‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ chimes in as a perfectly passable, if unremarkable and predictable superhero lark

Back for more: Jason Momoa returns in ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’.

AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM *** (124 minutes) M
In a perfectly fine, thick slice of superhero cinematic chowder Aquaman (Jason Momoa) finds himself battling the same villain he shook down in 2018’s Aquaman (the biggest film from the present DC stable, taking more than $US1.1 billion.)

Crazed with vengeance, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is determined to kill Aquaman and all he holds dear, which includes his wife Mera (Amber Heard, in her first film since the Johnny Depp fiasco) and now a baby son.

To defeat Manta once and for all – really? They couldn’t dream up a fresh baddie for the sequel? Try harder, Hollywood. – Aquaman needs to team up with brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who he condemned to a horrible prison hellhole in the first film.

They hate each other at first but, of course, the brotherly bond slowly reconstitutes to form a nicely sculpted redemption story.

There’s nothing much new here, to be honest. The action consists of the usual fireballs, fights and exchanges of energy bolts that come in a pleasant variety of colours (red, green, blue, white).

As usual, the design department has gone nuts with the hardware, filling the film with all manner of beautiful undersea vehicles, the best being these pods with squid-like tentacles. Again, nothing new about tentacles (thank you, Doc Ock) but well done, all the same.

There’s much ado about the mystery of Atlantis, the search for which embroils an inquisitive but rather weak-willed scientist (Randall Park, in a neat comic turn) into the clutches of Black Manta.

The mandatory stabs at topicality involve Manta’s plan to accelerate global warming and Aquaman’s attempt to get his underwater council of conservative boneheads to see that the only way to save the world is to put away their sense of moral superiority and make peace with the surface.

Wow. Making reasonable compromises to create a better world. Seems like such an out-dated notion in today’s chaotic world.

Again directed by Australian James Wan (SawFurious 7), the film unspools as fine, if unexceptional multiplex mulch, a good way to kill two hours and four minutes (note: the film itself actually clocks out at a relatively lean 113 minutes before the credits roll.)

Though Mera is Aquaman’s wife she’s a relatively minor figure, as is Aquaman’s mum, played by a barely recognizable Nicole Kidman who shares the frame with an equally unrecognizable Dolph Lundgren. Veteran Brit John Rhys-Davies provides the voice of a large crustacean and somewhere in the mix is veteran funnyman Martin Short.

Despite efforts from fans to have Heard removed from the film, including a petition with four million signatures, the heads at Warner Bros stood by her even though they ran the risk of her having a negative effect on the film.

Thus far the film, which has arrived with much less fanfare than we usually get with superhero onslaughts, has taken around $108m globally, which is a little soft but nowhere near The Marvels.

Heard and her agents must be praying that nobody blames her for the under-performance. She has enough to worry about as she tries getting her career back in gear.

Hard not to feel a bit sorry for her, regardless of what you thought of her during the court case. Poor lass.