It’s the day before the official cinematic release of Aquaman 2 on 22 December, and the first critical reactions are rolling in, with several early reviews panning it as “painfully bad”.
Long before its highly anticipated release, the Jason Momoa sequel already seemed to be a sinking ship. It was a major point of contention in the high-profile 2022 defamation trial between Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard, as the latter claimed her role as Aquaman’s paramour Mera had been significantly “pared down” after Depp’s legal team called her abuse claims a “hoax”.
Then, in October of this year, Variety published an investigative piece that included damning allegations about actors’ on-set behaviour.
Once a franchise that uplifted the DC Extended Universe – Aquaman (2018) became the DCEU’s highest-grossing installment – director James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has now become a “damning indictment on [the DC] legacy”, according to The Independent’s film critic Clarisse Loughrey.
“The Lost Kingdom marks the official conclusion to the so-called DCEU, with new studio heads James Gunn and Peter Safran ready to tear it all down and start again with 2025’s Superman: Legacy,” she wrote in her one-star review. “It’d be nice to say the franchise will be remembered for its occasional triumphs (it’s rare to find a comic book film as good as 2020’s Birds of Prey) but The Lost Kingdom speaks too fluently to its failures to not feel like a damning indictment on its legacy.”
The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argued that Aquaman 2 “never attempts anything original or honest”. “There is nothing in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom that’s fun or thrilling or moving enough to make you wish for any further sequels,” he added.
Meanwhile, freelance film reviewer David Opie boldly tweeted that Aquaman 2 “is painfully bad”. “What a terrible end to an already bad year for superhero films,” he lamented.
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said that the film “floundered”, while BleedingCool’s Kaitlyn Booth called it “a mess of a film” on X. “In the story, in special effects, and in the end, none of it matters or amounts to anything because we all know this is a chapter ending with nothing to actually say about said ending,” Booth added.
There were a handful of critics who disregarded the negative reviews and found Aquaman 2 to be a “blast”. “I don’t care what anybody says, #Aquaman2 is a blast, even if it’s not quite as good as the first,” Next Big Picture’s Dan Bayer posted on X.
“Fun, silly popcorn movie that’s actually about the dangers of climate change,” Insider correspondent Kirsten Acuna commented. “Jason Momoa’s delightful as always & makes it worth a watch. Whether intentional or not, the sequel contains a lot of meme fodder. Not as good as the OG, it’s a weird sendoff for the DCEU.”
Aquaman 2 is out in cinemas on Friday 22 December.