Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom


Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), a marine biologist obsessed with Atlantis, leads an Antarctic expedition for David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) where they stumble upon the remains of Necrus, the lost 7th kingdom of Atlantis led by a tyrannical ruler who made a vow to come back from the dead. They stumble upon a mythical black trident that links its wielder to the lost civilization and grants supernatural strength, which Kane plans to use to exact vengeance on Aquaman (Jason Momoa). His mining of Orichalcum, a substance that can be weaponized to accelerate global warming, poses a risk to both land and sea-dwellers, prompting Arthur to leave his now busy life as father and king to pursue the enemy. He breaks his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) out of his desert prison to team up so they can defeat Black Manta, but can he really trust the former king of Atlantis who wants nothing more than his demise for usurping his throne?

I enjoyed this film more than I should. Considered by many as the DCEU’s final, dying, gasp for breath, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom totally detaches itself from the bigger shared universe and instead dives deeper, literally and figuratively, into Atlantis and beyond to come up with a sequel that actually works. Expanding its worldbuilding by showcasing more of James Wan’s alluring underwater world, this sequel allows its characters to complete their respective arcs and leave us with an enjoyable swan song.

The conclusion makes the prospect of a threequel more exciting because of Atlantis’ decision to surface. This ending makes you think of all the possible subplots, from politics and diplomacy between those two different worlds of land and sea all the way to Arthur’s journey as a father. The DCEU unfortunately ends here but James Wan can, rest assured, sleep well at night with a grin on his face knowing that his two Aquaman films can both stand out and serve as the bright spots in a rather chaotically shared cinematic universe.

Mera is still in this movie. She appears alongside the rest of the characters but is framed in such a way that makes her look like a secondary character. It is a clever way of distancing the franchise from Amber Heard without totally getting rid of her. She has lines but are far and few between. Her character is still essential in moving the plot forward but, once again, is given the supporting character treatment along with Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna. The main characters here are basically Arthur and Orm.

Yes, this is a bro movie, and the finished product is way better off because of it. Most of the banter is derived from the unexplored dynamics between the two brothers, giving us more of sibling bonding that was overshadowed by sibling rivalry in the first film. More exposure is given to this subplot because the movie just recycles its villain anyway, what with only one new character introduced who is pivotal to the plot but not central in the grand scheme of things. Orm’s is literally a fish-out-of-water story. A spin off entirely based on him and his misadventures on land eating more cockroaches would be an interesting HBO Max series.

As always, it is James Wan’s underwater world that always shines. I have always used Aquaman as a barometer for underwater-themed films that came after it. While The Little Mermaid and Black Panther II came close to giving us their own versions of dreamy underwater kingdoms, it is perhaps only James Cameron through Avatar II (which I haven't seen) who comes close or arguably surpasses what James Wan has accomplished here as far as deep sea worldbuilding is concerned. Bye, Aquaman. It has been a fun journey!

1 creature(s) gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

Will try to catch it before the MMFF starts. Hopefully i will come out of the moviehouse with similar glowing reviews.

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