The King of Atlantis reluctantly teams up with his half-brother to take on a powerful new foe in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. As the King of Atlantis, Aquaman, Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), divides his time as the ruler of the underwater kingdom and living a domestic life with his Queen Mera (Amber Heard), along with his newborn son Arthur Jr. and lighthouse keeper father Tom (Temuera Morrison). However, the Black Manta, David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), has been tracking down Aquaman to reap vengeance for the death of his father. With the help of marine biologist Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), Kane stumbles upon the Lost Kingdom of Necrus and acquires a Black Trident once wielded by the Kingdom's ruler Kordax (Pilou Asbæk).
Possessed by Kordax's magic, Black Manta puts his vengeful plot into motion, which includes burning the highly toxic substance of orichalcum, which emits a catastrophic level of greenhouse gasses. Arthur is forced to break his half-brother Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson) for help tracking down David Kane. With the additional assistance of Mera, Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), and The Brine King (John Rhys-Davies), the forces of Atlantis face off against the undead hordes of the Lost Kingdom of Necrus.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Synopsis
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom sees co-writer and director James Wan (Malignant) return to helm a sequel to his 2018 Aquaman solo film. The film also has the distinction of being the final release of the current DC Extended Universe, before the start of a rebooted DC Universe headed up by James Gunn and Peter Safran. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom benefits by having a standalone story outside of the larger continuity, with the main crux of the film being the brotherly bonding that develops between Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry and Patrick Wilson's Orm Marius. The film also sees the return of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Candyman, The Matrix Resurrections) as David Kane, aka Black Manta, who is upgraded from being a secondary villain in the first film to being the new primary antagonist, as Kane gets new superpowers after being possessed by the Black Trident of Kordax.
My Thoughts on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
When the original Aquaman was released in 2018, I viewed it as DC Extended Universe bouncing back somewhat after the underwhelming performance of the Joss Whedon cut of Justice League the year before. Now, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the final film of a 2023 dumping ground of the remaining DCEU films, which also included The Flash, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and Blue Beetle. While James Gunn and Peter Saffron might bring back some of the actors for the rebooted DCU, everything is now going to begin fresh, starting with 2025's Superman: Legacy.
With Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom going in a similar standalone direction as the first film, it can be easy to view the film as the DCEU going out with a whimper. This is especially true considering reports that the film underwent multiple reshoots, where a planned cameo by Michael Keaton's Batman was replaced with Ben Affleck's iteration, before being cut from the film altogether. However, while Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom still ends up being a bit of a mess, it still ends up being a fine enough film.
I can't help but feel bad for James Wan, who has been spending much of the last decade trying to escape his typecasting as a horror filmmaker, which isn't helped by the fact that he directed 2021's Malignant in between his two Aquaman films. Wan's very auteurist and standalone take on Aquaman ended up being swallowed up by the behind-the-scenes politics and the fact that his find ended up being the one that was released last. The talk has been much more about what's next for Jason Mamoa's future involvement in the MCU than what's happening right now.
While Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is undoubtedly a step down from the previous film, it still makes for perfectly fine escapist entertainment that doesn't need to be viewed as part of a larger universe.