‘Aquaman 2’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Is This The End Of DC’s Cinematic Universe?

Back in 2011, DC Comics went through a line-wide re-launch known as ‘New 52,’ which streamlined their releases and revamped the entire overarching narrative to attract newer readers. The re-launch was marked by an unnecessarily edgy sensibility and mistreatment of established characters, which ruined a number of fan favorites and alienated long-time readers in the process. Eventually, the creators had to accept the mistakes involving the re-launch, and another restructuring was done in the form of ‘DC Rebirth’ in 2016, which brought things back to their past state. This is the same situation DC’s cinematic universe has found itself in, as DCEU’s muddled, directionless roadmap has resulted in its end, and DCU, formed by James Gunn, is about to begin its journey.

James Wan’s Aquaman was among the few silver linings of the DCEU, which, despite having a straightforward cookie-cutter plotline and generic characters, managed to become extremely entertaining and visually pleasing thanks to brilliant set and costume designs, refreshing action sequences, and unabashed appreciation of campiness when it came to comic accuracy. The recently released sequel to the movie, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is also the final of DCEU, had the potential to end the cinematic universe’s run in a strong, memorable way, as previously James Wan teased a relevant, political narrative revolving around DC’s aquatic protector. Unfortunately, what followed was a rather tame, derivative, formulaic superhero fare, which played all its cards according to its strengths but turned-out underwhelming compared to the first entry. At least Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom manages to hold viewers’ attention through its suspiciously shorter runtime (reshoot and scene omitting is apparent) through production design, which seems less affected by the CGI horrors of recent years, which is more than what we can say about half a dozen superhero ventures released this year, and grants DCEU a somewhat dignified farewell.

Spoilers Ahead


What Are Arthur And His Family Up To? What Does Manta Find In The North Pole?

It has been four years since the battle between brothers Arthur and Orm commenced, which resulted in Orm being sentenced to prison for instigating a war against the surface dwellers and killing the Fisherman King, and Arthur being crowned as the rightful king of Atlantis. Arthur had fallen in love with princess Mera of Xebel, and as the movie begins, we learn from Arthur’s narration that they have become parents to a baby boy, Arthur Jr.

Arthur’s mentor, Vulko, has passed away, and in his stead, Arthur’s mother, Queen Atlanna, and Xebel’s king, Nereus, have become his chief advisors. Although Arthur is having the time of his life along with his family, he faces occasional challenges in balancing his triple roles: his responsibilities as a father, his superheroic duties to both worlds, and his seat as the sovereign king of Atlantis. As he has a heart to heart with his human father, Thomas Curry, in their lighthouse cottage at Amnesty Bay, he wonders how Thomas managed to overcome all the burdens as a single father while Arthur is having it tough with an entire nation helping him! While Thomas shares some fatherly advice, they notice Arthur Jr.’s powers to communicate with aquatic life have started emerging—an exceptional ability that Arthur also possesses—and learning his legacy has been passed down to his son, he becomes elated.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, David Kane, aka Black Manta, the ferocious pirate and Arthur’s mortal enemy, prepares to take his revenge with the aid of marine biologist Stephen Shin. As fans will surely remember, in the first movie, Arthur clashed with the pirate father-son Jesse and David Kane, and Arthur left Jesse to die despite David pleading with him to save his father. From that point on, David swore vengeance upon Arthur and was aided by Orm, who provided him with Atlantean minerals, which he turned into Black Manta armor and weaponry. Manta engaged in a vicious battle with Arthur but was defeated by him at the end, with his battle armor profusely damaged. By the end of the first movie, an unconscious Manta was rescued by Stephen Shin, and during the movie’s timeline, he is biding his time to strike on Arthur and his family. In order to do so, Manta has assigned Dr. Shin to scour the globe in search of Atlantean minerals.


How Did Manta Acquire The Black Trident? Why Did Arthur Free Orm From Captivity?

