A feast for the eyes, James Wan’s sequel has crazy mecha, ichthyoid critters and enough bombastic action and pyrotechnics to satisfy hyperactive kids. The movie also has its share of light moments thanks to Arthur and Orm’s bromantic banter.
Still, coarse humor and off-color dialogue push this film into the adult classification. Kids may like the colorful visuals and Momoa’s personality, though.
1. Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry
Since the first movie, half-human Arthur Curry (Momoa) has added fatherhood and kingly duties to his list of superpowers. But dealing with Atlantis’s political council and juggling his relationship with flaming redheaded wife Mera (Amber Heard) is starting to feel like a big, wet, bureaucratic snooze.
Enter the big bad one-eyed usurper Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who is being guided by a malevolent force to burn Atlantis’s One True Ring to power his new weapon. Now nice brother Arthur and mean brother Orm must reunite to save the oceans again. Momoa and Wilson have killer chemistry together as they navigate their sibling rivalry, history, and begrudging respect for one another.
2. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a fun sequel that offers more spectacle than its predecessor. However, the stakes feel lower and the story lacks the inventiveness of the original.
The return of vengeful super-villain Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) threatens to bring down Arthur Curry and Atlantis. Thawing icebergs reveal a mysterious underwater kingdom filled with tentacled beasts and a king who modeled his fashion after the leather-clad villain.
Abdul-Mateen and Momoa have solid chemistry and they make the brothers’ prickly relationship compelling. Randall Park is also an effective foil as the scientist who works for Manta. But other elements of the film fall flat. The script feels like a list of action movie clichés.
3. Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus
The movie does feature a few strong scenes and performances but none of them can make up for the lack of a cohesive story or pace. The film’s attempt to be everything to everyone results in a cluttered, overstuffed mess that feels directionless and weightless.
Even Jason Momoa’s charm can’t save Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom from its own clumsiness and absurdity. His brotherly rivalry with Black Manta echoes Marvel’s famous battling bros, and James Wan leans hard into horror influences and overtones (think THE THING-esque otherworldly creatures).
Dolph Lundgren plays King Nereus, the father of Mera. His role was reportedly reduced due to Heard’s ongoing legal battle with Johnny Depp.
4. Temeura Morrison as Tom Curry
Morrison is a welcome presence as Aquaman’s father, adding needed humor and heartfelt familial drama to the mix. But it’s Momoa who really shines. He’s as alpha-cool, even jerk-ish, as the king of the seven seas while also making you believe in his character’s core humanity.
He and Patrick Wilson play off of each other beautifully, balancing their fraternal dynamic with a range of emotions. Their private father-and-son sit-downs help to ground the stakes as they set out to defeat a possessed David Kane.
James Wan and co-writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick rely on corny jokes, physical humor, and well-timed snark while delivering believable stakes and heartfelt conflict. This is a solid conclusion to a troubled franchise.
5. Nicola Kidman as Atlanna
With his willowy mother Atlanna (Nicola Kidman) back from a sabbatical as queen, Aquaman is struggling to balance his duties as king of Atlantis with the demands of family life. But it’s not just a matter of parenting or his relationship with his younger half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who’s determined to unite the underwater kingdoms against the land-dwellers.
The film also leans hard into its message about climate change, which could be a positive or a negative depending on how the audience responds to it. For all its good intentions, though, it never quite finds the right tone. The result is a cartoonish movie with no real weight or impact to it.
6. Martin Short as Kingfish
In addition to all the ocean carnage, there’s plenty of other flotsam for fun-seeking families to sink their teeth into. And there’s lots of salty language and bucketloads of toilet humor to boot.
There’s also a whole lot of orichalcum (which actors yell about so many times the audience at my screening giggled). The ancient sea gods used it to generate power, but now it’s causing “Day After Tomorrow”-style weather and making insects gigantic.
But all that is overshadowed by inconsistent character portrayal and subpar CG that frequently looks dated and unfinished. And a lack of narrative direction. Which is a major problem for a sequel. And a DC movie in particular.
7. John Rhys-Davies as the Brine King
With inconsistent character portrayal, subpar CGI and a lack of narrative direction Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a waterlogged sequel that sucks some of the sheen off of the DCEU. It also marks the nadir of this franchise’s attempt to create a shared cinematic universe.
James Wan overloads the action with state-of-the-art CGI but it still has the look of a B-grade creature feature from the 50s. Temuera Morrison and Randall Park are likable as always and get more to do this time around. But others like Patrick Wilson as Orm and Martin Short as Kingfish feel largely functional and under-served. They could easily have been trimmed from the film without losing any of its plot.
8. Martin Short as Kingfish’s Voice
Despite the fact that James Wan didn’t break any new ground with this film, it is still an entertaining ride. Its action is surprisingly good and the movie features a lot of gunk for fun-seeking families to swim through.
Martin Short gives a surprise voice cameo as the ruler of a pirate colony called The Sunken Citadel. His character fits into the lore of Aquaman very well.
Nicola Kidman, Dolph Lundgren and Tom Curry are also back in this sequel. But it is a little disappointing to see Amber Heard missing from the cast list. The interplay between Arthur and his sibling Orm (Patrick Wilson) is a bit stilted but it is still enjoyable to watch them fight.