Here, Wan does his own take on Black Manta's beginnings. Shortly after a prelude that weaves the tale of Arthur's birth, he cuts to the present day where Manta and his father, Jesse (Michael Beach) are taking control of a submarine, killing anyone who stands in their way. Arthur soon arrives to put a stop to them -- entering in a cloud of steam and with a pithy one-liner. But as he brings the sailors to safety, he faces increasing opposition from the pirate duo. That's when things go awry. Ultimately, Jesse ends up pinned, and instead of using his super strength to free him, Arthur leaves him to die as water comes flooding in. Jesse sacrifices himself, leaving his son hellbent on revenge. (This is a spin on one version of the comics story, which involves Aquaman killing Black Manta's dad.)
"In some ways, it is Aquaman who creates Black Manta," Wan says. "It's an origin story for Black Manta as well which I think is really cool. And ultimately basically what Arthur realizes is by being more flippant and not showing Black Manta and his father mercy at the start of the film, he ends up creating a lifelong nemesis and he realizes that's not what it means to be a hero." That's one of the reasons their conflict stayed in the final cut. "There was a moment we thought maybe we should take it out, but then taking him out actually affected Arthur's arc," Wan adds.
For what it's worth, the submarine set piece wasn't exactly easy to shoot. Whereas most of the Atlantis action was shot dry -- with the water effects added later -- this one actually required liquid. " We built the submarine section over this giant water tank with hydraulics," Wan says. "As the water was pummeling in we would sort of sink the set into the water. That's the quickest way to give the impression of water rising. That was super wet." Any time they did a new take meant mopping up in order to drench the environment again.