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Aquaman ending explained - everything you need to know after watching

Aquaman ending

Seen Aquaman yet? While it's been out in the UK for a whole week now (as of writing), the latest superhero flick from the DC Extended Universe has only just arrived in US theatres, which means you might not have seen the Aquaman ending yet. Once you have though, you're going to want to come straight back here and talk about what happened and what it means for the future of the aquatic superhero. 

While it's not quite as good as Wonder Woman, Aquaman is definitely an improvement on Justice League and it'll renew your hope for the DCEU as a whole, which means we're going to want to know all about the upcoming DC Extended Universe movies on the way. From the biggest questions we have after seeing the Aquaman ending, to what that Aquaman post-credits scene really means, we address it all below, but be warned, there's full spoilers for the Aquaman ending from this point onwards, so you don’t want to read on until you’ve seen the film. 

If you have seen it (lucky you!), then feel free to read on and take a deep dive (get it?) into what the Aquaman ending means for a possible sequel and even other DCEU movies. Anyone else still holding out for Justice League 2? Read on for everything you need to know about the Aquaman ending.

1. Are Atlanteans immortal?

I don’t know if you noticed, but Arthur goes through a lot in this movie. He’s shot, he’s stabbed, he’s blown up more than once! He’s even gets hit at point-blank range by a rocket launcher and survives. While his strength definitely comes across in Justice League, the events of Aquaman raise the question of whether or not he’s immortal. There’s no real mention of this in the movie and he apparently ages like any other human, but there also aren't many superheroes, even in the DCEU, who can survive the kind of beating Arthur takes in Aquaman. Atlanteans are clearly stronger than humans, but is that it, or are they also basically invincible?

Arthur isn’t the only Atlantean with powers either, and in fact, his ability to breath underwater and swim incredibly fast isn’t seen as a superpower by his fellow Atlanteans who have the same abilities. But it also seems like Arthur has a little something extra compared to your average Atlantean. Mera is surprised when he can communicate with a whale while they’re escaping Atlantis, as is Karathen when she realises Arthur can understand her, implying that not all Atlanteans have this ability. But Mera can manipulate water, even drawing it out of a person while on land, an ability we don’t see displayed by any other Atlantean during the film. So, do all Atlanteans have different powers? And if so, why? If Arthur’s abilities are unusual, even for his people, where do they come from? Have they just randomly been passed down through his bloodline, or is there some other reason why he seems to be a super-powered Atlantean?

2. Why does Vulko want Arthur to be King?

I have so many questions about the character Vulko - how did he become King Orm’s advisor? Why did he really train Arthur? What’s his ultimate aim? The character is pretty underdeveloped in the film with no real explanation as to who he is or where he’s come from, but the main question I have is: why is he so keen to overthrown Orm and make Arthur king? He trains Arthur as a boy (supposedly out of some sense of duty to Queen Atlanna), he sends Mera to talk Arthur into coming to Atlantis, and he sets them both on a path to retrieve the Trident of Neptune, which will make him king, all to overthrow Orm and put Arthur on the throne of Atlantis. That’s a lot of effort, and it’s not immediately clear why Vulko wants Arthur to rule. 

It’s sort of vaguely implied that Vulko disagrees with Orm’s plan to attack the surface world, but we never really see him try to dissuade Orm from his course of action. If anything, he gives him advice to help with his plan. Maybe it’s because he’s already tried to talk Orm out of it and he didn’t listen, but we know Vulko wanted Arthur to be king even before Orm talked about war, as shown during one of the flashback scenes. So, what’s the deal? Is it just that, as Queen Atlanna’s first born, Arthur is technically the rightful heir to the throne? If so, Vulko has one hell of a strict sense of duty considering that, for all his faults, Orm was actually raised as an Atlantean. While he clearly has issues, he also has a point when he tells Arthur that he’s the one who knows Atlantis and its people best. Plus, he must have been much younger than his brother when Vulko was training Arthur to become king, so I can’t imagine he’d already made such a bad impression that Vulko was so determined to overthrow him. Hmmm.

3. How did King Orvax find out about Arthur?

After Atlanna leaves Arthur and his Dad, she returns to Atlantis to marry King Orvax to keep her family safe - but we later find out that Orvax discovers the truth about Arthur and sentences Atlanna to die at the hands of the Trench. King Orm talks about his mother’s ‘betrayal’ so it’s clearly common knowledge by the time Aquaman takes place, but considering the lengths Atlanna went to protect the information, how did King Orvax find out? As far as we know, she’s the only Atlantean who knows about Arthur and she wasn’t likely to tell Orvax. Did she trust the wrong person? She obviously tells Vulko at some point because he goes to the surface to train Arthur after her death; was he the one who let the damaging information slip? Or did Orvax already suspect and send his soldiers to find out exactly what happened to Atlanna while she was on the surface? Perhaps Atlanna had a moment of weakness and tried to return to Arthur, only to accidentally lead Orvax’s men to her secret family. However he found out, Orvax made sure Atlanna paid dearly.

