Despite Zack Snyder's departure from Justice League and Joss Whedon's significant alterations, Aquaman didn't also get changed to match Whedon's changes. James Wan's Aquaman is actually more true to Snyder's original version of Justice League, the "Snyder Cut,"than it is to Joss Whedon's theatrical cut.
After a divisive start to the franchise, the DC Extended Universe has been celebrated by some fans, but hounded by others with a demand for a total reboot, tonal shift, executive changes, and more. The studio finally caved to the pressure, pushing Snyder off the project, and tried to make major alterations to Justice League even though Zack Snyder had already completed principal photography and was well into post-production, resulting in a Frankenstein's monster of a movie that not only failed to sway critics, but marked the lowest take of any DCEU movie at the box office.
Despite this massive shift with Justice League, Aquaman, the very next movie, both in release order and DCEU timeline, stayed the course. Justice League's story and tone got a major overhaul, yet Aquaman behaves as if the Snyder Cut was the version of Justice League that was released in theaters.
Aquaman's Story Continues the Snyder Cut Story
At the end of Joss Whedon's theatrical cut of Justice League, Aquaman doesn't get much of a send-off. Superman returns to being mild-mannered newspaper reporter Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne buys back Martha Kent's farm (or, rather, the bank that bought the farm) and starts to rebuild Wayne Manor into the Hall of Justice, Wonder Woman helps Bruce in his efforts but also returns to her role as a hero, Cyborg goes to work with his father at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry Allen AKA The Flash gets a job in a crime lab, but Aquaman is just shown... swimming with dolphins.
As it turns out, Aquaman's final scene in the Snyder Cut of Justice League is actually direct setup for his solo movie. During Aquaman's press tour, Jason Momoa revealed his final scene in Justice League has Mera and Vulko approach him to warn him about his brother Orm and ask him to help save Atlantis. Aquaman refuses and instead heads back to Amnesty Bay to see his dad, which is where Aquaman picks up.
When it comes to "canon," both versions can hypothetically work, and neither Whedon's theatrical cut of Justice League nor Aquaman rule out the possibility that this moment still occurred off-screen. Still, since it's actually directly set up by the Snyder Cut and Aquaman didn't undergo reshoots to change the opening to something else means it's more of a natural sequel to the Snyder Cut of Justice League.
James Wan's Aquaman is More Snyder Than Whedon
Early trailers for Justice League before Snyder left the project depicted Jason Momoa's Aquaman as a serious badass loner who liked to drink and had a sarcastic sense of humor. However, when the movie released in theaters, that version of the character was toned way down and he was instead replaced by Joss Whedon reshoots with a much more juvenile version of the character who sexualized Wonder Woman when his true thoughts came out after he accidentally sat on the lasso of truth.
As was recently revealed by Neil Daly, an independent marketer that worked closely with Warner Bros. on Aquaman's test screening process, Aquaman's character was changed again for his solo movie. The feedback from audiences were that they wanted more dry humor, akin to Tony Stark in the MCU, but Wan also made other changes that distanced the character from Whedon's version, and even showed Snyder a cut of the movie to make sure he was consistent with what Snyder originally envisioned.
Without the Snyder Cut to compare to, it's hard to say the character has the same portrayal, and given the changes in response to the test screenings, it likely is a deviation. However, it is clear that the foundation is closer to Snyder's version than Whedon's, since Snyder is the one Wan was working with to get the character right.
It may not matter much since Warner Bros. doesn't appear to have any plans for Justice League 2 in the near future, and none of the main Justice League characers have movies that extend the DCEU's timeline beyond the events of Aquaman. Matt Reeves' The Batman tells a story of a younger Batman, and Wonder Woman 1984 also takes place in the past. However, the fact that Aquaman continues the Snyder version of the character and story and not Whedon's does raise questions about what approach Warner Bros. will use if there ever is a Justice League 2.
More recent news about DC films de-emphasizing the shared universe aspect suggests that even if there is a Justice League 2, it could entirely ignore the events of the first one (especially considering it could be missing both Affleck and Cavill as Batman and Superman), but fortunately, despite the mess the universe is trying to recover from, these post-Justice League continuity decisions don't have to be resolved for a few years.
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- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
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