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Aquaman and the Lost Franchise: How DC's biggest movie ever sees its first sequel as its last

This ship was sadly doomed to sink.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Despite Aquaman's amazing box office performance and mostly positive reception, its first sequel will be its last. Why and how did this happen?

It's been a few days now that we've been hearing about how Jason Momoa sees his second solo outing as the King of Atlantis as his last, which is an odd thing to openly admit in the middle of promotion for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. The cast and crew seemed pretty enthusiastic about the sequel when they promoted it during CCXP 2023, but it feels as if this movie was doomed from the start.

As we all know, the DCEU has been nothing but a bumpy ride. One that's given us both bangers and stinkers. Aquaman is generally counted among the first, as it surprisingly became DC's biggest movie of all time (even bigger than any Batman movie), but with James Gunn's DCU reboot coming our way in 2025, yet another creative shake-up after the implosion of the 'Snyder-verse' is here. This means most actors won't be coming back to reprise their roles, though there are some exceptions. There are many factors at play here, including the availability of actors who've mostly moved from their DC run and the matter of incorporating elements that 'worked' into a brand-new continuity. With how separated Aquaman has been from the other DC stuff (besides some random jokey cameos) since his appearance in Justice League, one would think the fan-favorite portrayal of Arthur Curry by Jason Momoa would be something worth keeping around, but that isn't the case.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The first reason behind making the first sequel to DC's biggest movie of all time the last might be very simple: The movie isn't very good, and the first one was a fluke. We've read multiple reports over the last year or so about how Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was facing a troubled production and undergoing extensive reshoots and recuts that went beyond working out what to do with Amber Heard's Mera in the movie following the legal drama between her and Johnny Depp. However, word on the street says the plan was always to focus on Arthur and Orm's relationship over the main character's ongoing romance with Mera, which was at the center of the first movie. Fair enough, but then we had all the rumblings about Batman, first played by Michael Keaton and later by Ben Affleck, having a part in the movie that was dependent on whatever was going with The Flash (another mess that had to be fixed). If you mix all these 'smaller issues' with the new restructuring of the entire DC slate and the potential fact that maybe the script wasn't where it needed to be, it's easy to see how Aquaman could go from a certified win to something the studios would rather let go.

Jason Momoa's future at Warner and DC seems bright regardless. If we return to ET Online's chill interview, the actor heavily implies that he's staying at Camp DC regardless of what happens with his take on Aquaman. Unlike Henry Cavill or Ben Affleck, it appears his relationship with executives and creatives over there remains healthy, and those Lobo rumors might have some truth to them, as he clearly tried his hardest not to say anything beyond what we already knew: that he's a huge Lobo fan.

Whether or not The Last Kingdom is the actor's final outing as Aquaman, we'll probably remember his underwater run under Zack Snyder and James Wan as a big inflection point for DC on the big screen. The character who most people used to laugh about suddenly became one of that universe's coolest superheroes around. That's no small feat.


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Fran Ruiz

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