Movie review: 'Aquaman 2' a fun last hurrah

Patrick Wilson (L) and Jason Momoa star in "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics
1 of 5 | Patrick Wilson (L) and Jason Momoa star in "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- In interviews leading up to Friday's release, cast members of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom were resigned to knowing this is their last movie in a series of two. As realistic as that may be, this still is a fun ride for the holidays.

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) have had a son. As the King of Atlantis, Arthur grows frustrated with the politics of the Council of House, whose checks and balances halt any progress in relations with the upper world (that's us, on land).


David Kane (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is seeking Atlantean technology to repair his Black Manta suit that Arthur broke in their last fight. He finds it in the ancient fuel Orichalcum.

Atlantis stopped using Orichalcum for environmental reasons, having nearly polluted the planet before humans even evolved. With political channels floundering, Arthur goes rogue and breaks his brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson), out of prison to help him stop Manta.


Arthur defeated Orm in the previous movie to ascend to the throne of Atlantis. Forcing the enemies to work together with a grudge they never totally let go adds a dramatic tension to the superhero plot.

When they visit surface worlds, Arthur messes with Orm, who's never been on land before. Orm is so unfamiliar with land that he has to learn to run.

Momoa is channeling his Fast X villain flamboyance into this heroic character. Yet, the film arrives at sincere places after all the sarcasm.

The theme of different sets of brothers having different kinds of conflict is slight as Arthur and Orm meet other siblings, but it is there. The environmental message also is slight, but probably has the potential to reach more people than Steven Seagal's environmental action movies.

Presuming the audience for an Aquaman movie already has bought into the technique of simulating undersea kingdoms with digital backgrounds, director James Wan has fun with the standard tools.

Chases through Atlantis pass by civilians hinting that they lead lives as mundane or romantic as people on land. Wan still stages long, uninterrupted takes of choreography.

Mera has more screen time than the trailers suggest, but she does have to take a back seat to the Arthur and Orm reconnecting. So do Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison as Arthur's parents and Dolph Lundgren as Mera's father, but they are along for the adventure.


Mamba's henchman, Dr. Shin (Randall Park), actually gets the most screen time of any supporting character because he has to explain theories.

Wan also fills the scenes with inventive creatures.

Orm is guarded by intimidating monsters. A pirate colony has hammerhead shark guards. Giant bugs populate some of the jungles. Some fan favorites from the first Aquaman return. too.

Were it not for the circumstances of Warner Brothers rebooting the DC superhero franchise, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom suggests a franchise primed for many more fun, irreverent adventures. Even so, it is absolutely worth seeing, regardless of its fate in studio politics.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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