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Any comic book reader will tell you that there are some character's costumes that seem entirely unimaginable in real life -- and Black Manta is one of them. While he's a badass villain on the page, he's also notably outfitted with a big bubble helmet with two giant, red, laser-shooting eyes. Looking at him you'd think he'd look ridiculous fully-realized, but I can tell you from my experience on the set of Aquaman that won't be the case. Black Manta looks ripped from the source material in the movie, and he looks amazing.
I joined a small group of journalists visiting the set of Aquaman while it was in production in Melbourne, Australia last summer, and it was during an interview with producer Peter Safran that I got the chance to see actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in his full Black Manta gear. While discussing the costume, the filmmaker took out his phone and showed us a picture, and we were honestly all aghast. There hasn't been any kind of adaptation at all -- it's just ripped straight from the page. Said Safran as he was showing it off,
James [Wan] loved Manta from the comic books, but then just designing the actual look of Manta, taking it from the comic book to real life, that was something we spent countless hours on, and was incredibly satisfying. I actually have a picture of his first day on... [pulls out his phone to show us a picture of Black Manta] Here he is, this is on the first day... We couldn't stop taking pictures of him, because he just satisfied everything. I sent this picture to [producer/writer] Geoff Johns, and the e-mail came back all caps, all exclamation marks, and he's like, 'HOLY SHIT, THE RIBS GLOW!!' [laughs]
We didn't exactly get a long, lingering look at the Black Manta costume, which is why I can't provide a full, detailed illustration here -- but yes, the ribs glow, and so do the eyes. The costume in the comics has a very special purpose, not only enhancing the strength of David Hyde, but protecting him from the crazy dangers and intense pressure in the depths of the sea. That motivated director James Wan and costume department to create something both respectful to the comics and practical, and what they came up with for Aquaman is sincerely impressive.
It should be recognized that we weren't the only ones massively impressed by the translation of the Black Manta costume. During our day on set we had the pleasure of sitting down with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as well, and he too explained that he was overjoyed wearing the suit. Not only does he love the look of it, but he noted that it makes him feel more confident in-character, and makes him literally want to break down walls. Said the actor
I'm like, 'Nope, not going to get it off of me!' Man, that thing is just badass. It's like, I put it on, and we have our ideas about what the character's going to be, and so I bring all of that stuff to it -- but then you put that thing on, and you see yourself in the mirror, and all of a sudden I'm 10 feet taller in that thing. I feel like I could bust through a wall, you know?! I talked about wanting to run through walls, and just break shit in my meeting with Peter [Safran], when I auditioned for the job. I put on that suit, and everything's just coming full circle.
With a cast that includes Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, and Dolph Lundgren, the presence of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's Black Manta is one of the many things we're excited to see in Aquaman -- though we still have a bit of a wait ahead for their time on the big screen. The film will be in theaters on December 21st, and we'll have a lot more for you about the movie here on CinemaBlend for you in the coming weeks and months.