Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is reportedly facing production troubles, as it comes off a third round of reshoots — an ‘unprecedented’ amount for a superhero movie of such a big scale. The reshoot sessions occurred in mid-June in New Zealand and were handled by director James Wan and lead actor Jason Momoa. Furthermore, the sequel to the highest-grossing DC Comics film — $1.150 billion (about Rs. 9,437 crore) — won’t have a Batman in it, after all. Neither Ben Affleck nor Michael Keaton will appear briefly in the film, based on the new set of reshoots. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is still slated to release December 20 in theatres worldwide.
Marking the last remnant of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which started a decade ago, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has faced numerous obstacles throughout its production cycle. As per THR, the film was greenlit by Warner Bros.’ Toby Emmerich and then DC Films president Walter Hamada, before wrapping principal photography in January 2022. Both were soon out of the company, thanks to its merger with Discovery. During post-production, the film underwent two rounds of reshoots and multiple test screenings, which were received poorly. After the first unsatisfactory round, new Warner Bros. Pictures bosses Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy stepped in to oversee a new edit of the film. Unfortunately for them, the second cut ended up faring worse than the original one, leading to the aforementioned third round of reshoots.
Originally, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was supposed to have Michael Keaton reprising his role as Batman — reportedly serving in the same capacity as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — an ‘elder statesman’ who would appear in various films throughout the franchise, including the Batgirl movie that got shelved last year. The ever-shifting release dates also seem to have muddled the pick of which Batman to include in the Aquaman sequel. You see, at one point, the film was scheduled to open in March 2023, placing it months before Keaton makes an appearance in The Flash. Once the Warner Bros. Discovery merger went through, it was decided that Affleck would be replacing Keaton as Bruce Wayne, with lead Momoa posting a behind-the-scenes picture on his Instagram.
But the film was moved yet again to a December 2023 window, placing it after the events of The Flash, which canonically eliminated both Keaton and Affleck from the picture. So now, this new cut, resulting from the third round of reshoots, is doing away with the Batman cameo in its entirety. This seems like a safe decision from the new DC Studios regime, where co-heads James Gunn and Peter Safran don’t want to promise a universe featuring the older characters from the DCEU. The THR report further adds that some of the release date shifts might have been due to visual effects teams being overloaded during the pandemic. The reshoots, however, seem to have been completed successfully, with THR’s sources claiming that director Wan got what he needed within four days of shooting, instead of the prescribed five.
The DC Comics movies have been in freefall recently, with films severely underperforming at the box office. The Flash is the most recent example of this, struggling to get people into the theatres and having earned merely $267.5 million (about Rs. 2,195 crore) at the box office, and even launching the entire movie as an NFT (whatever that means). Either way, this opens up a clear path for Gunn and Safran to chart a new course for the DC Universe, which would try and combine all properties — movies, TV series, and animated projects — within a single, overarching universe. Late last month, the studio found its new Clark Kent and Lois Lane for Superman: Legacy, played by David Corenswet and Rachel Brosnahan, respectively.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom splashes into theatres worldwide on December 20.
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