Much like its predecessor, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is not good by any traditional standard, nor is it fully “so bad it’s good”. It’s somewhere in-between, filled with genuinely amazing details and hilariously stupid moments.
Helmed by James Wan (“The Conjuring,” “Furious 7”) and flaunting his talent for directing action, the sequel’s plot is about as silly as it gets. Aquaman (Jason Momoa), now a father and the king of Atlantis, must reunite with his villainous brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to fight Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who is being possessed by the evil Black Trident. It shamelessly rips off “Star Wars,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and even “Black Panther.” But much like the original “Aquaman,” the story hardly matters.
You’ll find no thematic throughline, nor any cameos of other DC heroes to appease comic book fans. The best you might get is a hint that, at some point in the film’s development, there might have been one. The script is bonkers, filled with lines like “I’m gonna kill me a dead mermaid” and “blood curses are just DNA.”
Performances are polarizing. Jason Momoa’s frat-boy energy and Patrick Wilson’s uptight nobility make for a fine leading duo, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is as intense as he needs to be, which is pretty intense. But other performances are awful – in particular, Dolph Lundgren, who sounds just as stilted as he did 40 years ago in “Rocky IV,” and Amber Heard, whose output is not entirely her fault, as her role in the film was vastly reduced due to real-world controversy.
Visually, the movie is outstanding, mirroring the overkill ethos of the script. “The bowling alley screen when you get a strike” is an understatement. It’s vibrant, at times looking like it could be adapting a comic book panel directly.
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is a unique experience, fun and corny in both the wrong and right ways. It is a trainwreck like no other, and yet remains a success. Totally oblivious to the collapse of superhero cinema, it boldly offers up one last sick trident fight. It is a party at the end of the world.