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MOVIE REVIEW: Bro, Where’s My Seahorse: A Review of ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’

Join the underwater adventure or get swept away – discover the verdict on this final chapter in the DC Extended Universe.

As the final film in the now defunct DC Extended Universe that was headed at some point by Zack Snyder, ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ had a lot of expectations hanging on it. The first installment was extremely popular and grossed over a billion in box office receipts but as the last film of the DCEU, it is the last time we will see this iteration of this comic book universe. How it goes will be the lasting impression for that era of Warner Bros.

As ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ opens and it catches us up to the five years between this film and its predecessor, I was surprised at how much the film’s essence and core has been greatly influenced by lead star Jason Momoa’s offscreen persona. The movie begins with a narration that Arthur Curry, known as the superhero Aquaman, is now a father and is juggling between his time on land with his family and his duties beneath the waves as the king of Atlantis. Here, the tone of Momoa’s persona permeates throughout the film. It’s almost as if there’s no difference between the Momoa we see in interviews – a fun-loving, family man with a big, boisterous personality – and the character in the film. Momoa’s Arthur Curry is a man who would prefer to be a dad and fight with pirates and people damaging the oceans than to deal with the politics of Atlantis, which he seems ill-suited for (and not particularly interested in).

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There seems to be a positioning that having fun, being a “cool dad,” and busting up bad guys is better or the preferred choice than that of ruling Atlantis and working out its politics – not that the film presents the politics in a particularly complex way, either – and it all ends up feeling like a very bro movie all through-out.

© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

The main villain, David Kane (otherwise known as The Black Manta) wants to destroy Arthur Curry for having killed his father in the first movie. It drives him to search the earth with the help of a marine biologist Stephen Shin for Atlantean technology to fix his suit when they stumble upon the lost kingdom of the title and a powerful Atlantean artifact that gives Kane a much-needed power boost to take on Aquaman.

This artifact, the black trident, opens Kane to old technology of Atlantis that threatens the safety of the whole world. To find Kane, Aquaman must free his brother, Orm, as he may be the only lead to finding Kane.

© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

The film then pivots to a story of the two brothers – one who seems more suited to be king and the brother, who is king, who also seems more suited to be a superhero – and how they must reconcile with each other (Orm tried to kill Aquaman in the first movie) to save the world.

Throughout this movie, the narrative puts Momoa’s Aquaman at the preferential position. He doesn’t have a plan as he enters any situation, which Orm is against, but Aquaman always manages to punch his way through. He is best described as a brute who prefers to muscle his ways in and out of a problem as opposed to the more refine Orm, who is not above using his intellect to figure out a solution first. But, in every step of the way, the film is set to make Aquaman the better choice.

It is what hunkers this overblown film down. It feels so infused with Momoa’s personality – not surprisingly, he is given producer and story credit – that it feels less of a film than it does as a way for Momoa to have more fun with the character. There’s a lot of care placed in the big battle sequences that litter the film, but it makes no effort in deepening the relationship of both Orm and Arthur. It is made clear that they should reconcile because they are brothers, but it never deals with the harder questions of who should rightfully lead, whether the rift in their relationship was valid in the first place, and so on and so forth. 

The bonding of the brothers is essential for this movie but as screenplay and the direction prefers to express itself via large action sequences and funny gags rather than really exploring relationships in a profound manner, the film ends up feeling very bro and lightweight.

Sure, it’s expensive and has some very interesting use of CGI effects and battle choreography. They manage to write Mera (Amber Heard) out of the film so that she is present but really not, giving more of the tender heart moments to Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna. There’s no depth Yahya Abdul-Mateen II to work on for his portrayal of Kane, he’s a one-dimensional character and the one who looks like he’s having as much fun as Momoa is Patrick Wilson as Orm. 

It’s weird to watch an obviously made-for-sequel character and story play out knowing that there’s no continuation to this. The film doesn’t feel like a big finale (like, say, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’) and so no matter how the film turns out, there’s no investment or attachment that it creates. The struggles of the DCEU overshadows whatever the film attempts to do, and it doesn’t help that the bro-ness of it all doesn’t appeal to audiences like me. I would like to have as much fun as Jason Momoa shouting “Woohoo” while riding a giant glowing CGI seahorse, but this isn’t how I imagine brother-bonding superhero tales should play out. 

My Rating:

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
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