Black Manta in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

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Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom achieves monumental status while simultaneously embodying the essence of a perfectly mediocre superhero film. Its most notable feature lies in being the swan song of the DC Extended Universe, Warner Bros.’ ambitious venture mirroring the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s triumphs. The journey commenced in 2013 with Man of Steel, and after a decade of mostly lackluster outings, punctuated by fleeting moments of brilliance, the saga reaches its zenith with this film.

A film that feels like it arrived two years too late. The previous Aquaman installment hit theaters in 2018, leaving a five-year gap since audiences last encountered Arthur Curry, save for brief appearances like in The Flash. Such hiatuses between movies seem commonplace in shared universes, yet it’s worth noting that within a five-year span, three Iron Man films graced the screen—a pace that highlights the stark contrast in release schedules.

Driven by a thirst for vengeance following his father’s demise, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) wields the formidable power of the Black Trident, emerging as a relentless adversary poised to settle the score with Aquaman (Jason Momoa). With Atlantis hanging in the balance, Aquaman must forge an unlikely alliance with his incarcerated brother (Patrick Wilson) to safeguard their kingdom against imminent threats. Together, they stand as the last line of defense, ready to confront the dark forces that seek to engulf their realm in chaos.

What immediately distinguishes this movie is its near-complete detachment from other DCEU films. Unlike this year’s “The Flash”, which boasted nods to the entire live-action DC comics history, including appearances from Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, General Zod, and a trio of Batmans, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” remains true to its titular hero. Here, Aquaman confronts Black Manta’s personal vendetta while balancing the demands of kingship with his private life. It’s a welcome respite from the overstuffed cameofest of “The Flash”.

However, the storyline itself is tried and tested. Drawing inspiration from the Thor franchise, this film resurrects Ocean Master from its predecessor to forge a fragile alliance between him and Aquaman. Much like in Thor, they share a fraternal bond. The kingdom of Atlantis mirrors Asgard in the Thor movies, with the primary distinction being the use of a trident instead of a hammer by the protagonist.

The most uncomfortable aspect of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” centers around the character of Mera. Actress Amber Heard’s highly publicized dispute with her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, and a televised court battle regarding domestic abuse, cast a shadow over her portrayal. It’s evident that efforts were made to minimize her screen time as much as possible, but her role proved too significant to omit entirely. Consequently, Mera’s presence feels sporadic, disappearing entirely during the middle act only to resurface abruptly towards the film’s conclusion. This decision is perplexing, given the opportunity to raise stakes for Aquaman by potentially eliminating her character in the first act.

Both the Flash and Aquaman served as comic relief characters in Justice League, posing a challenge for them to anchor their own standalone films. In The Flash, they addressed this hurdle by introducing two Barrys, with the new iteration even more grating. In Aquaman, the character essentially morphs into a version of Tony Stark—witty, charismatic, yet bearing a serious demeanor. He grapples with single parenthood while enduring comical mishaps, such as being urinated on by his infant. Attempting to navigate both serious political affairs and personal responsibilities, he oscillates between moments of gravity and levity. Yet, the film struggles to carve out his distinct identity, leaving him suspended between caricature and character.

In this unremarkable offering, the DCEU exits not with a bang but with a gradual whimper. As a standalone film, it’s passable, albeit overlong, as is the tendency with many entries in this genre. The handling of Mera/Amber Heard leaves much to be desired, underscoring missed opportunities. Nevertheless, it surpasses the likes of Wonder Woman 1984 or Suicide Squad in terms of enjoyability. Since Avengers: Endgame, superhero fatigue looms large, but Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom deftly sidesteps this issue with its standalone narrative. Yet, this very approach also renders it just another run-of-the-mill superhero flick, lacking the distinctive spark that elevates it beyond the genre’s norms.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom poster
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom poster
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
  • Year:
  • Director:
    • James Wan
  • Cast:
    • Jason Momoa
    • Patrick Wilson
    • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
  • Genres:
    Action, Adventure, Fantasy
  • Running time:


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