‘Aquaman’ Sequel Drowns in Leaked On-Set Drama

in DC, Movies

Jason Momoa tastefully edited around on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Credit: Jimmy Kimmel Live

The overly-delayed sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, finally stopped its shifting goalpost with a Christmas-time release this year. Although Warner Bros. claimed the holdups were due to standard reshoots and visual effects changes, many critics have speculated it was because of the poor screening reviews. Even with a new studio regime change, Aquaman continues to be caught in a tsunami of controversy that has now reached the surface, with a source confirming all the drama that occurred during production.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Aquaman (2018) was originally a major success for Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It was helmed by the prolific horror filmmaker James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring), who directed an elite cast of stars. It featured Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, and Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa. The film would go on to be the highest-grossing franchise in the DCEU with an over $1 billion take. This achievement would leave the DC fandom hopeful for the future of the King of Atlantis.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman
Credit: Warner Bros.

The next installment would eventually hit choppy waters as the “changing of the guard” was being sorted at Warner Bros. in 2022. Previous to the merger, the studio originally entrusted the DC Universe to 300 director, Zack Snyder. Yet, when his creative vision did gain Marvel Studios-like financial returns or fan reception, Warner Bros.’ interference severely changed the cinematic universe in its tone, direction and cohesiveness. This inconsistency would eventually result in further backlash from multiple critics and fans.

Zack Sndyer with Henry Cavill (left), Gal Gadot (middle), and Jason Momoa (right)
Credit: DC / Warner Bros.

So when the newly assembled Warner Bros. Discovery executives chose to smash the reset button on this profitable brand, they hired James Gunn and Peter Safran to be the CEOs of DC Studios. This would lead to a major culling of future DCEU projects. This transition occurred right as The Lost Kingdom was in production.

James Gunn siting with Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Credit: DC Studios

In addition to this change in management, the Aquaman sequel would endure some external drama. This was not only due to the extensive reshoots and rewrites, but because of the infamous defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Director James Wan attempted to reassure the fans and critics that everything was fine. He even stated that Heard’s role was not even cut down even after her fall from grace in the public eye.

James Wan at Comic-Con
Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Now the leaked notes from Heard’s therapist that found their way to Reddit, have found new life as a source has confirmed that Heard did in fact have her role trimmed down. Along with Momoa unfollowing Heard on social media, has reinforced the alleged hostility on set; at least from the perspective of the star actress.

In the notes, Heard expressed the set of Aquaman 2 was toxic. Momoa would come to work drunk and bullied her by dressing like her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. She even professed that Momoa tried to get her fired due to the bad press from her court case.

jason momoa fast x
Credit: Universal

Heard also felt unsupported by the director. She disclosed that Wan treated her like a pariah and said, “He raised his voice at me — ‘I can’t even post about Aquaman‘ — made it like it was my fault.” Representatives for Momoa and Wan have refuted the notes by reinforcing their professionalism and dedication to the project.

Critics of these notes have speculated that their use in the court case and subsequent leak on Reddit have been used to tarnish the public’s interest in the Aquaman sequel, along with the cast and crew. Sources confirmed that previous to Heard’s legal woes, the studio attempted to fire the actress because of her “lack of chemistry” with Momoa.

Amber Heard as Mera (left) gazing at Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry (right) in 'Aquaman'
Credit: Warner Bros.

However, Warner Bros. never followed through with her termination as Heard’s former boyfriend and richest man in the world, Elon Musk, threatened a tidal wave of litigation if the studio let her go. So critics allege that all this turmoil has emboldened Heard to sink her own ship.

Amber Heard looking down on a dark background, Elon Musk looking to his right during a press conference
Credit: Greg2600 via Flickr, Daniel Oberhaus via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the cast from the original film is set to return including the controversial Amber Heard.  However, the fact she is only shown for a half-second in the full trailer does not bode well to her screen time in the sequel.

Amber Heard as Mera in Aquaman
Credit: DC Studios

Unfortunately, the new DC Universe (DCU) has been off to a bumpy beginning. James Gunn was reportedly willing to keep the DCEU’s The Flash, Blue Beetle and Aquaman. Yet, since The Flash bombed terribly at the box office and Blue Beetle garnered critical acclaim, but did not generate blockbuster-like numbers, the fate for Jason Momoa to return as Aquaman is uncertain. Hopefully, the constant delays, saucy drama and the ever-growing “superhero fatigue” will not drown out the opportunity for the Ruler of the Seven Seas to have a place in the new DCU. If all else fails, Mamoa would make an amazing Lobo.

jason momoa and lobo
Credit: ITM

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is set to be released December 20, 2023.

Are you excited for the new Aquaman? Do you think this confirmed drama will lead to its failure?

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