'TWAS the night before Christmas and under the sea, a new story was brewing from the folk at DC.

It’s been a tough year for the comic book fan but hopes remained high from director James Wan. From The Flash to Blue Beetle, it’s been flop after flop but can Aquaman buck them to come out on top?

In short, no. In actuality, the Jason Momoa fronted blockbuster looks set to follow The Marvels as 2023’s second superhero sequel to follow a billion dollar hit with financial failure. That’s no mean feat.

It is worth noting, of course, that the immense success of Wan’s first Aquaman rather surprised pundits back in 2018. The film remains, by some way, the highest grossing release of DC’s extended universe era, having almost doubled the takings of Justice League a year prior. What’s more, Aquaman made more at the box office than the next four films in the franchise combined.

Quite why Aquaman proved so successful with audiences is no less clear now than was the case then.

While Wan’s frothier and more old fashioned approach to superhero rollicking certainly seems to have appealed to audiences, it hardly wowed the critics. Momoa was a draw, of course, but Amber Heard, as love interest Mera, was knee-deep in her messy and very public divorce from Johnny Depp at the time. No such thing as bad press, as they say.

And yet, much has changed in the last five years. Hot on the heels of a cinema-landscape-altering global pandemic and in the face of waning audience interest in heroes, it would take a miracle for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom to even tickle the toes of its predecessor’s success. It all just looks a little familiar.

The film finds Arthur - Aquaman - Curry now happily wed to Mera. He’s a dad now but balances parenting duties with ruler-ship over the submarine kingdom of Atlantis. When an ancient power is unleashed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Mantis, Arthur must reunite with his estranged half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to save the day.

Eight superhero blockbusters “enjoyed” release in 2023. Mercifully, far fewer are due in the 12 months to come. Best to skip this one and focus on the Christmas repeats. You see, familiarity is not always a bad thing but excessive CGI and rota plotting are.