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What’s next for the DC Universe after Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Following several delays caused by the pandemic and the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom finally swam its way into theaters. Set a few years after the first film, Arthur Curry must team up with his villainous brother Orm to defeat his nemesis, Black Manta, who has returned to destroy all that he holds dear with the power of the cursed Black Trident.

Fittingly marketed as Aquaman’s last stand, this sequel film marks the final chapter set in the DC Extended Universe. After The Flash ended with the Scarlet Speedster using his powers to reboot the timeline, many have wondered how this would lead into James Gunn’s DC Universe. Now that the DCEU has released its final chapter, it’s a good time to break down what’s next for the franchise.

What’s canon in the DCU?

A poster of the Creature Commandos from HBO Max's "Creature Commandos."
DC / DC

Gunn explained on Threads that anything released before Creature Commandos won’t be considered canon in his new DC Universe. This means Aquaman’s second film and everything that came out before it will have zero impact on the franchise’s new status quo. The movie capped things off by removing any trace of Batman, who was supposed to appear played by either Ben Affleck or Michael Keaton (this seemed to depend on when The Flash premiered in theaters). But with no Dark Knight, the studio ensured that it wouldn’t set up any more stories in this continuity.

On top of that, Variety claimed that none of the actors cast by Zack Snyder for his DCEU films will return, including Momoa. This decision proves that the DCU will be a fresh start for all its most popular characters, specifically the Justice League, and that The Lost Kingdom is the end for Momoa’s character and his franchise as a whole.

However, this may not be his last DC project Momoa will work on, as Hollywood Reporter claims he was considered to play the alien bounty hunter Lobo in Gunn’s cinematic universe. Though he was undoubtedly great as Aquaman, it seems Lobo would be the perfect character for him to play going forward, as he’s basically a darker version of Momoa’s character in the DCEU.

Will Aquaman appear again in the DC Universe?

Aquaman standing in front of a waterfall holding a trident in the movie "Aquaman."
Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2018, the first Aquaman film helped revitalize the character’s popularity with general audiences, making over a billion dollars at the box office and Jason Momoa the star he is today.

Despite this astounding success, the lack of hype surrounding his latest film begs the question of whether he needs his own DCU film or TV show and if such a project can succeed, especially without Momoa. No one has been cast as Aquaman in Gunn’s cinematic universe, and there is no confirmation that the character will appear in this new timeline.

What’s premiering next?

Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker."
Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures

There are plenty of big projects DC has lined up for the new DC Universe, including Superman: Legacy, The Authority, The Brave and the Bold, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, and Swamp Thing. Aside from the animated Creature Commandos, the only two DC projects scheduled before all these are Joker: Folie à Deux, the sequel to Todd Phillip’s film about the Clown Prince of Crime, and The Penguin, a spinoff to Matt Reeves’s The Batman. However, each of these projects takes place in its own universe and won’t impact the main DC timeline when they premiere in 2024.

All in all, fans will have a little break from seeing an interconnected narrative across the greater DC Universe. This should help alleviate the growing sense of fatigue with the superhero genre as of late. At the same time, DC’s two “Elseworlds” projects for 2024 should have audiences focus on something completely different, as the worlds Reeves and Phillips created are some of the most distinctive seen in superhero media today.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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