Sapin$ sapins evergreen review

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is unwatchable

0 out of 5 stars

Let’s cut to the chase: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is atrocious. It’s a clumsy Frankenstein of a superhero film that seems pasted together from a series of poorly executed ideas. It’s like a three-legged house in tornado alley, waiting to be torn down. The continuity is messy; the rewrites and edits are painfully obvious and poorly integrated. Much of the CGI (and there’s a lot of it) looks muddy and unfinished. It’s a film without redeeming qualities, a two-hour postcard for executive greed and cultural overconsumption. 

Jason Mamoa returns as Aquaman, who is now King of Atlantis. He struggles to balance his surface life as a new father with the bureaucratic pressures of ruling a kingdom using his brain rather than brute force. When an old enemy emerges from the depths with ancient technology that can destroy Atlantis and the surface, he must join up with another old enemy to save the world. 

aquaman and the lost kingdom review
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

While ultimately a chase movie running through different video-game environments, the film feels bloated and unstructured. The simplicity of an A to B chase is bloated with extraneous information, likely due to the purported reshoots and rewrites that took place after the film was first screened for test audiences two years ago. This Aquaman feels like a four-year-old telling a story, “and then… and then…” with no obvious cause and effect. Things happen, and then other stuff happens. Characters appear out of nowhere, and great presences like Dolph Lundgren and Nicole Kidman flail like (forgive me) fish out of water. It’s not helped by how bad the underwater effects look here, how the faces barely hold onto the bodies. 

As they attempt to paint Aquaman as a “single father,” they don’t have enough money entirely to write Amber Heard as Mera out of the film, so she stands awkwardly on the sidelines of her own life, a present, silent mother who appears only when absolutely necessary. Whatever the motivation behind cutting Heard out (we can warrant a few guesses), it would have been wiser to take the risk and keep things as is. What we’re left with barely makes sense and calls more attention to behind-the-scenes decisions. 

Jason Mamoa, never one of our great actors, really feels cast out on his own here, and the long years of production and overall carelessness of the project led to an inconsistent and uprooted performance. He’s making terrible wisecracks one moment, then delivering teary-eyed monologues the next. His character feels fragmented and utterly devoid of intention or motivation. Like many performances in the film, it often feels like he’s acting into the void, with scenes likely shot solo in front of a green screen with actors pasted together in post. If that’s not what happened, I’d be shocked. 

Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

In my eyes, nothing is redeeming about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, but it’s worse off for being representative of most superhero movies. Audiences have long suffered the monopolistic domination of superhero movies on our big screens. A passionate audience of fans keeps driving these movies, but there’s no denying that — with a handful of exceptions — the quality has dropped hard and fast over the past five years. So much of the damage has already been done, though, and the landscape of mainstream cinema is holding onto the Barbies and Oppenheimers for dear life, hoping that they haven’t lost cinemagoers forever. 

These movies feel like cheap plastic knockoffs you get at the Dollar store. They’re mass-produced and made to cash in on someone else’s work and energy. They’re slightly deformed, only vaguely resembling what came before them. Though these films represent years of work, the work doesn’t feel intentional or worthwhile. While last year, around this time, I suffered through Avatar: The Way of Water, what I will say about James Cameron is that he respects the work and the audience. In retrospect, the cringe-level approach to environmental issues was radical and engaging compared to a similar attempt here. 

If this review comes off as bitter, I am bitter. Year after year, we’re forced to suffer the indignities of Superhero films that we’re told are “cultural” events or “modern mythmaking” when they are husks of plastic that contribute to a deadening of art and community. During the pandemic, people feared that cinema might die forever (what they meant was multiplexes), but maybe it should have. People complain that Nathan Fielder’s The Curse is cringeworthy; it has nothing on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, an embarrassing, mega-bloated, garish atrocity. ■

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (directed by James Wan)

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Dec. 22.

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