Arthur Curry a.k.a. Aquaman stands in a cave made of ice.

‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ is Clumsy, Wacky Fun

2.5/5 Tridents

Oh, Aquaman, we hope you never change. Talking to those fish! Riding that seahorse! When I was growing up, Aquaman was the superhero no one could stop making fun of, but now that Arthur Curry is back in the sequel to his 2018 debut, Aquaman shows that he can still have plenty of fun himself.

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Aquaman 2 picks up where the first movie left off. Arthur (the ever charismatic Jason Momoa) has taken the throne of Atlantis, but it turns out being king is a huge drag sometimes. He and Mera (Amber Heard) have a cherubic baby, whom they’re raising on land with Arthur’s dad (Temuera Morrison). Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) is a doting grandmother, while Arthur’s brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) rots in prison for his crimes in the last film. Things are going pretty well for Arthur, overall.

But Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is still out to destroy Arthur for killing his father, and with the help of mild-mannered scientist Stephen Shin (Randall Park), he finds an ancient artifact called the Black Trident. With his new weapon, he taps into an ancient evil that ramps up his power by a million, and threatens the entire world in the process. To take him out, Arthur realizes that the only one who can help him is Orm, so he busts his brother out of prison and the two go adventuring.

I’ll pull this bandaid off now: Aquaman 2 isn’t great. The plot is threadbare and derivative. They try to hang a lampshade on it by naming all the other movies they’re ripping off, and the references are so numerous they feel like they should be a drinking game. The many fight scenes look cringingly fake, and they’re boring as hell. There’s definitely a human story at the heart of the movie—like, you can’t say it doesn’t exist, because there’s a baby involved and brothers and stuff—but it’s not that interesting.

There’s some good stuff here, too, though. When so many other comic book movies try to tone down their characters and make them a tiny bit more plausible, Aquaman embraces the audacious nature of its source material. Atlantis is an over-the-top fantasy world, and it’s great. Black Manta’s comics-accurate helmet is still a gift to cinema. The vintage sci-fi-feeling visual and sound effects are a lot of fun.

Aquaman 2 also benefits from some great actors. It’s fun to watch Momoa mess around, as Arthur ribs and taunts Orm. Seeing Park at work is always a pleasure, even if he does get typecast. It’s too bad the movie leaned so hard into its CG action sequences, though, and left its actual cast with so little to work with.

As DC starts to look ahead to its James Gunn era, Aquaman 2 feels like a fitting way to end this chapter of the franchise. It’s fine. It’s fun. It’s boring sometimes. It’s bright, colorful, and kind of clumsy. If you’re looking for somewhere to spend two hours of a chilly winter day, then Atlantis might be as good a place as any.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom comes out in theaters on Friday, December 22.

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href=""></a>