’s odd-couple bickering delivers the story’s most straight-up enjoyable moments, the film at its strongest when embracing its silly side.

Wan’s occasional forays into horror territory don’t go far enough to have much impact.

Unfortunately, there’s just not enough of that. Returning screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick’s follow-up is a muddled blend of eco fable (Manta is attempting to accelerate global warming by burning Atlantean super fuel) and half-baked revenge saga, all tied up with dialogue so leaden it sinks like a 50-pound anchor (“I was going to kill you last, but thanks for dropping by!” declares the bug-eyed antagonist). Where the first film married its unabashedly dappy tone with a Technicolor sensory assault that saw director James Wan throw so many disparate ideas at the screen you were swept away by the sheer batshit audacity of it all, this follow-up seems positively restrained, losing much of its charm in the process.

Sure, the drumming cephalopod returns, now promoted to full-blown sidekick status (TOPO – Tactical Operations And Pursuit Octopus), and we do get to witness Nicole Kidman ride a robot shark, but much of the rest (giant grasshoppers on a Skull-Island-like lost continent, zombie fish-men in a sunken city) feels wearyingly derivative. Even Wan’s occasional forays into horror territory don’t go far enough to have much impact. It doesn’t help that, in a deeply cynical attempt to capture some of Avatar: The Way Of Water’s sunken treasure, the whole affair arrives in lacklustre and entirely unnecessary 3D. Nor that it ends, like so many of its predecessors, in a relentless onslaught of brain-numbing CGI that proves more headache-inducing than awe-inspiring.

Despite a charismatic turn from Momoa and some fun frenemy banter, this is a disappointing send-off that sees the DCEU go out with a squelch rather than a splash. Fin.
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us