Spoilers for Aquaman below!
The film opened with the meeting of Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and Thomas Curry (Temura Morrison), who would ultimately fall in love and give birth to Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa). When Arthur was a toddler, Atlanna was attacked by Atlantean guards, who were unhappy that she was essentially dodging her arranged marriage. To protect Thomas and Arthur, Atlanna traveled back to Atlantis, and never returned to them.
When Arthur was a teenager training under Vulko (Willem Dafoe), he asked why he hadn't gotten to see his mother, and was met with some sad news. As Vulko explained, Atlanna was killed by her husband for running away and having Arthur, leading to her being sacrificed to the violent monsters of the Trench.
In the present day, Arthur and Mera were trying to find the lost trident of Atlan, which led them to those very same monsters of the Trench. Using a series of flares, the pair made their way through the horde of monsters, which put them in a portal that led to a secret ocean at the center of the Earth. There, they were rescued by a masked figure in tattered clothing -- who was none other than Atlanna.
As Atlanna revealed, she'd survived her way through the Trench and ended up in the hidden sea, which proved as a sort of entryway to visit the Karathen (Julie Andrews), a massive sea monster that was guarding Atlan's corpse and the trident. Atlanna had tried many times to get the trident from the Karathen as a way to escape the hidden sea, but had not yet succeeded.
Arthur tried the same sort of test with the Karathen, proving to be victorious after coming to terms with his identity. Using the trident, Arthur, Mera, and Atlanna escaped, as Arthur and Mera went to face off against Orm (Patrick Wilson).
In the climax of the final battle, Arthur brought Orm to the surface of the ocean, where the pair fought. Orm ultimately asked Arthur to kill him, before Atlanna appeared to comfort her younger son. This led to Orm officially yielding to Arthur, ending the battle and proving that Arthur was the king of the seven seas.
While Atlanna was presumed dead for a lot of the time leading up to Aquaman, some (including those of us at ComicBook.com) had theorized that she could have survived and would play a bigger role.
This fate of Atlanna's proved to be drastically different from her past iterations, who usually meets a much more tragic fate in the pages of DC Comics. In the pre-Crisis comics, Atlanna appeared to die while giving birth to Arthur, and lost her sanity while roaming the ocean floor after she was cast out to sea. She became convinced that Arthur was an abomination who she needed to kill, and teamed up with Orm and a robot named Poseidon to attempt to do so. They then attacked Arthur, with Atlanna dying in the process.
The post-Crisis version of Atlanna has a somewhat similar story to what's seen in Aquaman, but with some major differences. In that iteration, Atlanna had returned to Atlantis to raise Orm, and ultimately faked her death during a ritual as a means to escape. Atlanna found refuge in a secret land named Pacifica, which was accessible through a series of portals. While she initially refused to believe he was her son, they eventually became allies, teaming up to fight a giant Volcano god. Atlanna eventually became convinced of Arthur's identity, sending him back to Earth and keeping her fate a secret from Orm.
This idea of having Atlanna be alive, and having that fact publicly known, certainly paves a new narrative ground for Aquaman, and could mean interesting things in potential sequels.
What did you think of Atlanna's fate in Aquaman? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Aquaman is in theaters now. Upcoming DC films include Shazam on April 5, 2019, Joker on October 10, 2019, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) on February 7, 2020, and Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020.