DC’s Extended Universe may be coming to an end, but it’s taking its sweet time crossing the finish line. The long-awaited Aquaman sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, is officially the last film on the DCEU slate. While it’s endured a pretty troubled production the past five years — from perpetual reshoots to a ballooning budget and disappointing test screenings — the sequel may have finally turned a corner.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Lost Kingdom just finished its third round of reshoots. That’s ... a lot, even for a blockbuster, but there’s a sense that production is trimming off the fat this time around. The Lost Kingdom has cut a substantial cameo, one that might have distracted from the central narrative. Batman was originally meant to appear in the film — and at various stages of production, The Lost Kingdom has featured different versions of the Caped Crusader. But THR reports that Warner Bros. are finally cutting the cameo altogether.
After all the recastings and reshoots, it does seem like a lot of wasted energy. But this might actually be the best thing for The Lost Kingdom, or at the very least, an acknowledgment of what made the first Aquaman such a hit.
When The Lost Kingdom was first getting its legs, higher-ups at Warner were apparently very gung-ho about bringing Michael Keaton’s Batman back into the fold. He was the first Batman slated to appear in the sequel, but after test audiences expressed confusion, he was replaced by Ben Affleck. Shifting premiere dates then pushed The Lost Kingdom to December 2023. It will now hit theaters six months after Affleck’s Batman was replaced in the main DCEU continuity ... by none other than (spoiler!) George Clooney’s Dark Knight.
With the DC universe resetting after The Lost Kingdom, it doesn’t make much sense to bring Keaton or Affleck back again. Once James Gunn and Peter Safran came aboard and reset the DC slate, the decision was made to cut all mention of Batman from the film. The duo “do not want to promise a movie universe that will not come to fruition, nor tie it down excessively to past failures,” THR explained. That’s not the nicest way of looking at Batfleck — or Keaton, who was one of the best parts of The Flash — but the sentiment isn’t without merit.
Aquaman was a rare success for the DCEU, the only film in its 10-year run to make $1 billion at the box office. It didn’t pull that off with callbacks, cameos, or any of the interconnected storytelling that made the DC universe such a tangled web of IP. Aquaman focused exclusively on its central hero, building a world that’s totally removed from the messy battle of gods and monsters on land. A lot has happened in the world of DC since Jason Momoa first went solo. There are a lot more heroes in the mix, but shoehorning another into what is effectively Momoa’s farewell might not be the right move. Warner Bros. is no stranger to making the tough choice (even if it burns bridges), but this may just be the perfect way to wrap up the DCEU.