Set after the events of the first “Aquaman” film, the sequel introduces us with the hunky protagonist Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) who is now a family man living a peaceful life in the land and serves as the king of Atlantis under the sea. On the other side, the defeated David Kane aka ‘Black Manta’ (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) resurfaces again to possess the Black Trident of the lost Necrus Kingdom which can cause destruction to the environment. With new challenges piling up on our Aquaman, he now has to team up with his brother Orm Marius aka ‘Ocean Master’ (Patrick Wilson) hubor an ‘adventure’ to defeat Black Manta’s quest and save the world.
The Capes Are Falling
The first “Aquaman” that got released in 2018 raking in a billion at the box-office giving a light of hope to the dim lit tunnel of DC Extended universe. The humongous success of “Aquaman” directed by James Wan made WB greenlit the sequel quickly with the production going on floors in the year 2021 and wrapping up swiftly. What seemed like sunshine and roses for DCEU, turned into a bed of thorns due to the infamous Trial of Amber Heard-Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller’s criminal activities and changing power dynamics of WB forcing multiple reshoots of the sequel. This attempt of butchering up a filmmaker’s vision by the WB studios in order to save their “reputation” isn’t new for the DC extended universe and with the rising ‘superhero fatigue’ amongst the movie-going audience, the sequel was projected to an all-time low in opening weekend even for a DC comics film. Also, this marks the fourth film of this year for the DCEU making it the concluding film of this spaghetti twisted universe.
Light Under The Ocean
Just like the first installment, this sequel too embraces its cheesiness to a decent extent throughout the runtime thanks to a charismatic performance by Jason Momoa. He might be one of the few actors who actually enjoys being on the film sets, that’s evident from his roles he has been taking in recent years. Just like his previous outing as the comical villain in “Fast X” this year, Jason has so much fun as the spandex-clad sea savior. While this might not be a surprise, the biggest surprise was his effable bromantic chemistry with Patrick Wilson in this “Adventure Time” narrative. Even the silliest lines uttered by the duo evokes great chuckles here and there making us invest our precious time with this ‘buddy comedy’ part. Other than them, rest of the actors in the ensemble, notably Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, does contribute a decent acting chop that the film needs. With the film’s self-containment in the ‘Aquaman’ universe and not connecting with the larger picture adds as a biggest relief making some parts of the adventure enjoyable (With the “Devil’s deep” part to be specific). Similar to the first part, the sequel too includes the themes of climate change into the narrative, but this time acting as the main driver of the narrative which was seemingly commendable. Don Burgess DOP, Bill Brezski’s production design and the sound design gels well with the “grandeur” of this aquatic world.
Inconsistent shift of currents
The sequel shifts tones like currents in the ocean from a ‘family drama’ to a ‘environmental adventure’ to a ‘buddy comedy’ that is abrupt in its flow with only the ‘buddy comedy’ that I wished could have been explored more in the entirety of the runtime. It’s not just the writing, the choppy editing by Kirk M Morri (with the mouse in Walter Hamada’s hands) also contributes to the extreme abruptness. The lore building of the first film which made a large impact among the viewers is diminished to dust in this sequel. The “lore building” of the “Lost Kingdom” is lost midway and it matches the level of a footnote rather than an epic lore. This makes the “adventure” hap-hazard, lacking the stakes needed in the first place. Even in a single frame where both Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson are absent, makes the film tedious to sit through. The narrative template and the plot mechanics are so convenient and follows the route of the first movie lacking an iota of smartness in it. From a visual experience standpoint, the first part used the 3D effects to great extent delivering an immersive ocean experience containing some memorable action set pieces. On the contrary, the sequel (except for the final trident fight) lacks the memorable action set pieces and the visual treatment is similar to a PlayStation 2 cutscene taking us away from the immersiveness throughout the narrative. The visual treatment reminded me of John Ford’s quotes from “The Fabelmans” which goes “When the horizon’s at the bottom, it’s interesting. When the horizon’s at the top, it’s interesting. When the horizon’s in the middle, it’s boring as shit.” The visuals couldn’t really match up with the glorious music delivered by Rupert-Gregson Williams. Even as a conclusion for the DCEU, this finale tastes like the “cockroach burger” eaten by Patrick Wilson in the post-credit scene. In a conch shell, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is like the autopilot mode ship of Atlantis that lost its way due to the shifting currents onscreen and offscreen making it an algae-ic offering from an already algae-ic cinematic universe!