Black Manta has quickly become a fan-favorite character in Aquaman, despite serving as the DC film's B-villain, a choice now explained by director James Wan.
Spoilers for Aquaman follow! Major spoilers!
In DC's now wildly successful film, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II crafts his character's iconic Black Manta suit only to be defended and left at sea for a story in a potential sequel or other DC Comics movie. According to Wan, this was always the plan as the focus was on building Arthur Curry as a big screen hero before diving into his best known villain.
"It's actually very straight forward, right?" Wan said. "It's all kind of driven by Arthur's arc straight up, right? So, the fact that Arthur carries on and starts off not being the King of Atlantis meant that by the end of the movie he should be the King of Atlantis. So, that being my point A to point B, and so I knew that this story was going to be very simple from A to B, and so if he needs to get to the throne, the throne obviously right now has King Orm on it, so that became a very obvious antagonist for the film. But it needed to be King Orm."
The family drama between Arthur and his half-brother Orm was the film's main narrative driver as it became a political and global feud. "It's that straight forward, that I knew that going to this first movie, it should be a personal story, right?" Wan said. "It should be about a family, so to speak. So much of the movie is about Arthur and his relationship with his dad, Arthur with his relationship with his mother, and then ultimately with his relationship with his half-brother."
Having worked with Patrick Wilson on previous films such as The Conjuring, Wan had a crystal clear vision for his Aquaman plans, which did include a solid dose of Manta. "It was very important to me that the main villain should be Patrick's character, King Orm, but I also knew that I couldn't make an Aquaman movie and not have Black Manta in there," Wan said. "I knew that the fans would kill me for not including Black Manta. They would be very upset, and so that became really difficult. I hate having two sort of villains in one movie, at least in a film that's just starting out. I didn't want to have two villains in an origin story, and so it became about having Black Manta and King Orm having the same goal. The fact that they worked together meant that I could streamline their story into each other, just like there's an animated series where, I think Throne of Atlantis, where the two of them kind of collude together."
Still, while Wan admits Aquaman is very much "the origin of Black Manta as well," he hasn't done much planning for his future. "I honestly don't know," Wan said. "I mean, not that I don't know. I haven't really thought too deep into it at this point."
Whether or not Wan will return for an Aquaman sequel also remains unknown. Abdul-Mateen II, however, has plenty of ideas for the next time we see his character.
Aquaman is now playing in theaters.