Spoilers ahead for Aquaman.
Marvel basically made it a requirement that superhero movies must have mid-credits and/or post-credits scenes. These little stingers are meant to entice audiences for future installments and show the hero’s story will continue in one way or another. But what if you don’t have the goods for one of these scenes? What if you don’t have something particularly funny or interesting to tease the future of the franchise? That’s what happens with Aquaman.
In a mid-credits scene, we see Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has been rescued at sea by disgraced scientist Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park). Shin is poking around the Black Manta armor, it goes off, but Shin is unharmed. Manta then reiterates his desire to get revenge on Aquaman.
This scene feels like a stinger just to have a stinger because it doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Furthermore, it only serves to highlight that Black Manta is kind of a needless antagonist, and we’re supposed to be excited that he’ll be back? Why? Is he even remotely interesting? Will his relationship with Aquaman change in any significant way?
For some reason, Aquaman is incredibly invested in Black Manta, but they never make the case for why we should care about him. He’s a bad guy at the beginning, he wants revenge against Aquaman for letting his father die (understandable, but it’s not like Manta would have been a good guy if not for that incident), and then he makes some super armor that still doesn’t help him beat Aquaman. If you removed all of the Black Manta stuff from Aquaman, you’d have pretty much the same movie minus Aquaman’s realization that mercy is good.
Presumably, the stinger is meant to tease the return of Black Manta for a potential sequel, but he’s already shown that he’s outmatched by Aquaman. He can’t beat him physically, and his motivation is so simplistic—revenge—that it doesn’t tell us anything about Manta as a character or as a foil for Aquaman. He’s basically a walking set piece meant to show up, blow some stuff up, get whooped by Aquaman, and then Aquaman returns to the A-plot with Manta being like, “Curses! I’ll get you next time, Aquaman!”
Maybe there shouldn’t be a next time for Black Manta. They failed to make the case for why he’s an interesting character, and he doesn’t seem like a formidable enough foe to really endanger Aquaman. There are reasons to be excited about an Aquaman sequel, but Black Manta isn’t one of them.