Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a good, not great, movie. As an ex-teacher, I’d give it a grade of B+ or A-. it was an action-packed, special effects extravaganza with a decent script. David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick wrote the script, although star Jason Momoa and director James Wan collaborated with him on the story, as did scriptwriter Thomas Pa’a Sibbett, who wrote the Jason Momoa film Braven (2018).
Plot: Aquaman must rescue and team up with his second worst enemy to fight his worst enemy.
Setting: mostly underwater
Characters: Aquaman, Black Manta, Prince Orm, Dr. Shin, Mera, Atlanna
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is rated PG-13 for profanity (Arthur Curry has a potty mouth), cinematic violence, and a brief incident of scatological humor that any parent of a son will recognize.
I would not recommend watching this film unless you’ve seen the first Aquaman movie from 2018. You don’t need to have rewatched it recently, but you do need to have seen it so you know who the characters are and what their motivations are.
Some viewers may complain this film is “Woke.” It starts with Aquaman completely domesticated, enthralled by his wife and doting on his infant son. It deals with climate change. If that makes it “woke” in your eyes, skip it. There are other movies in the theaters. If a tough, beer-drinking brawler becoming a sensitive loving father who wants to save the world for his and other children offends you, you probably won’t enjoy this movie. If you want to see Jason Momoa kick butt and take names, then this film is for you.
There are some good actors giving good performances in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis) stars as Aquaman, a proud papa and doting daddy who is less than thrilled about his new job: king of Atlantis. While a ship’s captain is the last of the absolute monarchs, the kingdom of Atlantis is a constitutional monarchy and King Arthur must answer to his council.
Patrick Wilson shines as Prince Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and the deposed king of Atlantis. In the first movie, he was one-dimensional, but in Aquaman 2 his character is given a redemption arc and Wilson makes the most of it.
As sterling in a supporting role is Randall Park (Jimmy Woo in Marvel’s WandaVision, and Louis Huang in Fresh Off the Boat) as Dr. Stephen Shin, a scientist who’s fallen in with the wrong crowd and before he can do anything about it, he’s (excuse the pun) in too deep. He repents of throwing his lot in with Black Manta, but does he repent in time to escape Black Manta’s power?
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II returns as Black Manta, the modern-day pirate seeking revenge against Aquaman for killing his father. He’s gone from ruthless to mad, possessed by the cursed Black Trident of Kordax, King of the Lost Kingdom of Necris.
As “A Pirate’s Life for Me” says:
We’re beggars and blighters and ne’er-do-well cads
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho
Aye, but we’re loved by our mommies and dads.
Even thieves and murderers are loved by their mommies and dads, as the song says, and even cads can love their dads. Black Manta doesn’t just want to kill Aquaman. He wants to destroy him utterly by first killing all whom he loves. Then he’ll get around to killing him. He steals ancient Atlantean technology he can’t use without horrible collaterol damage, but he does not care.
Aquaman, assisted by his brother Prince Orm, and his father-in-law King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren), heroically saves the day and all ends happily.
The movie is Bechdel-adjacent, but doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel Test. Atlantis has some strong, intelligent women, Aquaman’s assisted by wife, Queen Mera (Amber Heard) and his mother Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), who still loves both her sons. Opposing Aquaman is Karshon (Indya Moore), chairwoman of his royal council. She opposes Atlantis revealing itself to the surface world and reminds him Orm was granted the power of Ocean Master to eradicate the surface world, not to negotiate with it. I don’t remember any of these three chatting with each other. Black Manta has a henchwoman codenamed Stingray (Jani Zhao), but this doesn’t really affect the Bechdel test one way or the other.
On the whole, a decent movie. Rotten Tomatoes only gave it 34%, but when comparing critics’ reviews to the audience reaction, it scored a respectable 85%. Whom do you trust to review a movie? Professional critics who see twelve or more movies a year, or fans who only go to the movies occasionally, not every month? Have you seen it yet? Are you planning to see it?
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was released back in December, but only came to my local theater recently.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.