Aquaman Director James Wan Confirms Cancelled Trench Spinoff Was Secretly a Black Manta Movie

Director James Wan revealed that he had big plans for his Aquaman spinoff featuring The Trench, with the DC Extended Universe film secretly serving as a starring vehicle for the villain Black Manta. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's antagonist played a smaller role in 2018's Aquaman film, and will return in the 2022 sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. While praising the work that went on behind the scenes to bring Black Manta's comic book visual to the big screen, the director confirmed his secret plans for The Trench.

Wan responded to a question from a fan on his Instagram account, spilling small details on how fans almost got a full-blown Black Manta movie. "I'll let you in on a secret, the canceled Trench spin-off movie was really going to be a secret Black Manta movie," Wan said.

(Photo: Instagram/James Wan) spoke to Wan about The Trench in 2019 while he was promoting Annabelle Comes Home. At the time, The Trench was still in its early stages, though Wan's enthusiasm for the project still shined through.

"We, you know, we're still deep in sort of crafting the script, crafting the story right now so I don't want to get into that too much, but definitely it's one that I really want to lean into the horror of it, so it's going to play more as a monster horror movie then it will as a superhero film, but it's still definitely part of the Aquaman world," Wan said.

Word came down in April that DC was not moving forward with Wan's The Trench and a New Gods movie from Ava DuVernay. Reports stated DC was putting its focus on building up its DC movies and HBO Max original shows. At the time, it was believed "a natural spot" couldn't be found for either film, but since then new films for DC heroes Blue Beetle, Zatanna and Batgirl have been announced for HBO Max. 

Wan is also producing an Aquaman animated spinoff series on HBO Max, titled Aquaman: King of Atlantis. The first season is streaming now, with new episodes releasing every week. As for Black Manta, DC just released a new solo miniseries starring the villain by writer Chuck Brown and artist Valentine De Landro. Black Manta can be found next in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, premiering in theaters on December 16, 2022.