While searching for the minerals in the northern frontier Shin and his crew accidentally discover the entrance to a mysterious dungeon and get attacked by a monstrous tentacled creature. Manta arrives and decides to venture further, taking his troops along with him, and the remains of a vast, abandoned kingdom are found, which look seemingly ancient and bear a connection to Atlantis. The decision to continue probing deeper inside the ruins proves costly as Manta and his crew get ambushed by a number of tentacle monsters, leaving Manta and Shin as the sole survivors of the incident.

In the ruins, Manta finds remains of ancient Atlantean technology and a mysterious black trident, which possesses his mind. The mysterious, demonic spirit of the wielder of the weapon entices Manta with the prospect of granting him the power to take his revenge on Arthur in exchange for setting him free from his prison—the city of Necrus, frozen under Antarctica. Five months later, with Shin’s help and the guidance received from the demonic spirit, Manta has managed to make the ancient weaponry and a giant Atlantean submarine operational and fuel them with mythical orichalcum, a high-carbon footprint fuel that has varied applications.  In the ancient period, the Atlanteans used Orichalcum profusely, which nearly brought the Earth close to mass-scale extinction. As a result, the mineral was forever stashed away in secretive Atlantean reserves, never to be used again. Manta secretly starts emptying those reserves and burning Orichalcum to rapidly increase the impacts of global warming across the planet. In fact, it was due to man-made global warming that Manta came across the trident in the first place, and he is now aggravating the situation to release the entity from its prison by melting icecaps near Antarctica.

The rapidly changing climate spells disaster across the globe and its severe impact is felt by the denizens of submarine depths as well. The Atlantean High Council advocates for war against the surface dwellers, as they hold them responsible for the catastrophic situation all around. Arthur proposes to break the ancient tradition and let Atlantis reveal itself to the rest of the world, thereby working together to solve the crisis, but his proposal gets shot down by the puritan politicians of the high council. A desperate Arthur asks his father for advice, who asks him to persevere.

While hitting one of the biggest Orichalcum reserves, Manta and his troop accidentally enter the kingdom of Atlantis, and a high-octane chase ensues, which causes massive destruction in the kingdom, and Manta manages to injure Mera grievously. Arthur enters the battle but finds Manta to be stronger than ever, and a specialized sonic cannon created by Dr. Shin throws Arthur off pursuit. Being unable to track Manta anywhere and learning that he is responsible for the global catastrophe—in the presence of Atlanna and Nereus—Arthur proposes seeking help from his brother, Orm, who is being held captive in a desert prison in the Fisherman Kingdom. Despite Atlanna warning him about the severe ramifications of his actions, as releasing a captive will be considered high treason, which can potentially break the kingdoms apart, Arthur is adamant about taking Orm’s help as he is the one who employed Manta in the first place. Nereus provides Arthur with a stealth suit, and along with a rather helpful metamorphic cephalopod, Topo, Arthur manages to break his half brother out of prison without being detected.


Who Is The Original Wielder Of The Black Trident? 

After initial disagreements and bickering between the brothers, Orm agrees to help Arthur for the sake of Atlantis. There is an understandable difference in their respective worldviews, but for the moment, they choose to put their differences aside for the greater good. Orm takes Arthur to the Last Frontier of Sunken Citadel, a safe haven of aquatic pirates, where they meet Kingfish, a kingpin of sorts who acted as a middleman when Orm had employed Manta. Arthur forces Kingfish to reveal Manta’s possible location, which turns out to be an unknown volcanic island in the southern Pacific Ocean. Orichalcum reserves continuously being burned on the island has transformed its flora and fauna into gigantic life forms, resulting in Arthur and Orm facing several hurdles before finally arriving at Manta’s outpost inside the volcano. In the meantime, Orm warms up to Arthur, learning that Arthur never had the ambition to become a king and regrets being thrust into the role. He almost feels remorseful. Orm was misguided into believing Arthur to be his competitor since a young age by his father, and now that he knows what Arthur really wanted was a place to belong, Orm starts seeing his half-brother in a new light.

