Lots in the news this week around Warner Brothers and the DCEU. Earlier in the week we reported that Ben Affleck will not direct The Batman. Now reports are coming in that WB executives have filled two new rolls in next year’s Aquaman.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen (The Get Down) and Nicole Kidman (Lion, Mouin Rouge!) have reportedly been cast for two major roles in Aquaman. The film,under the direction of James Wan (Furious 7), is due in theaters October 5, 2018.
The movie was already boasting an impressive cast. Jason Mamoa (Game of Thrones, Frontier) will be playing the Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. He will be acting alongside Amber Heard (The Danish Girl) in the role of Aquaman love interest Mera. Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) will play Orm, Aquaman’s brother. Rounding out the cast is Willem Defoe (Spider-Man) who plays Aquaman’s ally Vulko.
The Black Manta
Adbul-Mateen being cast as Black Manta telegraphs much of what this movie will be about. Until now, the only character in play who had a chance of being an antagonist was Patrick Wilson’s Orm. in the comics, Orm and his brother Arthur have a falling out, leading them into battle with each other. But this sort of family rift would have a much heavier impact if we saw them as alies first. So who would be the villain in Aquaman? Enter Black Manta.
In many ways, Black Manta is Aquaman’s Joker. Present in the comics since Aquaman #1, the villain’s only purpose in life is to kill Arthur Curry. After a battle that left Arthur’s father dead, the two became sworn enemies. In one of the darkest moments in Aquaman history, Black Manta killed Arthur and Mera’s son. With this much carnage adrift every time these two meet, grimdark isn’t going away soon.
The casting of Nicole Kidman to play Atlanna is much more curious. In the comic books, Aquaman’s mother was thought to have died during child birth. Atlanna was the queen of Atlantis, the source of Arthur’s powers, and the key that gave him access to the thrown. Her death is necessary to help Arthur’s rise to power. So how will the DCEU square this particular circle?
There’s a bonkers answer in the classic Aquaman comics. According to comic lore, Atlanna did not actually die in child birth. Rather, she fell into a deep coma. Assuming that his Atlantean wife was dead, Tom Curry had her body thrown into the sea. There, after many years, she came out of her coma. But this time her memory had changed and she feared the surface world. When she heard that Aquaman would unite Atlantis with Men, she led a deadly rebellion against him.
But that doesn’t hold much water for us as a movie plot line. Though it would be excellent to see an undead Nicole Kidman leading a hoard of sea creatures in a battle against a trident wielding Jason Mamoa.
It is much more likely that, in the film, Arthur will return to Atlantis to find his mother ruling the kingdom. Then, in Act 2, Black Manta will do something that leads to Atlanna death. This will pin the two foes against each other for a climatic 3rd Act battle. When Aquaman spares the life of the man who killed Atlanna, Orm will be outraged. This divide will pave the way for a sequel with Orm in his villainous role as The Ocean Master.
Can The DCEU Make It To 2018?
Aquaman has all the potential to be great. Creepy undead sea monster or no, all the pieces are there. The cast is fantastic and the source material is not worn out. Furthermore, the director knows his way around high-intensity action and otherworldly material. But is Aquaman going to be too little too late?
Aquaman is set for release October 5, 2018. Audiences will have to power through Wonder Woman and Justice League first. There is also the possibility that an unscheduled film, like The Batman, will sneak into the mix as well.
Will audiences even have an interest in Aquaman come the fall of 2018? Or will the DCEU be a parody of itself by then? Only time will tell. And time, like tide, waits for no man. Even an Aquaman.