With James Gunn’s DCU coming in 2025, The current DCEU comes to a conclusion with “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”. Black Manta returns with a lust for revenge, planning to kill Aquaman for the death of his father. He finds the Black Trident, a mythical weapon powered by an ancient evil intending on taking down Atlantis. To stop this threat, Aquaman must team up with his brother Orm to protect Atlantis from ruin.
I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the first “Aquaman”, so my expectations going into this one were pretty low. But “The Lost Kingdom” has a fair amount to enjoy. There’s not much here we haven’t seen before, but it’s fun nonetheless. The story doubles down on the humor, visual style, and worldbuilding from the first. But I found the story to be more interesting because Aquaman has more to fight for. He recognizes his place in Atlantis and on the surface, being a leader for both worlds. While he is still the same silly, beer drinking macho man from before, his dynamic with each character is more enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the banter he had with Orm, who has a completely different characterization from the first movie.. Their love/hate relationship is a welcomed addition to the story.
Visual effects are also a positive for the film. The first “Aquaman” had a distinct visual style that carries over to this film. But I’d argue some of the underwater shots are sharper in “The Lost Kingdom”. There is a certain campiness to everything that really works for the tone. Being that both films in the series are silly, the visual style stands apart from the rest of the DCEU. I really enjoyed the action sequences as well. Again, I’d argue they’re better in “The Lost Kingdom” than in the original. They’re fast paced, exciting, and well choreographed. If anything, they make for a fun superhero outing in a film that isn’t altogether memorable.
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” doesn’t do anything offensive. It actually plays it quite safe. That goes for the pros and cons. The story is a fun adventure between the two brothers, but also has a generic villain motivation and dialogue that we could guess as it unfolds. The film feels like it’s been through the ringer in the studio, where reshoots and rewrites have been rampant in the editing process. With the DCEU pivoting left and right in the past few years, it’s evident the last few films have been reworked to conclude a franchise that desperately needs a fresh start.
Through no fault of its own, “The Lost Kingdom” has the unfortunate task of being the final DCEU film. That adds pressure to close out the series in a satisfying way. The film doesn’t do that, but rather acts as a film more concerned with being an Aquaman sequel, avoiding ties to the rest of the universe. I personally enjoy that both Aquaman films feel like their own stories and aren’t concerned with setting up sequels and tying into other storylines. But many seeing the film will find this as a whimpering end to the DCEU since it was never intended to be.
To my surprise, “The Lost Kingdom” is a decent time at the movies. The visual splendor and exciting action scenes earn the price of admission. Plus seeing Aquaman and Orm work together to save their kingdom was a nice touch. But a formulaic story and reworked direction hold it back from being a great film. I can’t help but feel a sad sense of regret for what could have been an amazing franchise in the DCEU. Hopefully Warner Bros. plans better when James Gunn’s DCU begins in 2025. Bring on Superman: Legacy!