Aquaman 2 trailer breakdown: James Wan talks Vin Diesel's input, horror inspiration, and potential sequels

The trailer for director James Wan's DC follow-up Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has finally arrived ahead of the movie's December 20 release date – and GamesRadar+ was at a top-secret Los Angeles launch event to discover what audiences can expect from the big-budget superhero sequel.

The action-packed spectacle sees Jason Momoa's Aquaman return to the big screen in an epic aquatic adventure with plenty of surprises – including new worlds, dark magic, and an unlikely bromance between our sea-faring hero and his half-brother Orm (AKA Ocean Master, played by Patrick Wilson). It also sees the return of Aquaman's arch enemy Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

You can watch the trailer below:

"If you're an Aquaman fan, you know that Black Manta is a big nemesis of Aquaman/Arthur Curry," explains James Wan, speaking after an exclusive first play of the movie's trailer at Dolby Studios in Burbank, California. "Black Manta was a glorified side character in the first film, but that was okay because we knew that the second movie was where we were going to get into it with him in a much bigger role."

In the trailer, Black Manta is seen wielding a powerful new weapon called the Black Trident, which is where the dark magic comes in. "After the first movie, Manta's been on this relentless quest to kill Arthur and destroy everything that Arthur has built," reveals Wan. "Without giving too much away, in his search to try and fix the power suit from the first movie – that was banged up and destroyed – he stumbles across something much bigger."

Because he has stumbled on to the Lost Kingdom, he is now empowered in a way that he wasn't before

Wan is coy about whether or not Black Manta now has supernatural powers: "In the first movie, he's a human, which he still is in this one – but because he has stumbled on to the Lost Kingdom, he is now empowered in a way that he wasn't before. Finally, he is able to go one-on-one with Arthur Curry, who is a superhuman being."

At the start of the footage, Arthur is revealed to be a dad in a light-hearted scene involving diaper-changing, which contrasts with the heated action and ambitious battle sequences that lie ahead. "Four years ago, I was basically unemployed," the character stoically explains. "I was a wanderer with no home, but now I'm a husband and a father – and I wouldn't have it any other way.”

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(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Despite there being little sign of Arthur's love interest Mera (Amber Heard) in the trailer, the director confirms that all of the major characters from the first movie return for the sequel. This includes Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Dolph Lundgren, and Randall Park, who appeared in a cameo role during an end credit scene of the first Aquaman.

When quizzed about Mera's role in the sequel's story, Wan teases: "I mean, Arthur has a child and it's not with Orm! Mera is a massive character in the comic book and in the Aquaman world, so we want to be respectful to the character. That's the bottom line. I feel like I told the Arthur and Mera story in the first film, so I can focus on Arthur and Orm in this one. Basically, this is a journey movie with these two characters and then the other characters pepper their world."

I feel like I told the Arthur and Mera story in the first film, so I can focus on Arthur and Orm in this one.

At the end of the first Aquaman movie, which was released in 2018 and secured a worldwide gross of $1.148 billion, Wilson's villainous Orm was last seen being led away to be imprisoned. In the trailer for the superhero sequel, we see his above-water slammer and a disheveled, long-haired Orm begrudgingly team up with Aquaman – prompting lots of bickering and banter. "This movie is about the growth of Arthur Curry," explains Wan. "In this movie, he becomes the king of Atlantis, he's a dad, and he ultimately needs to reach out to his family member – the one who was the antagonist in the first movie. They have to be a family together."

Speaking of the family theme that runs through the movie, Wan reveals an unexpected high-octane inspiration: “I learned about family from Fast & Furious and you can feel it played into this movie in a big, big way. Seriously, the family aspect in this film is something that was very important for me – and you have Vin [Diesel] to thank for that."

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(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Wan teases many other inspirations during the conversation: "I described the first film as a romantic action-adventure in the spirit of Romancing the Stone, where it's a romance between Arthur and Mera. For the second movie, the plan was always going to be that Patrick's character was going to switch. Patrick and Jason are really great in this film. They've got such great chemistry that I describe the second one as a bromance movie. It's like Tango & Cash. That was the spirit that we were going for."

Despite the Tango & Cash comedy vibes, the trailer also reveals a lot of dark underwater battles and mysterious zombie-like aquatic creatures. "I don't know how to stay away from horror," the director admits. "In The Lost Kingdom, we will be introduced to a lot of creepy, scary, Lovecraftian-looking characters. Ultimately, that's what our heroes have to work together to stop. They have to stop this Lovecraftian universe from breaking through into our main world."

The Jason Momoa story as Aquaman definitely has more places to go,

That doesn't mean the film will be an R-rated horror, though. "I guess I naturally lean to that darker stuff," says Wan. "I feel like the Aquaman films allow me to play with my love for the horror genre, but still make them fun and not necessarily too scary that young kids might not be able to watch them because they're too frightening. It's a fine line, but we're trying to capture that early Spielberg spirit – that early Zemeckis spirit where we can lean dark, but it can also be fun as well. We're leaning into the monsters of it all. For me, it really is just scratching the surface. It makes me want to do more."

On the subject of more, are there plans for a trilogy in the future? Is there the potential for a third film in the franchise if the sequel is a success? "The Jason Momoa story as Aquaman definitely has more places to go," admits Wan. “The answer is yes."

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom releases in theaters on December 20. In the meantime, check out our guide to all the upcoming DC movies and TV shows