Shropshire Star

Film Talk: Back in the water for follow-up Aquaman adventure

He’s a beast of the screen from which there is no escape.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom: Patrick Wilson as Orm and Jason Momoa as Aquaman

Having made his debut around the turn of the millennium in Baywatch: Hawaii, Jason Momoa went on to steal the show in sci-fi delight Stargate Atlantis, before going on to shine as a horse lord with attitude in a little series called Game Of Thrones.

As Khal Drogo, Momoa brought plenty of added grit and spit to a show that became famous for both, and it wasn’t long before this impressive hunk of muscle was establishing himself as a leading man to be reckoned with.

Starring as ruthless trapper Declan Harp in Netflix historical drama series Frontier, he brought his trademark smoulder to centre stage and stole the show from start to finish. In the more recent Apple TV+ series, See, he did the same thing as fearless warrior Baba Ross, delighting audiences everywhere in a niche he had made his own.

Yet, in terms of the silver screen, there is one role that over the last eight years has dominated his career. First donning the scale-studded spandex and picking up the trident in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Momoa has made the role of DC hero Aquaman his own, and stands as a very different Arthur Curry from the traditionally blond and pasty protagonist of the original comics. Having reprised the character for 2017’s Justice League, it wasn’t long before Momoa was storming the screen with his own solo outing as the fabled king of Atlantis.

While 2018’s Aquaman received mixed reviews from critics, it did becomegrossed $1.152 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing flick of the DC Extended Universe, and now its follow-up adventure is finally here. But does Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom hit us like a tidal wave of nourishing superhero sustenance, or is this one destined to quickly circle the drain? It’s time to take a look...


Released: December 21 (UK & Ireland)

Success comes easily to some blockbusters while others work visibly harder to achieve mediocrity.

The first Aquaman film, released in 2018, strained every sinew to engineer an origin story for the king of Atlantis but ultimately capsized in a tsunami of headache-inducing special effects, despite the buoyancy aid of Jason Momoa’s natural charm.

Returning director James Wan has not learnt from the myriad mistakes of that initial foray into DC Comics world-building.

He opens the floodgates on digital trickery in a wearisome sequel festooned with prolonged action sequences and slow-motion hand-to-hand combat that proudly showcase Momoa’s power and athleticism with the eponymous superhero’s gold trident.

Scriptwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick shoehorns global warming into a bloated battle against a Sauron-like sorcerer, who corrupts innocent minds through an ancient artefact and is reborn by spilling noble Atlantean blood.

There are many potential sacrifices in Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom, including the hirsute king’s cherubic newborn, who has inherited marine telepathy and can communicate with creatures of the deep.

The rosy-cheeked moppet can use this miraculous power to see subtlety is sleeping with the fishes in Wan’s picture.

The fate of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis hangs in the balance when ruthless mercenary David Kane aka Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) accelerates his plan to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Aquaman by wielding a mythical black trident.

This devastating weapon, forged with dark magic by the power-crazed king of Necrus (Pilou Asbaek) during the reign of King Atlan (Vincent Regan), is discovered by marine biologist Dr Stephen Shin (Randall Park) in a tomb beneath rapidly melting polar ice.

Kane answers the trident’s call and enacts a diabolical plan to steal caches of ancient fuel orichalcum, which releases greenhouse gases when burnt to turn up the thermostat on Earth and accelerate environmental catastrophe.

“I will avenge my father even if I have to make a deal with the devil,” Kane snarls at a horrified Dr Shin.

To defeat Black Manta and second-in-command Stingray (Jani Zhao), Aquaman forges a fragile alliance with his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) and bolsters the ranks with his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and sweetheart Mera (Amber Heard). Topside, Arthur’s father Tom (Temuera Morrison) babysits Arthur Jr and hopes a decent dramatic subplot will wash ashore before the end credits roll to merit his on-screen inclusion.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom opens with a humorous ode to parenthood replete with running gag about Arthur Jr’s expertly targeted urine stream before a creaky second-hand plot sets sail for preposterousness. Fractious exchanges between Momoa and Wilson’s feuding siblings is reminiscent of the Thor and Loki dynamic from rivals Marvel, and a throwaway line of dialogue makes the similarity explicit. Imitation does not flatter Wan’s film, which reduces female characters to plot devices as the script loudly bangs a drum for global, cross-political collaboration to address the climate crisis before it is too late.

