Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom flows into theaters this weekend with the dubious honor of being the final film in the DC Extended Universe. And that means its final scene — its credits scene — is the final shot of Warner Bros. great attempt to equal the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its own pet superhero setting.
But it also means that the typical use of a superhero movie credits scene doesn’t apply here. There aren’t any future franchise events for Lost Kingdom to point to. What’s a blockbuster to do?
If you’ve seen Lost Kingdom, you know, and if you haven’t, maybe you’re just here to rubberneck. But here’s what it did.
[Ed. Note: This piece contains spoilers for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.]
Lost Kingdom’s credits scene isn’t about anything weighty, it’s just a call back to a gross-out gag from earlier in the film. Orm (Patrick Wilson), the redeemed bad guy from the first Aquaman, is enjoying his first surface-world hamburger when he spies a cockroach scurrying across the dock-side picnic table.
Earlier in the movie, his brother Aquaman (Jason Momoa) tricked him into thinking that live cockroaches are an every day surface-world snack. So Orm grabs the roach, slaps it between the layers of his sandwich, and takes a big, happy bite. Good night, sweet DCEU, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
But here I must implore my fellow human beings: We absolutely musn’t make this a metaphor. No matter how resonant, absurd, or funny the credits scene on Lost Kingdom, we must resist.
Orm’s burger is, inevitably, a roachy Rorschach test. The insect can be whatever you didn’t like about the DCEU, and Orm happily eating it is the fans you don’t like lapping it up. Or, Orm is the executives whose meddling ruined the franchise happily choosing their comeuppance (the roach), which is the collapse of the whole thing (an honestly very appetizing burger). Or maybe, the burger is the Snyder Cut, somehow, and Orm is Joss Whedon? I’m sure somebody could flesh out that video essay.
But we have to draw a line in the sand, like Topo the octopus scurrying away from the blood-drinking Deserters and back to the safety of deep water. We have to restrain ourselves, like Orm touching the Black Trident. We have to escape, like the fish in the sea, able to say that in the end, at the end of an era, we didn’t take the bait.