In an interview with Geeks Of Color, DC Comics mainstay and Aquaman co-screenwriter Geoff Johns revealed that Aquaman's helmeted nemesis, played in the film by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, was almost excised during the scriptwriting phase in order to keep the focus on the story's central villain, Aquaman's half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson).
Johns explained, "There was a moment when the script was really going and (director James Wan) texted me or emailed me, and said Black Manta’s story may be too big for this movie. I just went to his office and I said, ‘Black Manta has to be in the movie.’ He was like, ‘I know!!!’"
In the film, Black Manta seeks revenge on Aquaman (Jason Momoa) for the death of Manta's father during a battle with the Atlantean superhero aboard a submarine hijacked by Manta and his band of pirates. To further his cause, Manta teams up with Orm and gets outfitted with some snazzy Atlantean weaponry in the process, including his signature helmet.
Once Manta was firmly established to stay in the movie, co-writer David Leslie said that Wan was "very specific about making his look very faithful to the comic." Johns added that portraying Manta without his headgear would be "impossible...It’s like doing a Batman movie without the Batmobile. You just shouldn’t do it. Some people were like, you can’t do the big helmet. It’s like saying Joker without the smile!"
Johns, in fact, is so enamored with the way Manta turned out that he wants to take the villain to the next level: "There should be a Black Manta movie. That’d be a cool movie."
Whether a villain-based movie can be sold to audiences is still debatable (the success of Venom notwithstanding), but there's no question that Manta's awesome appearance, Abdul-Mateen II's energetic turn in the role and the character's long history in the comics have made him a favorite with moviegoers — even if, as some critics have noted, his appearance in the movie could be considered superfluous to the main plot.
Do you think Aquaman would have worked better if there was just one supervillain in the movie, or were you blown away by Black Manta as well? Should he be the main antagonist in Aquaman 2?