The discussions around the future of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom have revealed an interesting twist involving the original film’s villain. The first Aquaman, which was directed by James Wan and became the highest-grossing DCEU film after making over $1 billion at the international box office, saw Jason Momoa reprising his role from 2017’s Justice League. The film followed the Atlantean hero as he faced off against the vengeful pirate Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who secretly teamed-up with Aquaman’s half-brother, Atlantean king Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson), who wants to become Ocean Master. Over the course of his adventures, Aquaman also developed a bond with Mera (Amber Heard), who was betrothed to Orm.
Unfortunately, the development of Aquaman 2, which is also helmed by Wan, has become extremely complicated due to behind-the-scenes issues involving Heard. The actress is currently embroiled in a high-profile defamation lawsuit filed against her by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. The ongoing trial has resulted in both actors’ future projects being cast in doubt. This includes Aquaman 2, which has been filming since before the trial. During recent testimony from Heard at the trial, the actress said that she had been released from her contract with Warner Bros. and was unsure if she will feature in the Aquaman sequel. Heard also said that her role in the original film had been significantly “paired down,” which she felt was due to her personal legal battles with Depp. What’s more, DC Films President Walter Hamada recently confirmed that the studio considered recasting Heard in Aquaman 2.
Per The Wrap, Hamada has now revealed a story detail regarding Heard’s Mera. The DC Films boss said that screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick was already shifting the focus away from Mera before Aquaman 2. Evidently, the sequel “was always pitched as a buddy comedy between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson.”
If the film does indeed primarily focus on the relationship between Aquaman and Orm, it will certainly be an interesting narrative swerve. The first Aquaman wasn’t without its comedic points, but the adventure film franchise would be leaning even further into the lighter tone that differentiated it from other projects in the DC Extended Universe were it to take on a “buddy comedy” tone. If this is the case, it could also make phasing Heard out of the franchise easier for Warner Bros. and DC, should they choose to do so. Heard previously testified in the trial that she “fought really hard” to stay in Aquaman 2 at all, claiming that the studio “didn’t want to include [her] in the film.” However, Heard’s co-star Momoa and director Wan reportedly supported her continued involvement.
Given the rift between Orm and Aquaman at the end of the previous movie, their buddy comedy relationship would certainly be rather contentious and dangerous. If anything, it seems that Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom may be drawing inspiration from the relationship between Thor and Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Typically, DC’s efforts to mimic Marvel’s successes have not gone well, but this new wrinkle is certainly an interesting proposition that could give a brand new flavor to the familiar hero.