As the duo reach Manta’s submarine and subdue his pirates, Shin, who by now has become wary of Manta’s degrading psyche and the global impact of his actions, wishes to surrender. However, a sudden attack by Manta disorients the duo, and by touching the Black Trident, Orm learns the true identity of the demonic entity who has possessed Manta. By now, adhering to Arthur’s command, Topo has informed the Atlanteans about the island, and led by King Nereus, they launch an attack to collapse the Orichalcum refinery. Manta flees after injuring Orm, and while chasing him, Arthur gets stuck under collapsing rubble, and Mera rescues him.

As the Atlantean family regroups, Orm recalls the legend of Kordax, who was the first Atlantean king and Atlan’s brother. Under Kordax’s rule, his kingdom, Necrus, prospered, but at the cost of severe environmental degradation. Atlan’s proposal to throttle the speed of Necrus’ aggressive progression was considered a threat by Kordax, who initiated a war. In order to win, Kordax dedicated himself and his kingdom to the occult and necromancy, and he was transformed into a demonic entity alongside his subjects. Atlan was able to defeat Kordax using his trident, and using a blood curse, he froze Kordax, the city of Necrus, and its demonic denizens for eternity—that is, until global warming unearthed their lair eventually. Manta is trying to access Necrus and awaken Kordax, and in order to do so, he needs to spill the blood of the royal bloodline. The team realizes too late that, except for Orm, Atlanna, and Arthur, there is one member from Atlan’s bloodline remaining rather unprotected: little Arthur Jr.


Did Arthur Manage To Save The World From The Kordax?

Manta arrives at Arthur’s lighthouse cottage in Amnesty Bay and grievously injures his father, Thomas Curry, before taking Junior with him and burning the house to the ground. Arriving a bit too late, Arthur and the rest of his family get horrified seeing everything that has transpired in the meantime. Shin decides to transmit a signal from Manta’s submarine to let the Atlanteans know about their location near Antarctica, leaving Atlanna at Thomas’ side. The rest of the team rushes to stop Manta and his troop.

Seeking help from a large group of cetaceans, Arthur dismantles Manta’s sub by overloading its sonic cannon and chases Manta inside Necrus. The undead thralls of Kordax, along with other nightmarish monstrosities, wake up from their eternal slumber and start attacking the Atlanteans, momentarily distracting them from Manta’s trail. Shin tries to flee, taking Junior along, but Manta subdues him easily. Eventually, Arthur and Orm manage to catch up and send Junior and Shin away with Mera. In the ensuing battle, Manta corners Arthur and almost deals a death blow when Orm snatches the Black Trident away and gets possessed by Kordax, freeing Manta from his control in the process. A possessed Orm engages in a battle with Arthur and spills his blood on Kordax’s pedastal, allowing the blood curse to be broken and letting the demonic king break free. However, Arthur manages to break Kordax’s hold on him by appealing to Orm as a brother, and using Atlan’s trident, he destroys Kordax as well, ending the impact of his dark magic in the process. As the Lost Kingdom starts collapsing, Manta hangs from a crevice, and Arthur tries to rectify his past mistake (of letting Manta’s father die) by saving Manta’s life. Unfortunately, Manta is too spiteful and proud to ever consider taking help from Arthur and chooses to let go and die instead.

In the aftermath, Arthur and his Atlantean family reconcile with Orm, agreeing to keep the news of his survival a secret by concocting a story of his death, thereby allowing him to live a free life in secrecy. Before leaving, Orm asks his brother to trust his instincts, and accordingly, Arthur decides to reveal Atlantis to the rest of the world, as he has learned that a true king’s worth is in uniting people. A mid-credits scene of Orm enjoying a cheeseburger with a cockroach as an additional delicacy acts as comedic relief.


Is This The End Of Dc’s Cinematic Universe?

With the end of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the DCEU closed its chapter for good. A universe that unraveled itself with the world’s introduction to the cosmic wonder of Krypton ended with sinking to the oceanic depths of Atlantis—almost an ironic metaphor for the lost potential. Anyway, DC fans are already eagerly waiting for the initiation of a seemingly more cohesive and versatile DC Universe, meticulously formed by James Gunn and a host of talented creators, and the rubble of DCEU will act as both a foundation to build upon and a ruin to derive required lessons from.


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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