We live in a staggering, remarkable age. Today, a studio can drop the cost of a Lockheed Martin F-35B STOVL fighter jet on a project — Aquaman 2, for example — then cancel its release at the last minute while shouting “psych!” and running away with a cartoon burglar’s money sack full of tax write-offs.
Arguably the most startling example of this practice came in 2022, when Warner Bros. announced that its $90 million Batgirl adaptation, despite being more or less in the can, would never feel the breeze on its cheek nor the warm caress of the morning sun. The studio shelved the project, citing quality issues and a desire to move back towards blockbuster event films. The filmmakers were shocked. The actors, even shocked-er. Potential audience members unconvincingly muttered “aw, but I was totally going to watch that” and then went back to getting stoked for Secret Invasion.
It’s an undeniably ugly business, junking art that’s required the dedication and talents of hundreds of individuals and selling it for parts. It’s unconscionable. It’s borderline unethical. It’s indicative of the most craven, selfish aspects of the filmmaking process.
So should we do it to Aquaman 2?
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is a complicated prospect to begin with. It’s the last man on the sinking ship that is the DCEU, shouting for audiences to bring the lifeboat back even though we’re like, so bored of rowing. It is a necessary facet of the genre it belongs to that it’s a part of a larger universe, but the new higher-ups at DC have pulled the plug on that universe. It’s hard to get excited about the middle brick in a Lego model that’ll never be finished.
Adding to that are a bevy of issues. The film hasn’t exactly been smothered in confidence pre-release. Its purported opening weekend is, at the time of this writing, a kiss shy of 16 weeks away, and fans still haven’t seen a trailer or any promotional materials. Unlike Blue Beetle, it hasn’t been on the receiving end of a waterfall of praise from James Gunn. It’s been five years since Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry made more than a cameo appearance on screen. Even if there wasn’t a seemingly infinite actor’s strike stopping it from happening, it would be a bad old time trying to keep an Amber Heard press junket on the rails.
Maybe most importantly, the last few entries in the DCEU have been, putting it gently, box office Agent Orange. Even starting the list post-lockdown, Black Adam, Shazam 2, Blue Beetle, and most catastrophically, The Flash all fell over their own feet in a collective echo chamber of the complaints of those involved, all pointing accusatory fingers at the supposed responsible parties.
There are arguments for keeping Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom alive. The last movie – the only movie – to break $1 billion in the DCEU was the first Aquaman, a film that audiences and critics agreed was, you know, okay. It’s also a fact that, with an estimated budget of around $200 million, shelving Aquaman 2 would be a significantly larger hit than dumping the $90 million, Max-native Batgirl at the 11th hour. There’s no easy answer, and there’s certainly no answer that will keep fans of the Snyderverse from crying foul, no matter what happens next.
That said, if you want our advice: Fry the fish, start fresh, and use the nixed release date of Aquaman 2 to announce that Momoa is now the DCU’s Lobo via a fully realized promotional video – one where he smokes a cigar in a dive bar in space and then runs over an alien’s head with his motorcycle. Hey, look at that, I was wrong. There was an easy answer.