The end of Aquaman sets up Arthur to become Atlantis’ new ruler, but his violent tendencies may bring him dangerously close to becoming a tyrant.
Aquaman 2 will see Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) fully step into his new role as the ruler of Atlantis, but there’s a chance that the transition might bring him closer to a tyrant than audiences realize. The sixth film in the DCEU chronology, Aquaman expands on the character of Arthur Curry as well as the groundwork laid by Zack Snyder in his version of Justice League. Director James Wan has gone on record to talk about the creative freedom given to him by Snyder while crafting the visual look of Atlantis, and Momoa himself has been a staunch supporter of the release of the Snyder Cut, which will contain even more footage of his version of Aquaman when it releases on September 5th, 2021.
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The first movie was a massive financial success for DC, making over $1 billion at the box office and quickly becoming the highest grossing film in the DCEU. The franchise is only set to grow even larger in coming years, with James Wan already signed on for a sequel releasing in 2022. The movie leaves a couple loose threads hanging, such as David’s transformation into Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) as well as the machinations of marine biologist Stephen Shin (Randall Park). A sequel isn’t the only material planned to feature Aquaman though, as Wan and DC have also begun working on a spin-off following the terrifying underwater species known as the Trench.
There are many different directions for the sequel to go in, but most likely the movie will heavily center on Arthur’s newfound responsibilities as king. While it’s entirely possible for Arthur to defy expectations and make a great ruler, certain key moments in the first film imply that that might not be the case.
Aquaman Was Black Panther Told In Reverse
Upon release, one thing that attentive fans of both Marvel and DC noticed was that the movie had some striking similarities to 2018’s Black Panther. These similarities weren’t deliberate, of course, but were primarily rooted in the similar circumstances of the two movies: both of them focused on family dramas that had world-shattering implications for the kingdoms where they took place. In Black Panther, T’Challa discovers that his father’s transgressions have led to the corruption of Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), an American terrorist with a claim to the throne of Wakanda and a deep-seated hatred of the world’s oppressive power structures. T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is forced to defeat him but is also made to reckon with both his father’s mistakes and the current state of the world at large.
However, in Aquaman, the situation is reversed. Arthur Curry seeks to claim the throne of Atlantis from his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who currently rules the underwater kingdom with an iron fist and is determined to wipe out the surface world for its pollution of the oceans. The conflict at the heart of both movies is born from a splintered family, and each movie’s primary antagonist is a villain with understandable motivations but overly extremist attitudes and executions.
The End Of Aquaman Set Up Arthur As A Tyrant
While the end of the movie succinctly wraps up the conflict by having Arthur defeat Orm, there’s nothing reassuring about the way in which it happens. Arthur essentially wages war on several major Atlantean royal armies using marine creatures and monsters such as the Trench and Karathen, and even though it’s ultimately for a noble purpose (the safety of the surface world), it doesn’t make the circumstances any less severe. Instead of rightfully defeating Orm in single combat as he had the chance to do earlier, Arthur’s victory comes in the midst of an incredibly violent and overwhelming battle. Despite the seeming support he receives from the other Atlantean houses after revealing that he now wields King Atlan’s trident, they will always remember that his conquest started as the result of a violent upheaval, and will subconsciously fear him because of it.
Aquaman 2 Should Challenge Arthur’s Rule
The first film does a wonderful job of taking Arthur and throwing him into an element that he isn’t used to, which is the idea of him taking on any kind of responsibility and governing his people. Part of the arc of the character is watching him grow into a natural leader, someone that Vulko (Willem Dafoe) and Mera (Amber Heard) feel comfortable leaving in charge of Atlantis. This brings him closer to the level-headed and resourceful leader that comic book fans have known for decades, which is a far cry from the impulsive and temperamental version of the character that fans first began to associate with Jason Momoa.
All great sequels must challenge the conflict of the original in a clever way, and the best way for Aquaman 2 to contrast with the first film is to test Arthur’s mettle as a ruler. While the other kingdoms of Atlantis generally accept his claim to the throne by the end of the first movie, there’s no way that all of them do, and even then, most of their acceptance of his leadership is born out of his swift defeat of Orm. There’s a strong possibility that Arthur doesn’t have the full trust of his subjects, a situation which is ripe for conflict and the potential challenge of his fitness for the throne.
Arthur Will Be Forced To Become More Like Killmonger
There are a lot of circumstances that ensure that Arthur’s rule of Atlantis will be much more stressful than anyone can imagine. Not only does he now have to govern several independent kingdoms and find common ground among them, but he’ll now also be forced to reckon with the mounting tensions between Atlantis and the surface world, something that Orm experienced firsthand. Couple that with the ever-looming threat of Black Manta and his vendetta against Arthur, and it seems as if the newly appointed king will have to worry about threats from every corner, something that might cause him to be more paranoid and aggressive. Killmonger’s extremism was born out of trauma, and so far audiences haven’t seen the DCEU’s version of Aquaman experience the same kind of emotional scars. That could very well change however, considering Manta and Arthur’s very personal rivalry through the years. There’s a very big shift happening in Atlantis, and Aquaman 2 has a perfect opportunity to seize that storytelling potential and show viewers a version of the character gripped by the weight of his newfound responsibilities.
More: All 29 Upcoming & In-Development DC Films
Key Release Dates
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)Release date: Dec 25, 2020
- DC Super Pets (2022)Release date: May 20, 2022
- The Batman (2022)Release date: Mar 04, 2022
- The Suicide Squad (2021)Release date: Aug 06, 2021
- Black AdamRelease date: Dec 22, 2021
- The Flash (2022)Release date: Nov 04, 2022
- Shazam 2 (2023)Release date: Jun 02, 2023
- Aquaman 2 (2022)Release date: Dec 16, 2022
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