Aquaman’s inaugural adventure made waves with a staggering $1.148 billion at the global box office, drawing fans worldwide. Despite mixed reviews, it boasts an ardent following that lauds it as a standout in the superhero genre. Controversies surround the sequel, including the inclusion of Amber Heard and a potentially unsettling scene featuring Black Manta. However, these issues may not overshadow the film’s overall impact.
As the release of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” approaches, the cloud of controversy has obscured the memory of the first film’s triumphant success in 2018. Directed by visionary filmmaker James Wan, “Aquaman” achieved worldwide recognition, grossing an astounding $1.148 billion at the box office.
While critical reception wasn’t universally glowing, “Aquaman” holds a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Nevertheless, it boasts a fervent fan base that views it as one of the most distinctive and captivating superhero movies in recent memory.
The unique allure of “Aquaman” is often attributed to Wan’s singular directorial style. In a genre crowded with formulaic superhero films, “Aquaman” stands out as a visually striking and thematically bold creation. This uniqueness raises the possibility that James Wan, if given the opportunity to fully realize his distinctive vision once again, might deliver the superhero cinematic highlight of the year with “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”
Challenging DC Royalty
When discussing the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), the names that commonly surface are Zack Snyder and his divisive work on iconic characters like Superman and Batman. These two superheroes have long been the faces of the DC brand. However, when it comes to box office success, “Aquaman” outshone both.
The previously mentioned box office triumph of “Aquaman” places it significantly ahead of Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which fell short by over $250 million. Thus, it’s evident that “Aquaman” reigned supreme in the DCEU. However, as the release of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” draws near, various controversies are attempting to dethrone the king.
One recurring critique of the “Aquaman” sequel is the inclusion of Amber Heard. Following her high-profile legal battle with Johnny Depp, who co-starred with her in the first film, many worldwide have called for her removal from the sequel. This, however, presents a formidable challenge for the director, as many scenes with Heard were already filmed before the trial began.
Director James Wan has sought to reassure fans by asserting that Amber Heard‘s role in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is not central. While the first “Aquaman” was seen as a romantic narrative by Wan, the director now describes the sequel as a “bromance action-adventure movie.”
However, this brotherly alliance between Arthur Curry and his half-brother Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson) won’t be without its trials. Despite their reconciliation after a tumultuous family feud in the first film, they will confront a formidable old adversary.
Black Manta’s Vengeance
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II‘s portrayal of Black Manta in the first film, coupled with the character’s striking design, left an indelible mark. In “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” Black Manta steps into the spotlight as the primary antagonist. However, a significant story element, drawn from the comics, has generated controversy.
Early in 2023, reports surfaced of audience members walking out during test screenings for “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.” Initially, this sparked concern that the film might be subpar. However, a recent rumor suggests that the departures were prompted by a disturbing scene involving Black Manta.
While it’s possible that “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” may not measure up to its predecessor, this new rumor hints at a different explanation for the walkouts. Allegedly, the scene in question involves Black Manta taking the life of Aquaman’s son, Aquababy, mirroring an event from the comics. Aquababy was prominently featured in the film’s official trailer, lending credence to the rumor.
In this light, it’s conceivable that the controversial response of some viewers stemmed from the unexpected darkness of this superhero movie scene. If this is indeed the case, James Wan‘s latest film might not be judged poorly, but rather, it may have caught audiences off guard with its uncharacteristic tone.
For James Wan, known for creating some of Hollywood’s most notable horror franchises like “Saw,” “The Conjuring Universe,” and “Insidious,” pushing boundaries and challenging expectations is familiar territory. Thus, it’s perhaps reassuring that the director continues to take substantial risks rather than playing it safe.
The Throne Awaits a Challenger
In light of these controversies, it’s crucial not to overlook the potential of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.” Despite the obstacles, James Wan‘s visionary approach and willingness to push the boundaries of the superhero genre could result in a film that is both entertaining and emotionally resonant, making it a standout among 2023’s superhero offerings.
With other highly anticipated films like “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “The Flash” disappointing some audiences this year, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” stands poised to stake its claim to the throne.
As of now, the primary competitors appear to be “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” However, given James Wan‘s track record in Hollywood, it’s entirely possible that he will once again surprise global audiences when “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” hits theaters on December 20, 2023.