Aquaman 2 review – DC last splash drowns in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars nods

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom: Official trailer

After a year of lacklustre box office disappointments for comic book movies, 2023 ends with the most pointless of them all.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom marks the 15th and final film to Warner Bros’ messy DC Extended Universe (DCEU), with the franchise set to be rebooted by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn in 2025.

Fans have known this for well over a year now, making the releases of Shazam 2, The Flash, Blue Beetle and now Aquaman 2 feel utterly meaningless with no overarching narrative ending for the characters.

The first three mentioned have been enormous box office bombs, despite The Flash being a reasonably good entry. Yet can Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom turn things around?

After all, we loved the camp silly fun of the 2018 original, which surpassed even Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies as the highest-grossing DC movie of all time, after taking a whopping $1.152 billion at the box office. The answer, somewhat unsurprisingly given the above context, is a disappointing no.

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It’s no secret that Aquaman and the Last Kingdom has had its production problems with rumours of bad test screenings, reshoots and Batman cameo cutting. What Aquaman 2 ends up being is a standalone turn-your-brain-off sequel, but without the swashbuckling shine of director James Wan’s first turn. Don’t get us wrong, Jason Momoa is really fun in the role but is let down by the film as a whole.

The plot sees the return of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Mantis (perhaps the most uninspiring comic book villain), this time wielding the power of a Black Trident owned by a Sauron-like ancient ruler from his long-forgotten underwater Mordor.

To defeat the evil force and stop the return of the evil king (yes it’s all very Lord of the Rings, which was one of the better parts of the film), Aquaman breaks his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) out of prison for a lacklustre buddy road trip to stop the baddies and prevent climate change or something.

Amber Heard’s Mera is sidelined as the stay-at-home mother to Aquaman’s baby heir as the brothers venture through a jungle of giant creatures and get information out of an obese fish in a criminal Catina (complete with band) that unashamedly owns how much of a Star Wars rip off it is.

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To be fair, there are good ideas here that echo the brilliance of the first film but they’re just executed poorly. The prison heist to rescue Orm is disappointingly over before it’s started, as is the final battle with the resurrected watery Sauron.

Unlike the 2018 original we were left bored by large sections of the sequel, especially those involving Black Mantis, Most painfully of all, the banter between Aquaman and Orm barely earned a titter with the script badly in need of a comedy injection. This could have been DC’s answer to Thor Ragnarok, if they’d embraced the opportunity. Overall, this blockbuster isn’t quite a shipwreck but it’s nowhere near the colourful treasure chest of its predecessor.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is out now in cinemas.

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