The film’s success can be attributed to a combination of factors, with its visually stunning creature design standing out prominently. The incorporation of both old and new technology in ship and structure designs lends the undersea world an engaging Jules Verne vibe. While the film’s theme of climate change and portrayal of underground earth civilizations may overwhelm some viewers, the introduction of the crustacean-cantina with its Jabba-like overlord offers a refreshing departure in a world predominantly controlled by militaristic civilizations. Notably, the addition of creatures like the Brine King and Topo contributes a pleasant blend of humor and visual appeal.
Director James Wan has injected new life into the character of Aquaman by presenting a version starkly different from its serious, golden-haired origin. While this approach brings a refreshing take, the Guinness-swilling Arthur Curry, displaying a general indifference toward kingship, tends to fall into a somewhat one-note persona. The sequel follows Black Manta, a character singularly consumed by revenge against Aquaman (Jason Momoa), stripping away any other semblance of depth. To protect Atlantis, Aquaman forges an alliance with his imprisoned brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), resulting in an Odd Couple-like performance with a Three Stooges-esque execution. Additionally, a generic Lord of the Rings-inspired introduction of a looming Sauron entity bent on destruction adds a layer of overcomplexity, guiding the characters into the green orichalcum-veined, Mordor depths of the lost city.
While the film delivers as a basic action movie, it falls short in capturing a pivotal moment present in the comic—the sacrifice Aquaman makes in saving his son. In the comics, this moment serves as a turning point, providing the straight-laced king with a vital dose of humanity. The absence of this gut-twisting moment, where comic Aquaman loses his hand, teased multiple times in the movie but never realized, detracts from the character’s growth. The ultimate saving of his son by another character adds nothing to our would-be king. His stepping up to help unite Earth and land mirrors his ascent to the throne of Atlantis—a duty fulfilled by our reluctant leader because no one else will. While this departure will be a pivotal change in the DC universe, it appears our beer-chugging, overpowered Aquabro is here to stay.
In the face of these criticisms, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” has successfully carved out its niche in the superhero genre. It offers a unique and visually stunning take on the DC comic universe. The film’s unexpected success not only defies initial projections but also sparks discussions about the future of superhero films and the lessons that can be learned from its triumph. As the movie continues to make waves at the box office, it serves as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the film industry and the enduring power of visually captivating storytelling.