In Desperate Attempt To Save ‘Aquaman 2,’ Director Diverts Attention Away From Amber Heard

in DC, Entertainment

Jason Momoa looking surprised as Aquaman in the water

Credit: DC Studios

The hype surrounding DC Studios’ upcoming release, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023), has been largely overshadowed by its behind-the-scenes drama, most of which pertains to Mera actress Amber Heard. With its release date fast approaching, there’s no denying that Heard’s highly-publicized legal battle with her former husband, Johnny Depp, has put an undesirable spotlight on the movie — something director James Wan is now contesting in a new statement.

Amber Heard as Mera (L) and Jason Momoa as Aquaman (R) in 'Aquaman'
Credit: Warner Bros.

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When Jason Momoa’s first solo outing as the titular underwater hero in Aquaman (2018) became an unexpected hit for DC, Warner Bros. was quick to greenlight another, confirming a sequel was in the works mere months after its release, with director James Wan and producer Peter Safran returning.

Now, years after its initial announcement, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is finally set to arrive in theaters next month. Based on its trailers, the movie looks to be a pretty by-the-books sequel, following an older and wiser Arthur Curry as he steps into his new role as the King of Atlantis — though he’s not exactly accepted by all of his new constituents.

Check out the official trailer for DC Studios’ Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom below:

Related: DC Officially Brings Back the Justice League After Scrapping ‘Aquaman 2’ Release Date

Recreating some of the magic of its predecessor proved to be easier said than done, with the comic book sequel suffering over a year’s worth of delays due to a combination of the pandemic, extensive reshoots, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, and, of course, a bevy of Amber Heard-related backlash.

Initially, Heard had been “nearly fired” from Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due to her lack of chemistry with Momoa in the first film, but these plans were soon abandoned after her ex-boyfriend, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, intervened. Still, things came to a head during production, with Momoa allegedly targeting his co-star, whom he “wanted fired” and would drunkenly harass on set. 

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

The rumored feud between the Mera actress and her Aquaman colleagues presumably started before she lost her defamation suit against Depp in 2022 and only truly began to boil over when tensions escalated behind the scenes. Wan dramatically cut down Heard’s role in the film as a response to public outcries about her casting in the sequel, which understandably didn’t go over well with the actress. According to Heard, Momoa also “sided” with Depp, going as far as to dress up like her ex-husband to mock her.

Of course, it’s impossible to prove whether or not Heard’s comments about the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom cast and crew are legit or if she simply made them up to paint a poor picture of the movie ahead of its premiere. Still, a DC spokesperson came forward after the Variety article detailing Heard’s accusations was published, saying that the Arthur Curry actor “conducted himself in a professional manner at all times” while shooting the sequel.

Aquaman (Jason Momoa) laughing
Credit: DC Studios

Needless to say, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons for upwards of a year now, and following reports of negative test screenings and supposed clashes between its leading stars, analysts aren’t expecting the final DCEU entry to make much of a splash at the box office.

Still, Wan seems more confident than ever about the movie’s chances. Speaking with Empire Magazine in a recent interview, the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom director weighed in on the constant chatter surrounding his DC Comics adaptation, acknowledging that it’s been “the noisiest movie” he’s ever worked on:

I’ve been on this movie for four years now, and I’m so happy for it to come out. In many ways, I think it’s even more fun than the first one. But it’s been a long, exhausting process. It is definitely the noisiest movie I’ve ever worked on.

Over the years, Wan has helmed a number of buzzy projects, including horror classics like Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010), as well as The Conjuring franchise and its many spinoffs. But even though Saw and The Conjuring have become certified pop culture staples, he’s correct in saying they didn’t receive half as much press as his Aquaman sequel.

Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s also been a long, gruesome trudge leading up to the movie’s release, which, as noted by Wan, took over four years to complete — basically unheard of for the quick turnarounds of most superhero sequels. And even though early viewers weren’t exactly impressed with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the filmmaker is still seemingly proud of his work, adding that in 2o years, “no one will remember the noise,” only the movie and its legacy:

That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from this experience. To filter out the negativity and focus on the film. Because that’s what will live on – in 20 years, no one will remember the noise. Only the movie.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Ultimately, given that the DCEU is nearly over, it might not matter if it’s met with five-star reviews or not; however, it would be a shame to see a perfectly good movie sunk by off-screen drama, especially considering Momoa’s dedication to the character and Warner Bros.’ extensive efforts to salvage the story with costly reshoots.

And with an all-star cast including big names like Nicole Kidman, Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Temuera Morrison, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, on top of a hefty $200 million budget from Warner Bros., the sequel has the potential to be a blast.

Jason Momoa as Aquaman
Credit: Warner Bros.

Whether or not Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom can manage to replicate the same box office success as its predecessor remains unknown, but James Wan certainly has the right idea in having a positive outlook on a situation that would crush most filmmakers working in Hollywood today. His commendable efforts to promote and celebrate Aquaman’s final adventure despite the “noise” alone is worthy of applause; here’s hoping the movie itself can follow suit.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom splashes into theaters on December 22, 2023.

Are you planning on seeing Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom in theaters this holiday season? Or are you weary to see Amber Heard’s return as Mera? Let us know in the comments below.

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