4. Why does Arthur change his mind about becoming King of Atlantis?

At the beginning of Aquaman, Arthur has zero interest in becoming King of Atlantis and only agrees to go with Mera to stop Orm’s war on humanity. Despite this, by the time we reach the Aquaman ending, he’s crowned king and looking pretty happy about it. So, what changed? Why did Arthur decide to give up his human life in favour of ruling the underwater kingdom of Atlantis? Jason Momoa answered this question for himself when I sat down for a chat with the Aquaman cast recently, stating: “He’s been through a lot in his life, which you get to see [in the movie], and I don’t think that he believes in himself and it’s everyone around him [that does]. Having Mera, having my father, knowing that I’m the chosen one - he’s never believed it, but I think that it’s who he surrounds himself with [that helps him to believe]... that’s what makes us kings, right? Or queens.” 

5. Is Arthur going to have a diplomatic crisis on his hands?

Whatever the reason, Arthur will clearly have a lot on his plate when he finally gets down to ruling Atlantis. Not only does he need to familiarise himself with a kingdom and a people he knows next to nothing about, but he also has to clean up Orm’s mess. Forget what he did to the surface world - Orm attacked, manipulated, and bullied the other kingdoms of Atlantis into doing his bidding and making him Ocean Master, even murdering the King of the Fisherman and going to war with the Brine. Arthur may have eventually united the kingdoms against Orm, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him trying to keep the peace and undo the damage caused by his campaign, with the other leader maybe even calling for his brother’s execution. Maybe that’s what Aquaman 2 will be about? Aquaman: The Diplomatic Crisis… then again, maybe not. 

6. How long will Orm stay imprisoned?

Speaking of Orm, there’s no way he’s going to stay safely tucked away in prison for the remainder of his existence, right? That’s just not what happens in superhero movies. How long until he breaks out, do you think? Place your bets now! Could it even be before we see Aquaman again? Maybe the next Aquaman movie will start with him hunting down his escaped brother. On the other hand, maybe they’ll have made up and be ruling happily together… yeah, there’s no way that’s going to happen. Things are always tricky when the big bad is family (just ask Thor!), but it also means that you can’t just leave the story thread hanging in a sequel. One way or another, Orm is going to have to be revisited if we get another Aquaman movie.

7. Who is Black Manta?

Black Manta is the other villain in Aquaman and, in case you didn’t now, he’s a pretty iconic baddie in the Aquaman comic books. First appearing in Aquaman #35 in 1967, he’s an underwater mercenary who uses his technology and intelligence to achieve his goals rather than any supernatural abilities, and eventually becomes Aquaman’s archenemy. It’s clear from the Aquaman ending and post-credits scene that his character is being set up to fill a similar role in the DCEU, despite his origin story being different from the comics, so I think it’s safe to say we’ll see him again. 

8. Where’s the rest of the Justice League?

It’s the elephant in the room, but where were the rest of the Justice League during Aquaman’s troubles? While his conflict with Orm is most certainly an Atlantean affair, when you’re up against these kinds of odds, surely there’s no harm is asking your friends for a little help? What were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Cyborg up to during the events of Aquaman, and why didn’t Arthur give them a call? Were they on holiday? Avoiding their fishy friend for some reason? Dead?! It could be any of the above, and we’ll probably never know. In fact, the only reason that we know Aquaman is set post-Justice League is because director James Wan told us so, and the film is definitely lacking in any Easter eggs or references to the wider DCEU. "I feel like the story and journey that he [Aquaman] goes on is strictly his own journey, and if I was to try and force other characters into it it would have been weird," Wan told me when I interviewed him. "And I also feel like there’s so many movies about those other characters already, this is Aquaman's time in the spotlight, let it be his and Mera’s movie." Fair enough.

9. Will we get Aquaman 2?

Depending on how much you enjoyed Aquaman, you may or may not be wondering whether we’ll be getting a sequel - but considering the mixed response to the DCEU so far, a sequel is by no means a certainty. When I asked Momoa about his contract obligations going forward, he revealed that he’s committed to at least one more appearance as Aquaman, but whether that’s in Aquaman 2 or something else, we don't know right now. “I am contracted for one more,” he says. “It was awesome doing Justice League, it’s great being there with a huge cast, but it would be phenomenal if people really love Aquaman [to do a sequel]... I have an idea where I would want it to go…” Sadly, when I pushed him to reveal his idea, he was having none of it (of course!), but it’s comforting to know that we have at least one more appearance from the aquatic superhero in the pipeline.