Aquaman’s James Wan Was Secretly Working on a Black Manta Movie

Aquaman’s James Wan Was Secretly Working on a Black Manta Movie
Black Manta, as seen in James Wan's Aquaman. (Image: Warner Bros.)

We all thought the news was too weird to be true and, apparently, it was. Back in early 2019, we found out that hot on the heels of James Wan’s DC film Aquaman making a big box office splash (get it?), Warner Bros. was developing a smaller-scale, horror spinoff based on the creatures who appeared during its underwater trench sequence. The idea was so specific and weird but seemed like the perfect avenue for the director of Saw, Insidious, and Malignant to make a cool superhero horror movie.

Alas, the Trench movie was cancelled earlier this year but… we now seemingly know the truth: it was never destined to happen. Last week, Wan posted a shot of Black Manta’s (played by The Matrix Resurrections’ new Morpheus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) shiny helmet on his Instagram to highlight the costume and production work on the sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. It wasn’t until sometime after that the director revealed something fairly shocking: the Trench movie was never a real thing; instead, it was code for a Black Manta movie. Check out the comment, which I took a screenshot of from Instagram on my phone.

Screenshot: Instagram/Germain Lussier for Gizmodo Screenshot: Instagram/Germain Lussier for Gizmodo

Wan, who goes by “CreepyPuppet” on Instagram, was replying to a fan who asked if he’d do a Black Manta streaming series (presumably HBO Max, where lots of things are happening these days). Wan didn’t answer directly, instead deciding to say, “I’ll let you in on a secret, the cancelled Trench spin-off movie was really going to be a secret Black Manta movie.” Gizmodo has reached out to Warner Bros. for confirmation or clarification on this news and will update the piece when or if that happens.

In Aquaman, as well as the upcoming Lost Kingdom, Manta is played by Abdul-Mateen. The first film saw him as almost a mini-boss, nothing but a pawn in Orm’s (Patrick Wilson) scheme. But in the film’s end credit scene, Manta is rescued by a marine biologist who agrees to help him defeat Aquaman in exchange for information on Atlantis. These are events that we’ll probably see in the sequel film or, maybe, were going to happen in this spinoff. No matter the case, the most interesting part of this story is the need for Wan and Warner Bros. to, apparently, concoct a fake idea to cover up the real one. Was the Trench movie going to become a Black Manta movie in the middle of it? Or was the studio going to reveal the ruse before release? We don’t know for sure. Honestly, neither makes a lot of sense but it’s certainly a fun and fascinating “what if.”

We’ll next see Abdul-Mateen in The Matrix Resurrections which opens December 22, and returning as Black Manta in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, coming out December 16, 2022.

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Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.