Aquaman is one of the most successful films in the DCEU. James Wan's superhero film proved to be a triumph both critically and financially. It is a good time at the movies. It seems inevitable that WB would green-light a sequel. Still, fans of Arthur Curry and Atlantis might be worried about what lies on the horizon. We know the sequel will feature Arthur as King of Atlantis, with Mera at his side. We know a few of the characters who will play a part.
But what else can fans expect? What should fans fear? While there are many things fans want to see in Aquaman 2, there are also things fans don't want to see. But how do we sort which from the other?
At the end of his film, Aquaman gains a legendary artifact, controls an army of aquatic life (and a Lovecraftian horror), and reigns as king of Atlantis. However, while this does leave Aquaman in a position of incredible power, whatever threat that challenges Aquaman doesn't have to fight his entire legion of sea life.
While Aquaman is a powerful hero (and his villains are equally powerful), at no point should Aquaman feel too strong for his own good. Some of the first film's greatest moments featured Aquaman facing a worthy challenge. Aquaman should be a superhero, not an indestructible one — because that would be boring.
James Wan is a director known for many things. In his multi-decades career as a director, he's brought to life several franchises and continued others. When watching his filmography, it is clear Wan is best when playing to his strengths.
The Trench scenes in Aquaman work in part due to Wan's experience in horror. He is terrific at building a complicated world, as seen prior in Insidious and The Conjuring — as well as in Aquaman, where Wan created the world of Atlantis from the ground up. And, of course, his talents as an action director. Aquaman 2 should play to these strengths of his.
Following Justice League, DC wisely chose to focus on individual heroes before jumping to the next group team-up film. While that decisions has worked so far, it would be a waste not to include other DC heroes in Aquaman 2 — or, at least, some more overt references to them.
Aquaman 2 doesn't have to feature the Justice League, necessarily, but even one other DC Hero would be welcomed. In particular, Wonder Woman, due to the Amazons and Atlantians' shared histories, would be an incredibly interesting character to include in the sequel.
Many of Aquaman's greatest villains have already appeared in the original film. However, in the sequel, Aquaman still has numerous foes he can face off.
Villains such as King Shark and Siren would be great to introduce to the big screen. They don't necessarily have to be the lead villain (more on that later), but they can be a new threat to challenge Aquaman in ways previously unseen.
Amber Heard as Mera proved a standout in the original Aquaman. She stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Arthur Curry, fighting as an equal alongside him.
However, as tempting as it may be, it would be unwise to make Mera the main character. Aquaman should be the central figure in his own film. While the first film was an ensemble (and, presumably, the sequel would follow suit), Mera shouldn't dethrone the King of Atlantis from his own feature film.
Two huge standout villains from Aquaman whose stories have yet to really conclude are Black Manta and Ocean Master. Both are in very different places by the time the credits roll than when they started the film, and each have the potential to grow and evolve in new, unique ways.
Ocean Master seems ready for something of a redemption, following his defeat at the hands of his brother. There is the potential here for redemption and evolution, as he is forced to begrudgingly work alongside Aquaman to confront some greater evil.
On the other hand, Black Manta — the man who Ocean Master armed and hired — seems eager to carve Aquaman clean open. Come next film, he might be in a position to take on Aquaman as the primary villain of the film.
Aquaman had an epic plot with a whole lot going on. Many sequels to successful films feel content to just recycle the general plot. If it's not broke, don't fix it.
However, superhero films cannot afford to do this. Each film has to push the story and world further to stand out, or else it will feel like just another superhero film. Whatever Aquaman 2 does with its story, it has to be original. It has to feel like a story worth telling, or audiences will not bother with it in a market flooded with bigger fish to see.
Much of the original film presents Atlantis as a complicated, sprawling society full of strange sights and sounds unlike any other. Due to how much had to be crammed in the first film, much of Atlantis's world building had to be compressed.
However, with the sequel, we will have a chance to explore the finer minutia of Atlantis society. What major events happened in its history? What is its relationship with the Amazons -- who, millennia prior, helped them fight back Steppenwolf? What are the other kingdoms like in detail? What other, non-militaristic technology do they hold dear?
And, most importantly, what will Arthur need to know before he can rule?
The first film in the series just barely avoided being too dense for its own good. With so much expository information to unpack, it's a wonder the film didn't reach Jupiter Ascending levels of complicated.
It's always tempting to go bigger and better for the sequel, but, if Aquaman 2 is any more complicated and sprawling, it might threaten to collapse under its own expository weight. We understand the world of Atlantis in general terms now. While more development is needed, there's no need to overload the film with so much complicated material that audiences struggle to follow it.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect of Aquaman 2 comes in the post-credit scene -- and no, it isn't the tease that Black Manta will return. It's the implication that the surface world is coming to understand that, beneath their waves, resides an entire hidden empire of kingdoms.
For all of Batman v Superman's flaws, one idea that it executed well (in particular in the Ultimate Cut) is that the world would not react well to a God to appear amongst them. If the prospect of one alien left the world conflicted, it bares to reason that the existence of an entire secret empire would leave them shell-shocked.
Aquaman 2 can prove to be one of the best films in the DCEU. We just need to hope it rides the wave all the way, rather than belly flop into the sea.