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“Aquaman” sequel stinks like dead fish

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Starring Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Randall Park, Amber Heard, Dolph Lundgren and Temuera Morrison. Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. Directed by James Wan. Now playing in theatres everywhere. 124 minutes. PG

⭐️ (out of 4)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Two questions needed answering going into the monumental eyesore that is “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”

The first: “How bad could it be?” Answer: Extremely bad. The CGI-drenched movie isn’t so much being released as it is being allowed to wash up on shore. There wasn’t even a red-carpet premiere in L.A. for it.

The second: “How much of Amber Heard has been cut out of it?” Answer: A lot. She’s been reduced from Jason Momoa’s co-star to cameo status.

Nobody was expecting this “Aquaman” sequel to be a winner. Not with all the reports of delays and reshoots. The changes included trimming Heard’s scenes to placate Johnny Depp fanboys, following her courtroom defeat in a defamation suit sparked by Depp, her former husband.

This is also the final film in the DC Extended Universe, which is wheezing to a close after 10 years of highs (“Wonder Woman,” the first “Aquaman”) and more recent lows (“Black Adam,” “The Suicide Squad”). It will be replaced by a new film franchise of DC Comics characters, cleverly titled DC Universe.

Narratives developed over the DCEU decade will be altered or dropped.

Ditto for some characters, Aquaman potentially among them.

The abandonment of the DCEU could have been a creative boost for returning “Aquaman” director James Wan. Freed from having to connect the dots of an ongoing franchise, he could have created a stand-alone film with fresh ideas and a new villain.

Instead, Wan has continued with much of the plot and personnel of the original “Aquaman” from 2018. That now feels so long ago that “The Lost Kingdom” should open with a montage of past scenes titled “Previously on Aquaman …”

To quote the dude-bro dialogue of screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Momoa’s buff, scruffy and smirking Aquaman is now “the king of frickin’ Atlantis.” He’s also the delighted father of a newborn son with wife Mera (Heard), who is absent so much that Aquaman almost seems like a single dad.

Aquaman will be obliged to “save the world’s ass” from an environmental threat posed by a bilious green substance called orichalcum, which is like climate change on steroids.

(Originally published in the Toronto Star.)


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