Aquaman's ending concludes Arthur Curry's journey to becoming the king of Atlantis, but it leaves the door open for his next adventure. Directed by James Wan and starring Jason Momoa in the title role, Aquaman is an epic fantasy tale that provides the tonal shift the DC movie universe has needed.
The kingdom of Atlantis and the seven seas are realized on a grand scale as Arthur Curry averts catastrophe by preventing King Orm (Patrick Wilson) from using Atlantean forces to wage war on the surface world. In doing so, Arthur becomes the king of Atlantis, fulfilling his destiny of uniting the seven underwater kingdoms under one banner and bringing an age of peace to the underwater realms.
But it's a victory hard fought, with Aquaman's third act taking the form of an enormous skirmish between the collective forces King Orm has strong-armed into joining him and those resisting his violent, oppressive ideas. It's a lot to take in, and Aquaman's ending leaves quite a bit to consider for the franchise going forward.
- This Page: Aquaman's Ending & King Orm's Plan
- Next Page: Aquaman's Future as King and Superhero
What Happens In Aquaman's Ending
Featuring a crustacean army, a kaiju, and soldiers riding into battle on the backs of sharks, Aquaman's ending and climactic battle isn't short of visual flair. King Orm leads the troops of three kingdoms: Atlantis, Xebel, and the Fishermen. Orm's forceful tactics of persuasion have not sat well with the Brine, a population of crab-like creatures who've decided to enact civil war rather than follow the Ocean Master's lead. A massive, violent clash ensues, and gate-crashed by Aquaman, who wields King Atlan's Trident, an ancient weapon that controls the seven seas and makes the wielder the rightful heir to the throne of Atlantis.
Aquaman brings with him the might of Trench, a kingdom that has devolved into Xenomorph-like savages, and the Karathen, a leviathan that guarded King Atlan's Trident against those who were unworthy. With the help of Aquaman's newly strengthened abilities of communing with fish, they force back Orm's advances, and the fight gradually shifts into a one-on-one between Aquaman and Ocean Master, which gives the two sons of Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) a rematch to their duel from earlier in the movie.
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creThe back-and-forth eventually ends in Aquaman's favor, with Atlanna returning from the "dead" to end the bloodshed between her two sons. Aquaman ultimately tells Orm the door is open for reconciliation and accepts his position as the king - and hero - of Atlantis, which helps usher in a new era of peace for the seven seas. After all, it had been the first time in however many years that the united kingdoms of Atlantis have had one leader to rule.
Why King Orm's Plan In Aquaman Failed
Aquaman takes a similar approach as Black Panther, at least with regards to its villain, Killmonger. In Aquaman, King Orm, just like Killmonger in Black Panther, is of royal lineage - and he isn't wrong in his fundamental ideas. Orm is disgusted by the way humans treat the oceans, by dumping trash, polluting the water, and killing and affecting innumerable species, as well as irreparably harming the environment. Orm wants humans gone, and he believes Atlantis has the military might and technology to eradicate humans from the surface... with a surprise invasion.
In truth, Orm's rage is honestly in the right place – human beings have not been kind to wildlife and the environment. And Aquaman's invocation of this may be heavy-handed, but much like Black Panther's focus on racism, it's heavy-handed because there's no need to tip-toe around it since these are genuine problems.
However, Orm's strategy had no long-term benefit, and the other, still living kingdoms can see that. A successful invasion of the surface world would create a long, bloody war with untold casualties, and Orm's politicking through murder and intimidation didn't do much to inspire anyone the wiser, hence the Brine choosing to resist him rather than bow down. What's being done to marine-life is wrong, but exposing Atlantis in the same breath as they create global warfare isn't going to help anyone - human, Atlanteans, or otherwise.
Atlantis Is United, But Still A Secret
Atlantis, Xebel, the Fishermen, the Trench, and the Brine accept Arthur as their king, effectively uniting the surviving underwater kingdoms into a unified Atlantis for the first time in centuries. This was Aquaman's manifest destiny as a half-human, half-Atlantean child, someone who can bridge the gap between the two worlds and bring forth a new age of prosperity. But as joyous as this is, it doesn't mean Atlantis will be revealed to the United Nations, ala the post-credits scene of Black Panther.
Despite the implication that Arthur being of both worlds is what Atlantis needs, as well as the visual of the climax being above water-level, the underwater empire is still unknown to most humans, and that is unlikely to change. Any form of communication that Aquaman has with surface leaders will need to be carefully coordinated in order to prevent Atlantean tech from being abused or Atlanteans themselves used for testing. After all, Atlantean technology is much more advanced than human technology, in the same way Black Panther's tech was advanced.
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In the Aquaman comics, Dr. Stephen Shin (played by Randall Park), the scientist trying to convince the world of Atlantis' existence introduced in the movie, has a rocky relationship with Arthur Curry because of the secrecy. Arthur works hard to protect Atlantis and all associated with it from prying eyes, and Dr. Shin's need to explore the realm makes him a liability. At one point, their friendship is damaged because Dr. Shin outs Arthur as Aquaman in a moment of anger. Black Manta's appearances, too, are predicated on invading Atlantis and drawing out Arthur, and doing so without drawing much outside attention because he wants to be the one that kills Aquaman. This is at the core of who Black Manta is as a villain.
What will be interesting going into Aquaman 2 is whether a legitimate seventh underwater kingdom is introduced. Aquaman had a seventh location - the Hidden Sea - a place invented for the movie. Being at the Earth's core and only accessible via the trench, it seems likely that isn't actually one of Atlantis' original kingdoms but just a good place to hide something you want hidden, like a mythical trident. An actual final kingdom that takes umbrage with a half-breed sitting on the throne would be easy pickings for Arthur's first big test at diplomacy, should Aquaman 2 happen.
Aquaman Now Has A Kingdom To Worry About
Being a king and a superhero will not be an easy life to balance. Most heroes can barely manage holding down a regular job while they save the world. Arthur can no longer be the apathetic mysterious hero going solo; everything he does must be for a reason because his time will be in demand. When the Justice League calls, it will need to be urgent for Aquaman to get involved, and, sadly, it's doubtful Aquaman will be saving as many submarines as he has been up to now.
By the same token, the king of the seven seas has a massive weakness in Atlantis. If someone wanted to separate him from the Justice League, attacking Atlantis at the same time as another target would be a very easy way to do it. Sure, Arthur has Mera and other characters ready to stand-in for him, but he is the king, and a king needs to be around in order for followers to have faith in his leadership. Dealing with a surface world threat while Atlantis is hurt will not be good for morale among the populace.
As such, the armies of Atlantis probably won't be stepping out of Atlantis to fight by their leader's side either. Their primary worry is their own domain and keeping what's left of it safe and intact. If the next big DC crossover needs an Atlantean cavalry, the less conspicuous Mera and some other trusted companions are more likely to be supplying aid than a troop of crab soldiers. But this is in part what makes the Aquaman comics interesting to read, as he's a fundamentally different character than the rest of the Justice League members, and so seeing how Arthur Curry balances being the king of Atlantis and being a superhero is something that could be further explored in Aquaman 2.