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Aquaman 2: new release date, cast and what we know about DC's return to Atlantis

Aquaman 2
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
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No DC Comics character has made a bigger splash at the box office than Arthur Curry. Aquaman 2 therefore became inevitable as soon as its predecessor swam into theaters in 2017 – in fact, it may just be the most eagerly anticipated movie on the DC slate.

It's something of a sea-change for a character who's frequently been the butt of the joke in comic-book circles – everywhere from Family Guy to Entourage – and traditionally played second fiddle to the famous trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Thanks to Jason Momoa's wise-cracking performance in the lead role, however – and a makeover inspired by DC's New 52 comics – Curry has been elevated to the top table of superheroes.

Now titled Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, this sequel reunites Momoa with co-stars Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman and Patrick Wilson, as well as director James Wan (The Conjuring, Fast & Furious 7). It promises to up the ante on the original's epic underwater action, while taking Aquaman to places he's never been before.

Aquaman

Jason Momoa returns as Arthur Curry, the king of Atlantis, in Aquaman 2. (Image credit: Warner Bros.)

With production now wrapped and the Aquaman 2 release date set for March 2023, it's a good time to trawl the oceans for key intel on the movie – everything from cast news to speculation on the identity of that mysterious Lost Kingdom.

You can rest assured that this one is going to make waves.

Release date: After originally being booked for Christmas in 2022, we'll now see the films in theaters on March 17 in 2023. 

Story: According to Warner Bros (opens in new tab)' official Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom synopsis: “When an ancient power is unleashed, Aquaman must forge an uneasy alliance with an unlikely ally to protect Atlantis, and the world, from irreversible devastation.”

Cast: Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren, Temuera Morrison and Randall Park are all set to reprise their roles from the first Aquaman movie.

Aquaman 2 release date

Aquaman 2 release date: March 17, 2023

The first Aquaman hit cinemas in December 2018, and came out on top in a month that also boasted the releases of Mary Poppins Returns, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Bumblebee. It’s no surprise, then, that Warner Bros had originally targeted another December debut for its sequel. 

Aquaman 2's release date was originally set for December 16, 2022 – almost exactly four years after the first movie’s release, and just a few short weeks behind The Flash movie

However, delays in the VFX department amid the Covid-19 pandemic have seen Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom delayed and it'll now hit theaters on March 17 in 2023.

While the first movie was filmed on Australia's Gold Coast, Aquaman 2 shot predominantly in the UK – though, seeing as all the underwater scenes were filmed ‘dry-for-wet‘ in a studio, with actors supported by sophisticated harnesses, it shouldn’t make much difference to the look of the film. 

Some Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom scenes were also filmed in Malibu, as director James Wan confirmed in a January 2022 Instagram post announcing the end of principal photography:

A post shared by James Wan (@creepypuppet) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Aquaman 2 trailer

Aquaman 2 trailer: when will we see it?

With principal photography having only wrapped at the start of this year, it's a little early for a full Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom trailer. But star Jason Momoa did give us a first look at Aquaman's new black Stealth Suit in a September 2021 Instagram post:

A post shared by Jason Momoa (@prideofgypsies) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

And a few weeks later, the DC Fandome virtual event in October 2021 featured a sneak peek at Aquaman 2, including contributions from stars Jason Momoa and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, director James Wan and producer Peter Safran, concept art and behind-the-scenes photography – highlights included Black Manta in training, monsters on sand dunes, and some awesome submarine tech.

As well as apologizing for the 4-year delay, Momoa told fans: “I’m very proud of the sequel because it’s tackling a lot of issues environmentally, the stakes are higher and I’m just excited because I had a big part of it with my boy James [Wan].”

“[It's] more mature yet still retains its fun,” added Wan, “[it gives] the audience something different, something new that they haven’t seen before.

“It's a globetrotting story,” the director continued, “we visit so many different worlds. This movie isn't afraid to embrace its fantasy and go on this magical journey.”

Sounds tantalizing – as long as they can deliver on their epic promises.

Aquaman 2 cast

Aquaman 2 cast: who’s who in Atlantis?

Here's the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom cast, based on what we know so far:

  • Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
  • Amber Heard as Mera
  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta
  • Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna
  • Patrick Wilson as Orm
  • Randall Park as Dr Stephen Shin
  • Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus
  • Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry
  • Indya Moore as Karshon
  • Jani Zhao as Stingray
  • Vincent Regan as Atlan
  • Pilou Asbæk as TBC

After the success of the first movie, it was inevitable that Jason Momoa would return to play Arthur Curry/Aquaman for the fourth time (after Aquaman, Justice League (both versions) and a very brief cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). 

And despite (seemingly unfounded) rumors that Amber Heard wouldn't be back as Xebelian princess Mera, the actor used her Instagram (opens in new tab) feed to confirm her return with an image of herself reading a book on set.

A post shared by Amber Heard (@amberheard) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

After Arthur Curry showed mercy to his scheming half-brother Orm (aka the self-styled Ocean Master) at the end of the first movie, James Wan regular Patrick Wilson is back in the Aquaman 2 cast. Though, as this post from Wan's Instagram (opens in new tab) feed shows, he'll have a very different look second time out – does this count as ‘Tom Hanks in Cast Away' cosplay?

