Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Review: A Strong Way to Close Out the DCEU

The DCEU world has been filled with incredible highs and hellish lows. What began as a strong contender in a battle to compete with the MCU, the DCEU rose quickly before crashing and burning just as fast. Some films, such as Man of SteelWonder Woman, and Birds of Prey, stand as testaments of the quality and fun that DC can produce. Others brought about painful reminders that some cinematic universes need to be earned and not forced. Within 2023, the DCEU limped to the finish lines, with the box office performances of Shazam: Fury of the GodsBlue Beetle, and The Flash leaving a ton to be desired. Finally, the closing chapter of this cinematic universe has arrived with Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom, signaling the end of an era.

The optics of these last final films have been difficult, with James Gunn’s announcement of a whole new, entirely different DC world of films, aptly titled the DCU, which is set to begin with the animated series Creature Commandos and live-action film Superman: Legacy. It’s hard to build up excitement and box office success when you announce the death of a franchise before it’s properly resolved. Why should you care and invest in these films when something new (and potentially better) is right around the corner? It’s a tough sell, which each and every film has suffered from, on top of other problems that plagued many of these films. So, is Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom worth your time? Or should you just wait until it arrives on MAX? Continue to find out about Jason Momoa’s final outing as the King of Atlantis!

[Warning: Spoilers from Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom are below!]

The world requires saving from the King of Atlantis

It’s been four years in the DCEU since we saw Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) assume the title of King of Atlantis, and those four years have been rather kind to him. Married to Mera (Amber Heard) and father to a little one of his own, Arthur’s learning to balance his life on land and in the sea. It’s a delicate balance, which requires him to rule over all the oceans and seas while also being home in time to feed his son, but it looks like he’s achieved the best of both worlds. However, fate has other plans in store for him. That is if fate is David Kane, a.k.a. Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), on the path of revenge.

David despises Arthur for killing his father and will stop at nothing to see him and everything he loves ruined. On this journey, with the help of marine biologist Stephen Shin (Randall Park), David stumbles upon a lost Atlantean artifact that might change the tides in his favor. The Black Trident imbues him with immense power and the promise to help him destroy Arthur. However, David is not truly in control, as the trident possesses him for its own benefit, needing to enact a plan of its own.

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Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) in Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom. Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

When the Black Trident through David brings war to Atlantis’ doorstep, which results in mass casualties and the loss of ancient machines that no one is quite sure what they do, panic sets in. It’s clear that trouble is coming their way on a global scale if they can’t stop Black Manta from whatever it is he has planned. Arthur will need all the help he can get, and with Mera hurt, only one person in the world can help him: his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). Can these two learn to work together, or is the world screwed because neither can set their pride aside? The stakes have never been higher in the DCEU as this final film sets the stage for all-out destruction. How this franchise wraps everything up is something that you have to experience for yourself.

The positives and negatives of Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom

Perhaps it’s because I went into the film with such low expectations, but I actually enjoyed Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom quite a bit. I didn’t expect much, disliking the first film quite a lot, so when I watched this sequel, I was shocked by how different it felt compared to what came before, and I wished there was another to follow.

The story of Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom felt vastly different from the first, with a huge shift in tone and structure that elevated the film. In the first one, the story felt like it was attempting to take itself more seriously than it needed to, forgetting that it’s a film about a guy who can talk to fish. However, this film embraces the ridiculousness of Arthur Curry and the world he lives in, breathing fun back into it.

Jason Momoa felt cut off at the knees in the first one, with little humor provided to such a hilarious and lively actor. In Aquaman and The Lost KingdomMomoa sheds the seriousness and has a ton of fun as Arthur. The buddy cop dynamics of the film also help, as Momoa and Wilson have incredible chemistry together on screen. This dynamic is a huge selling point to me, as together, these brothers not only save the world but do so in a realistic sibling way, which tends to be a ton of fun to watch. Having grown up with two sisters, what I saw on screen was 100 percent representative of the type of relationship I had with my siblings.

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David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom). Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

I also liked that this sequel expanded upon the lore of Atlantis and the other tribes among the seas. Getting to see other creatures who live in the depths of the oceans and some of the interworkings within the kingdoms added a richness that the first film lacked. I understand that the original Aquaman was a more intimate story between two warring brothers, but The Lost Kingdom is better for expanding the world of Atlantis, which made this film all the better for me.

What was most impressive to me was the action, which director James Wan infused so well throughout the entire film. I found myself whooping at some of the scenes and was joined by my nephew in the excitement. Did the first film contain such incredible feats of weapon combat? I can’t describe a single action scene from the first film to you, with perhaps the exception of the final battle. But even that one is fuzzy at best. However, multiple action sequences in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom stand out to me, almost a week after watching it, with the final trident battle between Arthur and David as a standout moment.

I do wish they would have either recast Mera or kept Heard in more than we did, as her absence was felt throughout the film in a rather obvious way. You can tell that she was removed through editing in quite a few moments, which impacted the film just a bit. Mera is so important to Aquaman lore that it would have made better sense for the world and this particular story to just recast and allow another to bring this character to the screen.

Just like the first film, a few moments struggle from pacing issues, although this sequel was a gigantic leap forward on this front. There weren’t too many times that I felt the story dragged or wanted to turn it off. Compared to the first film, which feels almost entirely unwatchable, I consider this a huge success.

Final thoughts on DC’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Overall, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was an unexpected delight, which caps off the rollercoaster of the DCEU. This film had everything I wanted and needed from a comic book film. It was exciting and engaging, with hilarious moments and plenty of action. Sure, it has its problems, but compared to some of the other recent DC films, this was 20,000 leagues above them. I was shocked when its box office was better than The Flash or Blue Beetle, but after watching it myself, I got it. This is the shining example of what a DC film can and should be, and hopefully, Gunn pushes to make more films like it. 

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is in theaters and streaming.

Have you watched it yet? What did you think of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Let us know your thoughts about this final film in the DCEU by connecting with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

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