A couple of years ago, I was starting to wonder if I was starting to get to “critic-y” in the films I was reviewing because I found myself not really digging anything more than a “meh” reaction. Last year, that started to curve itself around as I have re-learned how to do my best to just enjoy the movie experience. Sure, I have seen some bad films every year, but I also have been able to enjoy films that others have not for various reasons.
So, about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
It’s been a few years since the events of the first film, and Arthur (Jason Momoa, who also gets writer credit for the idea of this film) has married Mera (Amber Heard) and fathered a child that lives with his father, Tom (Temura Morrison). Arthur is still trying to get a hang of this whole “King of Atlantis” thing while being a father and husband when he finds out that Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has returned and is more powerful than ever. With a dark trident giving him powers beyond those of a mortal, he vows to finish the revenge he has plotted for years culminating in the release of an ancient evil that will destroy our entire world.
I made no bones (no pun intended… you’ll get it within the context of the film) about the fact that I went into this one setting the bar VERY low. Although I didn’t hate the other two live-action DCEU films this year in Shazam!: Fury of the Gods and The Flash, I was fully prepared for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to be a rough watch. It barely clears two hours, and that was at least the silver lining as I settled in for a film that actually wasn’t that bad. The cheese factor is cranked up a little more here as it turns into what I have described as a story that mimics 48 Hours with the good guy having to work with a bad guy (Patrick Wilson is back as Orm) to take on an even bigger bad guy. Don’t get me wrong: I am not putting those films on an even playing field, but I get the comparison. There ARE moments that do give that comic book feel to the story as it progresses with a few of them making me groan a bit, but again: it’s not as bad as it could be.
I was able to screen this film in 3-D, and even though as a good friend once told me: “3-D doesn’t make a script better,” I can say that the majority of the effects here looked better than the first film. Some of it is still glitchy, but it wasn’t nearly as rough to deal with as it has been. While my expectations were that this film would simply be the concept of “playing to finish” since this is the last of the DCEUM films before James Gunn gets his vision up and running, it honestly didn’t feel that way. The drama that surrounded this production on every level is well-documented, and even with all of that it still is not two hours that I want back.
Once the credits rolled, I had a conversation with those around me to see if it was just me that wasn’t ready to nuke this film in my review, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that those that I spoke with felt pretty much the same way that I did. Does Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom stick the landing? Yes and no, but it at least made it onto the mat without face planting.