The Big Picture
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom marks the end of an age for DC Comics’ film history. The sequel will be the last entry in the DC Extended Universe before James Gunn & Peter Safran launch their new vision of the DC Universe with the Gods and Monsters initiative. So it’s safe to say that reactions to the first trailer for Lost Kingdom have been mixed. Some fans are happy to see Jason Momoa returning as Arthur Curry. Some are even happier that Lost Kingdom will center on the rivalry between Curry and his archnemesis Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). There is a subsection of fandom, though, that isn’t interested in seeing Lost Kingdom. To the contrary, the hashtag #BoycottAquaman2 has been trending on X; there’s even an account solely dedicated to said hashtag. As with many hashtag-fueled campaigns on social media, the reasons for this one are petty at best and extremely misguided at worst. Let’s break down all the reasons why #BoycottAquaman2 took off.
Why Did the #BoycottAquaman2 Campaign Start?
The first Aquaman film centered on a globetrotting quest that had Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry and Princess Mera (Amber Heard) seeking a mystical trident; in the process, they started developing romantic feelings for each other. That dynamic was a large part of the first Aquaman, so naturally it would be expected that Heard would return as Mera. But then the actress became the center of media attention during a long and messy defamation trial involving her ex-husband Johnny Depp. The court ruled in favor of Depp, and certain pockets of the internet raced to condemn Heard.
The ensuing trial also led to calls to boycott Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, as fans were convinced that a boycott would send a message to Warner Bros. to recast Heard’s role. There were even petitions to recast the role with Emilia Clarke, who had previously starred with Momoa in Game of Thrones. But it was all for naught as Heard briefly appears in the trailer for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom; Mera and Aquaman are even revealed to have had a baby together in the time between films. While Heard isn’t the first actor in a DC Studios film to stir up controversy (Ezra Miller, anyone?), the sheer amount of vitriol thrown her way was rather jarring.
How Is the Snyderverse Connected to #BoycottAquaman2?
Another major reason for the #BoycottAquaman2 campaign is the misguided belief that Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom failing at the box office will somehow magically convince Warner Bros. to reinstate Zack Snyder as a director for the franchise so that the filmmaker can complete his vision of the DC Universe. This campaign has been ongoing since the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League; there have been calls to boycott other DC movies like Blue Beetle and Shazam! Fury of the Gods. The revelation of behind-the-scenes drama involving the reshoots on Justice League (including immensely gross misconduct from Joss Whedon) only added fuel to the fire, as well as the generally positive reception Snyder’s version of the superhero team-up received.
But all parties involved have moved on. Warner Bros. hired Gunn and Safran to shepherd DC Studios, indicating a fresh start across the board. Snyder signed a lucrative deal with Netflix, which saw him developing a number of original franchises including Army of the Dead and the upcoming sci-fi epic Rebel Moon. Even the cast of Snyder’s DC films has moved on; Henry Cavill is attached to an adaptation of Warhammer 40,000. Ben Affleck hung up Batman’s cape and cowl, instead returning to the director’s chair with Air while also starring as a different kind of dark detective in Robert Rodriguez‘s sci-fi thriller Hypnotic. Even the wild belief that Warner Bros. will somehow lend out DC properties to Netflix so that Snyder can continue his DC work is rooted more in desperation than actual fact.
There’s also the fact that Zack Snyder’s Justice League would not have been the ultimate vision of what Snyder intended to put on screen. For starters, Zack Snyder originally intended for Justice League to be a trilogy. Secondly, characters that were meant to appear in future films, such as the Suicide Squad’s Deadshot and Green Lantern, were swapped with Jared Leto‘s Joker and the Martian Manhunter, respectively. In the end, Snyder came to a compromise with Warner Bros. to release his cut — which is the harsh reality of blockbuster filmmaking.
How Does James Gunn Factor Into #BoycottAquaman2?
Finally, the #BoycottAquaman2 hashtag has been used as a way to try and seemingly punish James Gunn for the apparent sin of “destroying” Snyder’s vision. The end goal seems to be that if enough DC films fail, Gunn will be ousted from his position as co-head of DC Studios — leading Snyder to swoop in and finish what he started. But that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how filmmaking actually works. All the projects being boycotted — including Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom — were filmed and completed prior to Gunn being appointed as co-head of DC Studios. The only DC projects he’s had a hand in producing so far are The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker, and the upcoming Superman: Legacy. That’s not even getting into the fact that Gunn and Snyder are friends; Gunn’s first big blockbuster screenwriting work was for Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead.
A large part of the vitriol toward Gunn also stems from his approach to the world of comic book filmmaking; he often takes an irreverent, and sometimes raunchy tone. For fans who consider the Marvel and DC canon to be scripture, hearing John Cena‘s Peacemaker lambast Batman as a “pussy” might feel like sacrilege — but once again, they’re missing the bigger picture: at the core of all Gunn’s films are stories of outcasts yearning to be more. It’s what turned the Guardians of the Galaxy into a household-name superhero team. It’s what made The Suicide Squad such a breath of fresh air. In the end, whether fans choose to see it or not, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will essentially close one door and open another for the DC Universe on screen, and that’s just the way it is.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom debuts in theaters on December 20.
‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ is the subject of a ridiculous controversy. Read More