Warner Bros’ DCEU concludes with the second installment of the Aquaman saga. I have mixed feelings about the DCEU and felt disappointed by James Wan’s initial Aquaman film. So, I went into this movie with low expectations and hoped it would be fun. Thankfully, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is not only a fun movie, but James Wan made some badly needed improvements to the flaws of the first installment.

Several years have passed since the events of the first movie. While the Aquaman/Arthur Curry reigns as king of Atlantis, he, along with his wife Mera (Amber Heard) and their first child Arthur, Jr, spend much of their time living on land with Arthur’s father Tom (Temura Morrison). This new life proves challenging to Arthur as he must handle the demands of being a ruler and the duties of being a father and husband. Meanwhile, the vindictive pirate/mercenary David Kane, aka Black Manta (Yahya Abdul Mateen II), remains on his path of vengeance to take down Aquaman.

Kane, who continues to work with marine biologist Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park), seeks the tremendous power he needs to battle Curry evenly. The two discover a power trident that once belonged to an ancient ruler of a long-extinct kingdom under the sea. Anyone who touches the trident absorbs its incredible power and strength but also becomes possessed by the evil spirit of Kordax (Pilou Asbæk), who, in turn, attempts to use Manta to destroy the world.

Written and directed by James Wan, who co-wrote the story with David Leslie, Johnson-McGoldrick, Jason Momoa, and Thomas Pa’a Sibbett, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a much more exciting and enjoyable film than the first Aquaman. As Arthur must join forces with his estranged half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) by breaking him out of prison, that element alone adds to the adventure and thrilling action of the movie. It also makes for some hilarious scenes as the two different brothers learn more about each other and how to work well together. As far as the movie’s main plot is concerned, I have seen better, but it still works when it comes to fueling the thrills and tension. Like the first movie, the underwater scenes look gorgeous. In fact, CGI looks way better this time around.

One of my biggest complaints about Aquaman 1 is the terrible acting of Yahya Abdul Mateen II. As Kane/Manta in the first movie, he goes forcefully over the top with no nuance whatsoever. Thankfully, he dialed his performance down for the sequel and performs quite well. Another complaint of mine with the first installment was the bland performance of Patrick Wilson as Orm. In this movie, the audience sees different sides of the character. He is much more dynamic, engaging, empathetic, and also funny. Wilson works with better character development this time, allowing him to shine brightly.

Among the few things I will miss from the DCEU will be the departure of Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Momoa has such a natural charisma and exceptional sense of humor, and it just makes the character so much fun. It was a joy to see him have a blast portraying Arthur Curry one last time, and should the DCU reboot reimagine Aquaman with a different actor, that person will have some big shoes to fill.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is now in theaters, and though it is not traditional holiday fare, it should make for a fun time at the theater for most families of a wide range of ages.

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