After a decade, the DC Extended Universe has come to an end over the 2023 Christmas weekend. Beginning with 2013’s “Man of Steel” and ending with 2023’s “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the interconnected films follow various DC Comics characters.
"Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" is the sequel to 2018’s “Aquaman.” The films follow Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa. He is the king of Atlantis and the superhero protector of the sea. Both films were directed by James Wan.
The film tonally stays true to the first “Aquaman.” Both films are high-adrenaline action movies with elements of science fiction and fantasy and fast-paced plots.
They’re both surprisingly lighthearted films as well, especially considering how earlier DCEU movies took themselves too seriously. Though the more mature tones differentiated the films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it often made the films overly pessimistic, notably in “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman.” In more recent movies, the DCEU has gone more lighthearted to mixed results, at their best leading to the heartwarming “Shazam!” and at worst leading to the parody-like sequel “Wonder Woman 1984.”
The film has an environmentalist message to it. Although there are issues with how the message is delivered, it is an admirable stance to take and fitting given Aquaman’s connection to the sea.
Though staying true to the first film lends to series cohesion, the sequel also inherits its same problems. The first film is all over the place, swinging violently from humorous romantic scenes, to over the top fights, to expansive fantasy political intrigue, making viewer submersion difficult.
The sequel is more tonally tight, mostly staying in its genre as a fantasy/science-fiction action film. Its plot is just as fast-paced, leaving no room for the viewer to breathe. The film has one main plot and it can’t decide which subplots are most important, leaving none of them satisfyingly expanded on.
The character Mera, played by Amber Heard, is the most notable to have a dropped plotline. Though she was a major character in the first film and she and Aquaman have a child together in the sequel, she is demoted to a glorified extra. She has no importance to the plot, little dialogue, and is absent for a significant portion of the movie. Despite the actress’s controversy around her infamous defamation case with ex-husband Johnny Depp, it is a disservice to Mera, her character. Her exclusion is a missed opportunity, and her character having more significance would have allowed for an exploration of superhero parenthood.
Though Mera receives little dimension, the characters with more screen time aren’t much better. Nobody’s acting in the film is dynamic, even Nicole Kidman is one-note with her portrayal of Atlanna, Aquaman’s mother. The disorganization of the plot leads to none of the characters being fleshed out, including Aquaman himself.
Climate change is dealt with in a clumsy way that turns it into a fantasy villain who is outright trying to melt the ice caps for nefarious purposes. The film is preachy, but unable to say anything of substance, whether it be educational or a call to action besides a vague “get along with people” mantra with no answer as to how people are supposed to get along.
To top it all off, the film is outright ugly and unfunny. It heavily relies on computer-generated imagery that lacks realism, at times looking like a poorly designed video game. The humor is clichéd and lacks surprise and cleverness.
There is a fight scene in the movie where an underwater train gets derailed, this is an apt metaphor for the entirety of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.” The film is a mess with its too-fast plot, one-dimensional characters, half-baked message, ugly special effects, and tired jokes. The DCEU has been inconsistent to say the least, yet it is still an unsatisfying send-off to a decade-long franchise.
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is currently playing in theaters. The Echo has also reviewed the first “Aquaman” film, which can be found here.
Rating: 3 out of 10 stars.
Frank Remski is a film and theater reviewer for the Eastern Echo. He is majoring in media studies and journalism and minoring in public relations. He has worked for The Echo since the summer of 2023 and has written both news stories and opinion pieces.