2023 wasn’t a great year for live-action superhero media.
Both DC and Marvel struggled to make a splash critically or financially with all but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 being considered box office duds.
Unfortunately for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the last film in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) before its clean slate reboot in 2025, nothing suggests this trend will change.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom had a lot to live up to in the eyes of Warner Bros Studios. Jason Momoa’s first outing as the underwater hero was the only DC film outside the Nolan trilogy to make over $1 billion, a feat that still stands today.
However, hopes that the DCEU’s latest and final film could recreate the box office magic were diminished well before its release. Before the film could even complete filming, Amber Heard, the secondary protagonist of the film and love interest of Aquaman, was in court for the most-watched case of the decade. This led to her role being considerably cut, scenes needing to be reshoot and a lot of creative talent choosing to leave the project.
The final product, released two years after its intended window, ended up being a mess of a film that was ugly as it was incoherent.
The most obvious issue with this film is its story. Aquaman’s greatest foe, Black Manta, is back to destroy Atlantis and will do so by heating the earth with ancient material using a magic furnace or something … I don’t really know. It was quite incredible how convoluted the story was while also feeling so empty and bare-bones.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the actors didn’t look the same from scene to scene. This was due to the number of reshoots. Momoa would look bigger and fitter in some scenes and smaller in others, to the point where the costume department hid him in a poncho for the scenes they reshot, masking his appearance.
The CGI also felt half-baked, which has been commonplace for DC movies in recent years. I feel like in every big-budget movie I write about, I end up grilling the CGI, but when it’s 2023/24 and your film looks like Spy Kids 3D on a $200+ million budget, there really isn’t an excuse. CGI’s novelty is wearing off, and unless your name is James Cameron, maybe look to use less of it.
On a slightly brighter note, the cast is all having fun. Momoa clearly loves his time as the character and a returning Parick Wilson as his younger brother Ohrm makes for a fun little adventure. Amber Heard’s role was noticeably reduced, and she was only on screen for about five minutes.
Nicole Kidman and Dolph Lundgren’s performances were bad in a fun kind of way. They said confusing things and tried their best to believe what they were saying, making some cringe-inducing yet entertaining moments.
Quotes like “The key to Kordax’s prison is the royal bloodline itself!” perfectly exemplify what I mean. No one in the cinema knew what it meant, but because it was delivered with ‘passion’ by Ms Kidman, everyone kinda went with it.
Disappointingly, there is also no reference to this being the final DCEU film. This film franchise started with Man of Steel in 2013 and has limped to 2024 with this offering with no sign of overall connectedness to the greater in-film universe post-2017’s controversial Justice League.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was a soggy train wreck; in many ways, it was expected to be so. Its underwater scenes can be fun and the scenes between Arthur and Ohrm are enjoyable but overall, if this is the quality DC and Warner Bros are putting out, a reboot is definitely the right idea.
Original Article published by Jarryd Rowley on Riotact.