It was five long years ago that we received the colorful action explosion of Aquaman. Still the highest grossing movie starring a DC character who isn’t Batman, James Wan’s first film was a gloriously goofy exploration of Arthur Curry’s (Jason Momoa) journey to Atlantis and fight against his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). A lot has changed in both the real world and in the DC movie landscape since then, and after a number of false-starts and pushed releases, the sequel Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom is finally happening. Check out the full trailer now!

The story picks up a few years into Aquaman’s reign as king of Atlantis. He defends his people, the half-billion underwater dwellers, but he lives at his dad’s lighthouse still. Now, however, he has a child. Truly, how can he balance work and family? Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier. His old foe Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is back for revenge, but this time he has the Black Trident. James Wan told Nerdist along with other outlets at a trailer preview event that his “plan was always in the first movie to set up [Aquaman’s] relationship with [Black Manta]. He was kind of a glorified side character in the first one. But that was okay because we knew the second movie was going to have him in a much bigger role.”

Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) wields the mysterious Black Trident, flanked by goons, in Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom.
Warner Bros

Wan explained that elements of this movie came from the now-defunct Trench movie that was to be a spinoff of the first Aquaman. “We didn’t want that project to potentially step on the Aquaman films. But we came up with a lot of interesting ideas and a lot of really cool stuff that I felt we could use in this one. The Trench movie was going to be a secret Black Manta movie. Initially, we announced it as a Trench movie but we wanted to surprise people with a Black Manta movie. Some of those ideas found their way into this.”

Black Manta has tapped into the power of the fabled “Lost Kingdom,” a long-buried race of Lovecraftian nightmares, and in order to battle them, Arthur will need some help. Who better, it seems, than Orm? Well, like anyone else would probably be the more obvious choice. But Aquaman gets his estranged brother out of the pokey and enlists his help to save their home. Naturally it won’t be an easy alliance, but the Orm and Arthur relationship will be the major one in the movie. Wan said if the first movie is Romancing the Stone, the sequel is Tango & Cash.

Warner Bros.

The film, as you probably guessed, has been in a bit of upheaval as the state of DC Films has changed. Wan says he has mostly tried to focus on his own film, but likens the whole thing to “living in a house that’s being renovated.” That said, he is quick to point out how, at least from his perspective, the first movie is as standalone as any of the movies in the DCEU has been, without connective tissue to any other specific film or outside character. That will hold true for the sequel. So even if Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom doesn’t officially connect to the future DCU, they’ll exist on their own as a one-two punch.

Warner Bros.

Fans of Wan’s wackiness will hopefully find much to enjoy. “I’ve never shied away from weird,” he told us. “If you guys have seen Malignant you know what I mean.” He said he’s turned to Jules Verne and Ray Harryhausen for inspiration, and obviously his horror roots are coming through again. We don’t have too long to wait now, as Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom will hit theaters December 20, 2023.

Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.