After the fallout late last night that Ben Affleck would no longer be directing himself in THE BATMAN, Warner Bros. has offered an olive branch of sorts, one concerning possible casting assignments for James Wan‘s upcoming AQUAMAN adaptation. One casting story features a relative newcomer to the scene taking on the role of one of the Atlantean Prince’s most notorious villains. Another features an Oscar-winning actor in what may be a brief but important role.
THR reports that THE GET DOWN star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in early talks to star as Aquaman’s antagonist, Black Manta. Apparently, Wan and studio brass have been vetting actors for the villainous role over the last couple of weeks and landed on Abdul-Mateen II just this past weekend; an offer has been extended. THR also reports that none other than Nicole Kidman, reportedly Wan’s top choice for the role, is in early talks to star as Aquaman’s mother. However, just which comic book iteration of that character will show up in the movie remains to be seen.
Jason Momoa is starring as the half-human, half-Atlantean undersea royal with Amber Heard on board as his love interest, Mera. Willem Dafoe plays the royal science advisor, Nuidis Vulko, while Patrick Wilson will reteam with director Wan to play Orm Marius, a.k.a. Ocean Master, a villain who happens to be Aquaman’s half-brother. The playing field is roughly titled in favor of the Atlantean hero at the moment what with a blood relative, a lifelong ally and political strategist, and a powerful companion on his side, but having two major villains show up in the hero’s presumed origin story is quite the bold approach.
As for Black Manta, the character was previously reported as being the primary antagonist for the film, leaving many to wonder what Ocean Master will be up to in the meantime. (Perhaps minding the throne of Atlantis while Arthur Curry is on a journey of self-discovery, like in The New 52 relaunch?)
Originally created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, Black Manta first appeared in “Aquaman #35″ back in 1967, however the character had no defined origin story until 1993. That version saw Black Manta’s beginnings as a Baltimore boy who was kidnapped, held aboard a ship, and abused by his captors, and then unintentionally ignored by Aquaman. This led to a hatred of the hero and the sea, which the boy intended to master; this is just one of a few origin stories applied to the character over the years.
In the New 52 version, Aquaman accidentally killed Black Manta’s father, which results in a sort of blood feud between the two, which spills over to affect their families. This iteration of the villain also saw him spend some time in Belle Reve prison, though he refused to join Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. A normal human, Black Manta’s abilities come courtesy of his battle-suit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie version took some liberties with either of these origin stories.
As for Kidman’s character, odds are she’ll play one of two versions of Queen Atlanna. Historically, Atlanna was a scientist and roboticist who was able to survive the sinking of Atlantis thanks to a serum that she designed which gave her near-immortality and the ability to breathe underwater. Much later in her life, she met the lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry and fell in love with him; the two had a child together. Thomas named him Arthur while Atlanna nicknamed him Orin, but fans would come to know him as Aquaman. However, complications of the birth brought Atlanna nearly to her death. Depending on how the plot of AQUAMAN handles this story, we could say goodbye to Kidman’s character early on, or perhaps even see her later on at the center of a major conflict.
Then there’s always the chance that the script will go with the Post-Crisis storyline that changed Atlanna’s story (and Arthur Curry’s parentage) entirely. In the revamp, Atlanna was wed to the sterile Atlantean royal, King Trevis, a.k.a. Trevis the Weak. Aquaman was conceived during an affair between Atlanna and the wizard Atlan, leading to the birth of the blonde-haired child (an ill omen), Atlanna’s imprisonment, and ultimately her death. It’ll be interesting to see which way the script for Aquaman goes, but there’s plenty of mythology to work with. We’ll surely see more once the movie revs up for the start of its production this April.