Aquaman 2 Actor Labels DC Superhero Movie as 'Clown Work'

By Richard Nebens Updated:
Aquaman 2 Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom has had more than its fair share of problems for Warner Bros. before recently having its release date delayed until the end of 2023. As the studio works through its merger with Discovery and tries to figure out its plans with the DC Universe, this major solo movie remains in a constant state of flux for various reasons.

At the center of its issues is Amber Heard, who was mired in an ugly civil court case with her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, for most of the past year. On top of reports that her role was already being diminished due to chemistry problems with leading actor Jason Momoa, this public battle has put Aquaman 2 into the spotlight in a way that WBD didn’t want, especially since it follows up the highest-grossing DCEU solo movie to date.

Even with director James Wan having recently shared a look into the movie to keep fans interested, the outlook on Aquaman 2’s success prospects remains bleak as it prepares for its December 2023 debut. Now, even more negative press surrounds this new outing thanks to some comments made by one of its leading actors.

Aquaman 2 Star on Superhero Movie Work

Speaking with Vulture, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II shared some comments about his work in the superhero movie genre that didn't come in the most positive light.

While explaining his process of working as an actor, he called his work on Aquaman "clown work," noting it as something that an actor has to just "get over [themselves]" for:

“Everything should be about getting to the truth. But sometimes you got to know which movie or genre you’re in. Something like Aquaman, that’s clown work. Aquaman is not The Trial of the Chicago 7. You gotta get over yourself.”

Going further into the "clown" comment, he looked at having "to play the game" and "be crafty" about what to bring to a role and a story in order to give the audience something surprising and memorable:

“In order to survive and to do it well, you have to play that game and then be crafty about when you want to surprise the audience, the director, or yourself with a little bit of ‘Wow, I didn’t expect to see a Chekhovian thing or August Wilson and Aquaman, but I did.’ ”

Abdul-Mateen II later took to Twitter to think about clarifying his comments, only to say that that would be "no fun" before promoting Aquaman 2 and sharing a photo of him going to work on The Trial of Chicago 7:

“Tempted to clarify, but for that’s no fun. Instead, heres a pic of myself on the way to work on Trial of Chicago 7. Spy anything? Aquaman in theaters Dec 2023!”

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Twitter

Is Black Manta Criticizing Aquaman 2?

Having been involved with both Aquaman movies, hearing these comments from the actor behind Black Manta is certainly alarming, and it's not something that fans will want to hear.

Of course, superhero movies have always had their critics for not being as thought-provoking, as insightful, or as influential on the real world as many of their more serious counterparts, ones that usually dominate awards circuits. The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola has opined that Marvel movies are all the same as one another, and director Martin Scorcese has often shared his less-than-favorable thoughts on Marvel and the genre as a whole over the years.

While it's one thing to hear those kinds of comments from people who haven't been involved with comic book movies, similar comments coming from someone who has his own DC movie releasing next year aren't something that many fans will like to see. He even made it a bit of a guessing game by confirming that he wouldn't expand on his comments, basically saying that it doesn't take as much work to make a comic book movie as it does with other films and specifically comparing his time in Aquaman 2 to something more critically acclaimed like The Trial of Chicago 7.

Aquaman 2 already has more than its fair share of issues before its release, but even with the movie not coming out for over a year, these comments might make fans even wearier about going to the theaters to see it.

Of course, the superhero genre as a whole has taken enormous steps forward in the 21st century, providing everything from political thrillers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) to period-piece war films (Wonder Woman, Captain America: The First Avenger). Even though it doesn't seem like Aquaman 2 will break any new ground in its field, the hope is that it will still deliver something that fans will embrace, no matter how "clown-ish" it may be.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will premiere in theaters on December 25, 2023.

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.