A post shared by James Wan (@creepypuppet) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Warner Bros (opens in new tab)’ 2022 movie preview confirms that Nicole Kidman will also be back to keep the squabbling siblings in check as their mother, Queen Atlanna. The character may get a belated chance to rekindle her romance with Arthur's dad, Thomas (played by The Book of Boba Fett’s Temuera Morrison) – after all, theirs was a love affair strong enough to make two disparate worlds collide.

In terms of surface dwellers, we know we'll be seeing more from Watchmen/Candyman/The Matrix Resurrections star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the revenge-obsessed David Kane/Black Manta. And, going on what we saw in Aquaman’s end credits scene, he'll probably be in league with Dr Stephen Shin, the marine biologist-turned-Atlantis-obsessive played by WandaVision’s Randall Park (also confirmed to return).

As for the underwater types, there’s no word yet on whether Willem Dafoe is reprising his role as Arthur’s Atlantean mentor, Vulko, but we do know that Dolph Lundgren is back in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom as Mera's father, King Nereus of Xebel.

As for newcomers, Pose star Indya Moore has signed up to play Karshon, a (traditionally evil) human/shark hybrid from DC comics who's definitely not to be confused with The Suicide Squad's King Shark. 

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) reported that Jani Zhao has signed up to play a new character called Stingray. Vincent Regan is on board as Atlan, the original king of Atlantis – a role played by The Witcher's Graham McTavish in the first movie.

And given Pilou Asbæk’s history as a bad guy in Game of Thrones, we think it’s likely his role in the Aquaman 2 cast (reported by Deadline (opens in new tab) but yet to be officially confirmed) will skew more towards the dark side than the light.

Aquaman 2 plot

Aquaman 2 plot: what can we expect in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom?

Now that DC Extended Universe is less hung up than it was about creating an interweaving, MCU-style shared universe for its superheroes, the most concrete information we have about the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom plot is that the movie’s being scripted by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick. The writer previously worked with director James Wan on two The Conjuring movies and the first Aquaman.

“I think the second one is a little bit more serious, a little bit more relevant in the world we are living in today,” Wan teased at DC’s virtual FanDome event in August 2020 (via Deadline (opens in new tab)). “I think that’s where it wants to go.”

What does all this mean for Arthur Curry now that he’s donned Aquaman’s classic gold and green armor, got his hands on the Trident of Atlan, and taken his place on the throne of Atlantis? While he and the water-manipulating Mera were seemingly in a good place by the end of the first movie, Hollywood convention and the needs of storytelling dictate it probably won’t be plain sailing this time out. 

Indeed, past form suggests Orm won’t make life easy for his half-brother – though an  Instagram (opens in new tab) post from Wilson early in production may have muddied the waters slightly, with its cryptic #brothersdontshakehandsbrothersgottahug hashtag? Will a familial reconciliation be on the cards? Going back to Warner's official Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom synopsis, could Orm be the "unlikely ally" Aquaman "must forge an easy alliance with" in order "to protect Atlantis, and the world, from irreversible devastation?”

As for the identity of the mysterious 'Lost Kingdom' of the Aquaman 2 title, that's yet to be confirmed via official channels, but an on-set photo posted by Wan in June 2021 may have offered up a big clue:

A post shared by James Wan (@creepypuppet) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

The ‘Necrus’ mentioned on the clapperboard is big news in DC comics. Also known as the Black City, this domed underwater city has no fixed location, only appears for brief moments in time, and is ruled by Mongo, a self-confessed hater of surface-dwellers. He’d be a prime candidate to be the movie's principal antagonist, so could this be the unconfirmed role Pilou Asbæk is playing?

Even if Mongo is the lead villain, David Kane – aka Black Manta – seems primed for a bigger role in Aquaman 2. 

“Now, we have a character who’s more mature, who has more time to breathe,” star  Yahya Abdul-Mateen II told Variety (opens in new tab). “And we get to understand him and some of his values and some of his motives. Hopefully in Aquaman 2, we can present a more well-rounded version of David Kane.

“In the first film, we sort of got to meet him, but mostly it was about Black Manta,” he continued. “And this one, my hope is that we can meet David Kane a bit more and find out what makes him tick, and some of the things that he wants and struggles with.”

In the first movie, Black Manta blamed Arthur Curry for the death of his father during a submarine skirmish, and subsequently became obsessed with having his revenge on the Aquaman. Having survived their previous encounter by the skin of his teeth – even when armed with superpowered Atlantean weapons – he’s unlikely to give up until Arthur Curry is dead. 

Black Manta will probably be assisted Dr Stephen Shin, a character who’s made the journey to the screen from DC Comics’ New 52 Aquaman reboot. During the Aquaman end credits scene Shin agreed to help Black Manta find Aquaman – if Black Manta gives him concrete evidence about the existence of Atlantis.

Unfortunately, Black Manta’s mission to dish out revenge may be bad news for Thomas Curry – if he decides that justice is best served by murdering the father of the man he believes killed his own dad.  

And don't be surprised if Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom also makes a return trip to the Trench, the dark, scary region of the ocean whose monstrous inhabitants kept Atlanna prisoner in Aquaman – especially now that the proposed The Trench movie spin-off has been dropped by Warner Bros (as reported by Variety (opens in new tab)).

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.