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Film Review: AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM (2023): James Wan’s Film Tries Hard to Justify its Existence Despite Some Fun and Exciting Sequences

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Jason Momoa Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by James Wan, written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, James Wan and Jason Momoa and starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Randall Park, Martin Short, Temuera Morrison, Dolph Lundgren, Jani Zhao, Pilou Asbaek, Indya Moore, John Rhys-Davies and Vincent Regan.

James Wan brings Jason Momoa back to the screen in the ridiculous and overstuffed, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. It’s easy to sympathize with the filmmakers here who thought they were doing the right thing by making this follow-up to the wildly successful 2018 original film, Aquaman. Sometimes, however, less is more except in the case of the creators’ determining of what Amber Heard’s screen time should be.

It’s clearly apparent that Wan is trying to throw everything into this new movie (except the kitchen sink) with the hope that something will stick and resonate with viewers. Though Momoa is personable and has his moments, the movie gets bogged down in too much plot development and too little screen time for some big stars such as Amber Heard, herself, whose role seems like it was reduced from what it should have been. It’s not that Heard doesn’t still have a genuinely compelling screen presence, it’s that the filmmakers are too concerned with the actress’s real-life difficulties than with telling the story of the sequel the way it really should have been told.

Momoa is Arthur Curry, who runs Atlantis and is married to Mera (Heard). They have a young son together. This film presents its antagonist in the form of David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who holds a grudge against Arthur for the death of his father. Randall Park is on board in the thankless role of Dr. Stephen Shin who serves to assist Kane. A black trident emerges which is the way to defeat Aquaman (Curry’s alter-ego) and take over his reign. But, this movie often feels like a message about global warming rather than one where the good guys and bad guys fight to save civilization as we know it.

The best part of the movie is Curry’s half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) who Curry must get out of jail in order to help him stop David Kane/Black Manta right in his tracks. Martin Short serves as Kingfish who tells our heroes where to go and how to get there, so to speak. I’m being perfectly clear here in terms of what Kingfish is actually doing. I promise I’m not making this up.

Kordax (Pilou Asbaek) is the maker of the black trident. The plot thickens when it is revealed that David has kidnapped Arthur’s son. Soon, Mera arrives to justify her existence in the film and it’s a moment of clarity in the movie that makes the audience certain that Heard should have had a bigger part in the picture. Yes, she has substantial moments here but the quantity of those moments come in minor increments.

Tossed into this film is Nicole Kidman as Atlanna. It pains me to say this but Kidman seems to be going through the motions in her performance of this role and isn’t the slightest bit believable in the part. It almost feels like the Oscar winner is telephoning her performance here in.

On the other hand, Momoa has his moments in this sequel, to be sure. It seems some of his scenes were clearly improvised but Momoa still has a screen presence which makes the actor have a good time playing Aquaman. This film seems less interested in making a good impression on viewers than the first film did. Momoa, thus, lets his humor inhabit the role and the actor will make the audience have a good time watching Aquaman try to save the day, especially in a couple of key sections of the picture.

Patrick Wilson and Momoa play off each other with terrific timing and Wilson revels in his role as the younger half-brother even during a sequence later in the film which offers a major surprise to the audience. Wilson has a field day working opposite Momoa and there are some moments of sheer genius buried within the mundane plot the movie so bluntly wears on its sleeve.

Unfortunately, Dolph Lundgren is less than stellar in his pivotal role in this sequel as Nereus who basically feels present in this movie to pad the movie’s two-hour plus running time (which includes ending credits). Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry, Aquaman’s dad, is reliable enough to provide some moments of humor in-between the chaotic mess that Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom truly is underneath the surface.

The visual effects here are probably the movie’s saving grace. The villains in the movie and some of the underwater settings feel menacing enough to keep the audience from walking out of the film due to lack of interest in the story line.

Lastly, Abdul-Mateen II emerges from the movie with a particularly gutsy performance as Black Manta. The actor is solid in the picture and also has an intriguing character to portray which could have bored audiences with a less effective actor in the role.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom doesn’t completely destroy the DC superhero movie contrary to popular belief. Instead, it just remains a mostly mediocre entry in the fading series of pictures that have come out over the past several years. I liked The Flash and Blue Beetle better than others so there’s still a glimmer of hope that the DC universe can be saved in the future. Momoa conveys an ordinary guy as a superhero well, overall, but, at the end of the day, Wan’s movie could have done more with its premise to tighten up its plot and cut out certain characters who don’t serve to entirely move the plot forward. Some characters exist as time padding ones, for sure, but Amber Heard was not one of them and her small role in the movie is inexcusable. This movie isn’t that bad but only works in spurts.

Rating: 6/10

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