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RTF Original: ‘Aquaman Has Hit A Billion. What’s Next?’

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“WAN.BILLION.DOLLARS.”

Chances are, you’ve heard this a lot already. But it bears repeating over and over and over again. Why? Because, it was deserved. It was earned. Especially, when you consider the fact that Aquaman has been the butt of all comic book jokes for what seems like forever. Zack Snyder was mocked and ridiculed for casting Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry. The movie was predicted to be outperformed by Bumblebee and Mary Poppins Returns. It was predicted to fail and usher in a DC Films reboot.

And now all the naysayers have been silenced.

WAN.BILLION.DOLLARS later and Director James Wan, Momoa, Amber Heard and Co. are laughing all the way to the bank as their film, Aquaman, joins the elite “Billion Dollar Movie Club.” So much for failure, so much for a reboot. Audiences have spoken and Aquaman is no longer a joke. He is a full throttle force here to stay.  

While MFR has written about the different ways Warner Bros. may interpret the film’s success, the next, and most obvious, question should be: “What’s next for this billion-dollar franchise?

Because it’s a guarantee that more Aquaman is coming our way. We just don’t know when, or if James Wan is even coming back. Now, on the surface that statement seems silly. “Why wouldn’t James Wan come back?” you might ask. I’m playing devil’s advocate here. But, let’s speculate.

Seeing as he’s now had success with franchises like Saw, Fast and Furious, The Conjuring and now Aquaman there might be another door open for Wan. One where Hollywood will give him anything he wants, to make whatever he wants. He’s more than earned it. Now, I believe that Warner Bros. will throw the kitchen sink at Wan to get him to come back for more Aquaman movies and to make sure he’s a voice behind the continuing cinematic DCU. And they should. It’ll get the fanbase hyped and it retains behind-the-scenes creative continuity.

It should be noted that while he is a “franchise builder” he has yet to helm a “part three” of a franchise he started. He directed Both Conjuring and Insidious films and even directed both the short and feature film versions of Saw. So, one wonders if this trend will continue or if he’ll make Aquaman his first trilogy.  

Now that the mainstream has been introduced to Aquaman we have to wonder, story wise, what comes next. The mid-credit scene showed us Black Manta’s survival with the help of Dr. Stephen Shin (played by Randall Park). That will most certainly play a role in Aquaman’s entire story arc going forward. But, how much of that will play into a sequel? If history is an indicator, then we shouldn’t expect much. I am basing this more from what we’ve seen in the MCU since only two DCU films utilized a mid-credit scene and as of now there’s no indication that those scenes will have any relevance going forward (although I still cross my fingers that, one day, we see some iteration of the Legion of Doom). We must remember, these are merely teasing moments that help set up the big picture; An idea of where they’re heading. I for one don’t mind the build up towards an epic Aquaman v Black Manta showdown, albeit in a potential third film.  

With that all said and Wan successfully introducing us to Atlantis what is next for Aquaman?  Personally, I would like to see more of Atlantis explored. More characters introduced from his mythology. And I think that we should see Dr. Shin and Black Manta, in the background making Aquaman’s life hell, indirectly, of course. Whether it be assisting whoever the baddie is in the sequel or even being the reason Aquaman is battling this villain in the first place. Things like this should be done to build up tension in what should be a final smackdown between Arthur and Manta. 

I also think it would be a good idea to steer clear from having any Justice Leaguers show up.  Whether it be to aid Arthur or even just a cameo. It would be distracting and there wouldn’t be a need for it. Let’s save those appearances for future team up movies. Don’t get me wrong, as “cool” as it seems on the surface, I want to see more of Aquaman interacting with Vulko, Mera and even building a relationship with his mom. Things like this need to be fleshed out over the course of Arthur’s story. And that doesn’t leave much room for cameos.

In short, if the first film was about Arthur, I’d like for the next one to be about Atlantis. That civilization is rich with stories of political intrigue, ancient history, and rival kingdoms.

In the end I just want to see another fun and adventured filled ride with Aquaman. Because what James Wan pulled off is nothing short of spectacular. It gets me giddy thinking that this is only the beginning. So no matter what comes next, it’s so exciting to know we have a “next” to look forward to.

WAN.BILLION.DOLLARS.

Audiences better get used to it, this franchise better get used to it, the next slate of DCU films better get used to it and most of all, the haters, the naysayers and those who mocked the King of Atlantis better get used to it. Cause the joke is on them. Domestically and Internationally audiences have spoken. Aquaman is in demand, Aquaman is not going anywhere and neither is the DCEU. Long live the King! 

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Pete Benavides

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