Warning: SPOILERS for Aquaman
Jason Momoa won't let anyone forget that it was Zack Snyder who made him the Aquaman, and now his first solo movie reveals Arthur Curry's secret cameo in Man of Steel was more important than fans realized.
That discovery is all thanks to an Easter Egg in the Aquaman movie which connects directly back to Zack Snyder's first Superman film, while also establishing the fundamental differences between Arthur Curry and his half-brother Orm, the Ocean Master. It's a detail that most fans will miss, just like they missed Aquaman's off-screen cameo in Man of Steel. But when you realize how much saving Superman said about Arthur's mission - and how Ocean Master saw the same rescue very differently - the crossover between Superman and Aquaman gets even better. Which makes this new Easter Egg a moment no DCEU fan should miss.
- This Page: Aquaman's Subtle Man of Steel Easter Egg
- Page 2: Aquaman Makes the Man of Steel Cameo Even Better
That Time Aquaman Rescued Superman
For the DC enthusiasts out there who assumed Aquaman made his movie debut in secret underwater footage replayed in Batman v Superman, you're not entirely wrong. But true to Snyder's style of world-building, the fact that Aquaman wasn't seen in Man of Steel doesn't mean his influence was never felt. Almost as soon as the first rumors claimed Aquaman and the rest of the Justice League would debut in Batman v Superman, a key moment from Man of Steel was placed under extra scrutiny.
The scene in question? When Clark Kent is done rescuing oil workers from a flaming, offshore drilling platform, but ends up being crushed in the wreckage... only to awaken underwater, clear of the oil platform, and accompanied by a whale and its child. The rescuer became the rescued, it seemed, and many fans delighted in the idea that it was Aquaman who pulled Superman free. A theory that Momoa later backed up, revealing that Zack Snyder had confirmed Aquaman's role to him as part of a larger plan to revisit the crossover in a future film. He didn't get the chance, but the Aquaman movie pays homage to it all the same.
Aquaman Easter Egg Confirms Man of Steel Connection
The Aquaman movie doesn't provide Arthur's perspective on the oil platform disaster, or even make an explicit reference to him saving Superman (or any other workers). Instead it is Ocean Master who brings it up, albeit subtly. When Aquaman is chained before Orm's throne, the king outlines his motivations and justifications for bringing war to the surface world. As he sees it, the surfacers pollute the oceans with total disregard for the damage. And when King Orm conjures up holographic images to illustrate his point, one of the pieces of evidence should look more familiar than the others.
Featured prominently on screen is the moving image of - you guessed it - a flaming oil platform. And with Ocean Master telling the story, the scene's real meaning proves to have been completely lost on both Superman and Aquaman at the time. As DCEU fans are well aware, revisiting the scene after seeing Aquaman shows how it is foreshadowing the exact reason Orm will bring war to the surface, and see Arthur as a traitor to his own people.
But to dive into that, we'll need to warn fans of some Aquaman SPOILERS...
Page 2 of 2: Aquaman Makes the Man of Steel Cameo Even Better
Superman Saves People, Not The Planet
Just to be clear, when Orm gestures towards the crumbling oil platform, he is specifically highlighting the growing cloud of crude oil billowing out beneath it, yet another case of the surface world poisoning the life that survives on the oceans without a passing thought. And truth be told, audiences are likely to prove his point to perfection, because... well, who stopped to look away from shirtless Henry Cavill walking through flames, and holding an oil platform together with bare hand long enough to consider the cost on the environment hundred of feet below?
In Orm's defense, the Superman introduced in Man of Steel is the perfect embodiment of the problem: even with the gifts of a demigod and a well-meaning heart, a hero born of the surface world isn't taught to safeguard the sea, or the planet with the same passion. And to those who would say Superman should take such things into consideration because he has in the comics, then the themes of Man of Steel still apply to a new, previously unseen subplot. As a superhero, Superman fails to save Metropolis from harm - but long before, as a surface world-er, Superman failed to save the sea.
To somebody like Ocean Master, his obliviousness is to be expected. But for Aquaman - who saves him - he should know better.
Which is it Aquaman: Land or Sea?
To clarify, Ocean Master doesn't need to be referencing the exact oil platform fire in Man of Steel for the callback to work (plenty of oil fires have, and continue to happen). The point is to use an image that audiences previously saw as an opportunity for heroism, saving the innocent people in danger - and show it as a crime perpetrated on the innocent oceans, with nobody to even think of the victims. As Superman was making sure those who committed the crime could escape without a scratch, to do it again, the audience was excitedly hoping that the hero of Earths oceans was backing him up.
As the Aquaman movie shows, it was all another case of Arthur ignoring the choices he was making, and Atlantis once again absorbing the attack because of it. As Superman and Aquaman shared their invisible superhero fist-bump to the delight of fans, the oil nobody cared to see spread like a poison... and Ocean Master watched. Even Aquaman's movie stops short of vilifying Orm's motives, so the true scale and tragedy of that Man of Steel scene must be understood from now on. And oddly enough, there is extra weight to be placed in the fact that Orm surrenders when hearing his mother say that he has been "misguided."
If that doesn't highlight the similarities between Superman, Aquaman, and Ocean Master all viewing the same disaster, and trying to "do the right thing," then nothing will. Now if anyone needs us, we'll be rewatching Man of Steel to see how that one scene set up both Aquaman and his biggest rival without anybody ever knowing it at the time.