Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom's Most Talked About Moment Isn't In The Final Movie 

Major spoilers ahead for "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom."

Five years after the original "Aquaman" hit theaters and became an unexpectedly huge smash hit for DC, "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" has arrived. Directed by James Wan, the sequel is another massive-scale adventure with Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry, who reluctantly teams up with Patrick Wilson's Orm to take on Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Notably, however, Aquaman does not team up with a very important DC superhero in the film: Batman. Indeed, for all of the buzz about Batman appearing in the film, it turns out that any footage of the Caped Crusader (multiple versions of the character, actually) wound up on the cutting room floor. What the heck happened?

"I shot with a couple different Batmans," Momoa told The Wrap earlier this year. That was backed by an Instagram post from July 2022, which featured Momoa showed with Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne. After all, this movie takes place in the DC Extended Universe (which is what we've commonly called the universe Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" launched in 2013), with Affleck's Batman serving as its main Batman since 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." He's even the one who recruited Aquaman into the Justice League. A cameo from him would've made sense.

Nevertheless, as Momoa said, he shot with multiple actors donning the cape and cowl. The other actor in question was none other than Michael Keaton, who played Batman in this summer's "The Flash" for the first time since 1992's "Batman Returns." Originally, the plan was to have Keaton reprise the role once again in "Lost Kingdom," at least until Wan and/or Warner Bros. decided to swap in Affleck instead. Let us not forget the sequel originally wrapped filming way back in January 2022. Much has changed since then.

From two Batmen to no Batman at all

In the nearly two years since Wan and the crew initially wrapped filming, WarnerMedia was sold to Discovery, resulting in the new media conglomerate that is Warner Bros. Discovery led by David Zaslav. The executive has made sweeping changes to the company in that time, scrapping various DC projects and, most importantly, forming DC Studios under the leadership of James Gunn and Peter Safran. They are now tasked with rebooting the DC Universe beginning in 2025 with "Superman: Legacy." As a result, "Lost Kingdom" now serves as the final DCEU movie, with the main characters set to be recast in the future.

That, coupled with an ever-evolving release calendar in the aftermath of the pandemic, resulted in significant reshoots and retooling during post-production. Wan, for his part, did confirm that he shot some Batman scenes for the film, even if they didn't wind up in the final cut. These scenes were "just to have something in the bank in case we needed to explain time continuity if we came out first," Wan explained back in October.

To that end, the movie's release date shifted several times, and it was originally supposed to come out before "The Flash" — not after. If it had come out before "The Flash" (which features both Affleck and Keaton in sizable roles), other scenes might have been needed to explain how it fit in with what was coming later. But since nothing else is coming later, there's no real reason to worry about any continuity issues. This is, effectively, the end of the line for this iteration of the franchise. So why put Batman in the movie if he didn't necessarily need to be in the movie? At this point, it might have just felt shoehorned in.

The DC Universe reboot looms large

Sure, having a Batman in the film might have helped a bit with the marketing, but Warner Bros. is far more concerned with the future of the DC Universe at the moment. The previous plan of having Michael Keaton's Batman serve as a recurring character like Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has long been abandoned. Frankly, the studio is probably more concerned about having to deal with multiple Batmen in this new universe. Why even risk any further audience confusion by bringing back Keaton or Batfleck again?

First and foremost, Robert Pattinson is returning as Bruce Wayne in a sequel to last year's massive hit "The Batman." Director Matt Reeves is returning for "The Batman Part II," which will not exist directly as part of Gunn and Safran's new continuity. Instead, it will continue to stand on its own two feet, unburdened by a larger continuity as part of a sprawling universe. But Gunn and Safran's reboot will also have a Batman (one who has yet to be cast) who will appear in "The Brave and the Bold," which will be directed by Andy Muschietti, who also helmed "The Flash."

The point is that Batman is by far the most popular character in the DC Comics canon. Warner Bros. needs to focus on the future of the character and not versions that are already a thing of the past. It served this movie best to, as best it can, function as a standalone sequel to "Aquaman" and nothing more. Bringing Bruce Wayne into the picture no longer made sense, for better or worse.

"Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" is in theaters now.

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