“Four years ago, I was basically unemployed, a wanderer with no home. But now I’m a husband, and a father. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
This film release marks the end of the DCEU as we know it (also known as the Snyder-verse). The DCEU has been an interesting ride to say the least, full of ups and downs. And while it never truly challenged Marvel with their multi-phased gameplan, it did provide unique opportunities that gave some deserving talents a platform to showcase their abilities. Momoa was one of them. For me, his casting was among the most unique and triumphant. When he was first announced, I had to take a hard look at that decision, as it went against the grain as far as traditional casting for Arthur Curry went. However, it is difficult for me to imagine anyone else who could have brought the same kind of life to the character. Momoa gave the character an exotic and wild-man energy that made for a very entertaining interpretation. Granted this at times made the character seem dimwitted, making his path to the throne seem all the more unlikely. On the other hand, the character was intended to struggle and chafe under the pressure of the crown, thus making Momoa’s performance believable.
While I am excited to see what direction that DC will go in and what the future may hold. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about that future and slightly disappointed that this is the end of the road for the likes of Cavill, Gadot, and Momoa. However, I suppose all is not lost, with speculation that Momoa could embody a certain interstellar mercenary and bounty hunter with an accelerated healing factor in the future. Time will tell on that one, but let me be the first to say I would fully support that casting.
Back on subject, let’s talk Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. I will recommend refamiliarizing yourself with the events of the first film, as I found myself shaking off some cobwebs in regards to where events left off. Momoa gives a bit of a recap as well as a brief summary of the character’s current station in life. He’s married Mera and had a son, Arthur Jr., and splits his life between land, where he lives in the lighthouse of his father Tom and fights crime, and the sea, ruling as the King of Atlantis. However, Arthur chafes under the diplomatic and bureaucratic royal duties, and is always in conflict with the Atlantean council, who oppose his intent of bringing Atlantis public and contacting the surface world.
Meanwhile, pirate David Kane, a.k.a. Manta, remains hellbent on his revenge mission against Arthur after Arthur elected not to save his father, leading to the latter’s inevitable fate. Now rocking a wicked scar across his face, his mission takes him deep into the Arctic in search of a weapon that will even the playing field. What he finds is a black trident that not only gives him strength to rival his enemy, but also promises the power he desires to destroy Aquaman, his family, and his kingdom. In order to save his kingdom and everyone he loves, Arthur will need the help of the one person who likely hates him more than David Kane, his brother, Orm.
“You’re not as bad at this as you think. If you lead, the Seven Kingdoms will follow.”
You know they say imitation is the highest form of flattery. It certainly showed here, as I could draw clear inspiration links from this story to multiple popular film franchises, one being DC’s direct competitor. Interestingly enough, one of Jason Momoa’s quips to Orm drew direct attention to this homage by calling Wilson’s character by the name of the character from which the story element was inspired by (Thor: Dark World). I can also draw a link to Lord of the Rings given the all-consuming and malevolent affect a particular artifact cast over its bearer. Despite these homages, the film is still very entertaining, and much of that has to do with the energy Momoa brings. It’s honestly hard to say he was acting, as the character has become so synonymous with him that it is hard to see where Aquaman ends and Momoa begins. I call it the Reynolds-Deadpool effect. There are times where I would have liked to have seen more emotional depth from the character, as there are some scenes that called for it. However, I was predominantly satisfied with the portrayal.
Patrick Wilson’s Orm had the most significant arc. When we last saw his character, he’d architected events to force a war with the surface world. This time around, he’s on the path to redemption, and as expected there are time periods that call into question whether the character would grow or whether history was doomed to repeat itself. These are the moments that Wilson shines, as it is really difficult to discern what side of the fence his character is going to come out on. In truth this rollercoaster makes up for the less than substantive performance from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the film’s villain. I can’t explain it; I like Abdul-Mateen. I don’t think he makes good casting choices, such as his run in The Matrix: Reloaded and Candyman, but I like him. I feel like he needs the right role to showcase his ability, and unfortunately, this film is not the one to do that either. The role called more of a malevolent presence, and I don’t believe we got that from him. Serving as the film’s main antagonist, there were pockets where he seemed to fully embody what that meant. At first I thought he was going to take a chapter out of Momoa’s own book in Fast X and be a quipping sociopath, but as the film went on it was clear that the character was intended to follow a dark path as he delves deeper and deeper into psychosis. And while Abdul-Mateen does his best, it never felt authentic to me.
It was disappointing to hear that Willem Dafoe had to be written out due to scheduling conflicts that prohibited him reprising his role. That did, however, allow Kidman step into the advisor role and marks a particular milestone for the actress, who prior to this has never reprised a role. While her role still feels somewhat reduced, it is always good to achieve a milestone.
This is a brothers’ story, and as such the focus is on our two brothers who have never seen eye-to-eye and spent the previous film as enemies. Having them forced to work together provides a clear view into their dynamic and calls into question their differences. Arthur as he struggles in his role as king due to his land upbringing and ignorance of Atlantean culture, and Orm, with his upbringing and training to prepare him for the responsibility of the crown and the insecurities presented by the threat of being usurped. I wished they would have delved a little deeper into this portion. Forced the brothers to confront their differences a more, but due to the 124-minute runtime, there wasn’t a much opportunity for such introspection. But that in my opinion would have gone a long way towards providing the film a stronger emotional arc. As is, it’s fine, but if they dug a bit deeper, it could have been great.
As this is the end for the DCEU as we know it, I will say that while I am sorry to see it come to an end, perhaps it is time for a day one reset. I am grateful that we got a proper conclusion to Aquaman’s story, and I would like to thank Momoa for shakeup he brought to character that would have likely been rigid otherwise. But under Momoa’s banner, the character was fun. And that’s what Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is, when you get right down to it. It’s fun.