The omens were never good for the last superhero movie of 2023. A changing release date, a growing indifference towards the genre which treated Marvel and DC with equal contempt and Jason Momoa’s widely quoted comments about Aquaman’s future didn’t bode well for the return of the King of Atlantis. The only positive seemed to be the new release date, chosen to capitalise on the holiday market. The sad truth is that Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom needs all the luck it can get.
Five years since Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) had his own film, he now has his hands full as King of Atlantis, as well as being part of the Justice League and planning a wedding. Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), on the other hand, is determined to avenge his father’s death and take down Aquaman once and for all. Armed with the evil powers of the Black Trident, he sets out on a path of destruction, so Aquaman turns to his imprisoned brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) for help. It’s an unlikely alliance, but it’s his best – and only – option.
Just like Shazam! Fury Of The Gods, the irreverent rock god of superheroes has undergone a personality change and the film follows suit. This time around, his throwaway lines land with a thud and there’s a general sense of desperation even before the opening catch-up has left the screen. Yet again, there’s a smattering of sixties rock classics – although Spirit In The Sky is a strange choice of theme tune for an aquatic hero – and DC has released the film in various formats, including that old chestnut, 3D. It doesn’t add anything, except the observation that the only thing not thrown at the film was the kitchen sink. If only some of the budget had been devoted to improving the CGI, we might have stood a chance of recognising Dolph Lundgren and understanding what on earth was going on during the many fight scenes.
Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom is a soggy mess – unfunny, over-long and a damp squib when compared to the original and that, let’s face it, was no classic. But at least it has some energy and a sense of fun. It’s not just the kingdom that’s been lost.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is out now on Premium Digital Ownership And Rental and will be available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on 18 March.
Read interviews with director and co-writer James Wan, and producers Peter Safran and Rob Cowan here.