SWEET SUE (UK 15/ROI 15A TBC, 99 mins)

Released: December 22 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Sweet Sue: Maggie O’Neill as Sue and Tony Pitts as Ron

Mike Leigh’s filmmaker son Leo makes his feature directorial debut with a bittersweet slice of life, which explores familial dynamics between generations that don’t know how to communicate effectively with each other. Fifty-something Sue (Maggie O’Neill) runs a children’s party shop and is keen to dip her toes back into the dating scene.

At her brother’s funeral, she meets biker Ron (Tony Pitts), a mourner at another wake, and seeds of romance are sown between the unlikely couple.

Soon after, Sue meets Ron’s son Anthony (Harry Trevaldwyn), a social-media influencer who believes his dance troupe Electric Destiny will ascend to the dizzy heights of global stardom.

Reality does not gel with Anthony’s delusion and Sue seeks to bring together the dysfunctional family without crushing the teenager’s dreams.

SOCIETY OF THE SNOW (UK 15/ROI 15A, 143 mins)

Released: December 22 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Society Of The Snow: Enzo Vogrincic as Numa Turcatti

Director JA Bayona revisits a harrowing true story in a tense survival thriller which has been submitted by Spain as its official entry for the Best International Film prize at next year’s Academy Awards.

Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 departs Montevideo in Uruguay on October 13, 1972, bound for Santiago in Chile.

On board are 19 members of the Old Christians Club rugby union team, their family and friends including Nando Parrado (Agustín Pardella), Numa Turcatti (Enzo Vogrincic) and Roberto Canessa (Matias Recalt).

The plane crashes in the heart of the Andes and just 29 of the 45 passengers and crew emerge safely from the wreckage.

Survivors are trapped in one of the most hostile environments on the planet without any way to alert authorities to their position.

THE BOY AND THE HERON (UK 12A/ROI 12A, 124 mins)

Released: December 26 (UK & Ireland)

Celebrated Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is one of the founders of animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli and he is the writer-director of some of the company’s biggest hits including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Miyazaki’s final film before retirement is a semi-autobiographical fantasy set in 1943 about a 12-year-old boy called Mahito (voiced by Soma Santoki), who is wrestling with the recent loss of his mother in a fire.

The boy’s father Shoichi (Takuya Kimura) remarries his wife’s sister Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura) and uproots his grief-stricken son to a house in the countryside tended by an army of ageing maids.

Left to his own devices, Mahito follows a mysterious grey heron (Masaki Suda) to a dilapidated tower close to the estate where he tumbles into a magical netherworld connecting the living and the dead.

The Boy And The Heron is released in the UK as the original Japanese version with subtitles and an English language dubbed edition featuring the voices of Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Willem Dafoe, Mark Hamill, Robert Pattinson and Florence Pugh.

NEXT GOAL WINS (UK 12A/ROI 12A, 104 mins)

Released: December 26 (UK & Ireland)

Taika Waititi directs and co-writes a feelgood underdog sports comedy inspired by the 2014 documentary of the same name.

American Samoa’s national football team languishes at the bottom of the world rankings.

In 2001, the squad famously lost 31-0 to Australia, a humiliation which weighs heavily on Tavita (Oscar Kightley), head of the national football federation.

Disgraced coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) is forcibly encouraged to accept a position transforming the American Samoa squad into a group of players capable of scoring just one goal.

Estranged from his wife Gail (Elisabeth Moss) in a land he does not fully comprehend, Thomas struggles to connect with his squad including forward Jaiyah Saelua (Kaimana), who hopes to make history as the first transgender athlete to compete in a World Cup qualifier game.

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