The DC Extended Universe opted to only release one movie in 2018 after delivering two entries each in 2016 and 2017, but man, this next one is a doozy. Not only is Aquaman putting Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry front and center following his cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and his full debut in Justice League, it will also be spending a lot of time underwater (a first for a superhero movie) to explore Atlantis, including its history. Today DC and Warner Bros dropped a new, 5-minute-long trailer that was packed with a lot of cool moments, including Mera activating an Atlantean device that displayed a hologram of one of Atlantis' deceased kings. The late, unnamed ruler explained the significance of the trident Arthur will eventually wield, but his presence has me wondering if Aquaman 2 (which, to be clear, hasn't gotten the green light yet) could feature Atlan, the Dead King, as its main antagonist.
There have been numerous adaptation of the Atlantis myth, but most follow the same basic principle: it was a city/continent that somehow sunk into the sea. In the case of the DC universe, specifically the post-New 52 era, we have Atlan to thank for this. As one can surmise from his Dead King moniker, he ruled Atlantis centuries ago, but he was usurped by his brother Orin, who also killed Atlan's wife and children. Atlan constructed seven weapons from the Gold of Legacy so he could take back Atlantis, but consumed by rage, he subsequently used his scepter to sink the city. Jumping to the present, Atlan was accidentally reawakened in Antarctica by Aquaman, and he once again tried to destroy Atlantis, but was eventually defeated when Arthur used Atlan's own scepter against him.
We know that the Aquaman movie is drawing heavily from Geoff Johns' run on the Aquaman comic book, and since Atlan was the final main villain of said run, it's not unreasonable to assume that he could be introduced in the Aquaman sequel. And upon watching the latest Aquaman trailer, you might even wonder if that hologram king is Atlan. That's certainly possible, but this monarch is warning those who watch the hologram about the trident would bring destruction in the wrong hands. First off, it appears that Aquaman's trident is replacing Atlan's scepter as the tool that causes Atlantis to sink in the DCEU. But more importantly, why would Atlan warn others about what the trident is capable of if he ends up being the one to use it irresponsibly? Plus, the crowd shot below indicates that this king was one of the "true heirs" that united all the kingdoms so long ago, so he would have no need, or even have the capability, to sink Atlantis. On the other hand, we don't know how long before Atlantis sunk that hologram was recorded, and maybe in that interim period, this king was corrupted and used the trident for nefarious purposes.
Assuming the Dead King ends up being Aquaman 2's main villain, there are two scenarios I can see being used. The first follows the New 52's approach to the character. That hologram is of Atlan, and sometime after recording that hologram, he was tossed from the throne by his brother Orin and left to die. Thirsty for vengeance, he somehow obtained the trident, sunk Atlantis and was preserved beneath the surface in some kind of stasis. In the present, he's reawakened, looks like his icy self from the comics and tries to seize Atlantis from Arthur, as Arthur is a descendant of his traitorous brother, and thus not worthy of ruling. The second scenario takes some creative liberties; this hologram is still of Atlan, but he's not the Dead King. That title belongs to his brother or someone else who seized the throne, and upon trying to channel the trident's power, ended up sinking Atlantis. Events from there proceed closely to the first scenario: the Dead King's reawakened, he tries to take over Atlantis, etc. Make no mistake, whoever holds the Dead King title in the DCEU would be a formidable adversary for Aquaman, between his natural Atlantean abilities, his cryokinesis (being able to manipulate ice and snow) and the various weapons he wields.
Of course, all of this is even assuming that the Dead King is chosen to be Aquaman 2's main baddie. Maybe someone else will have that role; perhaps a certain deep sea-diving, laser-blasting mercenary? Although Black Manta will be an important player in Aquaman, he's not the primary antagonist. Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, will fill that position, as he's seeking to unite the seven underwater kingdoms to join him in declaring war on the surface as retaliation for polluting the oceans for so long. However, producer Peter Safran previously said that they "have every intention that Manta plays a very large role in the DC universe." Aquaman is simply serving as his origin story, so rest assured, he'll be back. The question then becomes if he'll become the main villain in Aquaman 2 or continue causing trouble on the side, and then snag the villainous spotlight in Aquaman 3?
As an Aquaman fan, I'd be okay with either Black Manta or the Dead King being the lead baddie in Aquaman 2, but since the former is much more popular than the latter, I'm inclined to think Black Manta stands a better chance. But don't count out the Dead King either. Even if he doesn't debut until Aquaman 3, he's one of the few other enemies Aquaman has faced over the decades who's worthy of being a main antagonist, and since we'll be learning a fair amount about Atlantis' DCEU history, it would be a waste for these movies to just leave him sitting on the sidelines.
Aquaman dives into theaters on December 21, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage on that, as well as any news regarding a potential sequel. In the meantime, browse through our DC movies guide to learn what else is in development for the DCEU.