Earlier in the week, Warner Bros. revealed the first trailer of Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom. When director James Wan talked to the press, he mentioned that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Manta would serve as the film’s big bad after being more of a henchman to Ocean Master (Patrick Wilson) in the original film. And part of Manta’s story in the film will involve material from a movie he was originally meant to headline.
You may recall a few years ago that Warner Bros. up and announced an Aquaman spinoff called The Trench, based on those nasty-looking undersea monsters during the first movie’s third act. It seemed like a weird gambit, given it wouldn’t have starred anyone from the first movie, but then after said spinoff got canceled alongside Ava DuVernay’s New Gods, Wan revealed that Trench was a smokescreen for what was actually a Black Manta solo film. Wan explained that at the time, they didn’t reveal a movie was in the works for one of the biggest haters in the DC Comics pantheon to surprise audiences. But since it’s now no longer a thing, Lost Kingdom will have what was planned for that movie.
“The Trench movie, it was going to be a secret Black Manta movie,” he said. “When that didn’t happen, some of those ideas found its way into this. [...] We came up with a lot of really interesting ideas and really cool stuff that I felt we can use in this one.” At least one of those ideas is given proper attention in the trailer: Manta’s seen wielding the Black Trident, an Atlantean weapon that gives him a real edge against Aquaman this time around. Presumably that planned movie would’ve seen him look for the Trident, or just literally anything that would’ve been a suitable upgrade, and then we would’ve seen the fruits of those labors in Lost Kingdom proper.
Even though the Black Manta movie is dead in the water, Wan is still hoping to build out a standalone universe for the Aquaman movies. (The ACU, I guess?) He acknowledged that Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry has “more places to go,” and that Lost Kingdom will tee up a third installment. And for him, the fun is getting to explore the different parts of Atlantis and the Seven Kingdoms, which he feels are strong enough to exist as their own thing separate from the ever-fluctuating DC universe. “My dream would be to create a Seven Kingdoms cinematic universe and visit all the different worlds that we touch on with these two films,” Wan admitted. “We enjoy all the different worlds that no other superhero movies go into.”
Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom releases in theaters on December 20.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.