Reader, consider this premise: “A reluctant superhero/head of state, armed with an ancient and magical weapon which denotes his status, is forced to team up with his evil (but tasty-looking) brother after imprisoning him for trying to seize power and destroy humanity through a partnership with unscrupulous outsiders.” It’s a poppin’-fresh elevator pitch for anyone who didn’t see Thor: The Dark World, so it’s easy to understand why the execs over at Warner Bros. went for it. What’s less clear is whether Orm, who isn’t Loki, will have genuinely turned to the side of Aquaman, who isn’t Thor, by the time the end credits roll on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
The film’s first trailer, which somehow just dropped on September 14, 2023, seems to suggest that the premise goes something like this: After a series of devastating defeats by Black Manta, now leveled-up through the power of the Black Trident, Aquaman’s hand is forced. Allies are few and far between, on account of the way that the folks behind the DCEU can’t seem to nail down a Superman cameo, no matter how hard they squint, or how loudly they make their birthday wish. In need of an adept fighter with the power to hold his breath for a really long time, Arthur Curry turns to his half-brother, Ocean Master, in the hopes that their shared love of the imperiled Atlantis will make them natural allies.
Footage from the trailer sees Aquaman and Ocean Master teaming up, albeit begrudgingly. It’s a classic good wet cop/bad wet cop situation. But does it make Ocean Master a good guy in the long term?
Aquaman 2′s Ocean Master can be whatever he wants to be, and so can you
Look, the odds are good that by the end of Aquaman 2, Ocean Master will be back to his old nogoodnikry. Full villain turnarounds are rare in comic book movies, and unless Warner Bros. has decided to finally give up and emulate the MCU at the top of Phase Five by setting up Orm with a spinoff show whereby he learns to be a better man through his friendship with Owen Wilson, the smart money is on the historically-megalomaniacal villain staying megalomaniacal.
But even if the last scene in Aquaman 2 is Ocean Master admitting that he only ever hated Aquaman because he was afraid of his feelings for him, followed by the two of them embracing, their hands everywhere, their hearts beating as one, before a rapt audience of Atlanteans forced to reckon with who they’ve accepted as their dictator?
It won’t matter. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the last movie in the DCEU. The infinite growth model of the modern superhero franchise that these movies were built on will meet the inevitable hand of entropy the second that the lights come up in the theater. Sure, the flick could half-heartedly try to set up for another sequel, or a big Justice League event film that’ll never come. Alternatively, Orm could reveal that his real dream has always been to put on puppet shows, and the last 45 minutes of the movie could be uncut, real-time footage of him being tutored by Frank Oz in the art of making a sock with googly eyes seem alive. It wouldn’t change anything moving forward.
Honestly, it sounds kind of freeing.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom hits theaters on December 20, probably.
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