Warning: SPOILERS for Aquaman are ahead! Proceed with caution.
Rather than go out of its way to connect to other corners of the DC Extended Universe, Aquaman opted to take a standalone approach with its story. In fact, Mera’s mention of Arthur Curry having helped defeat Steppenwolf was the only direct reference to Arthur Curry’s participation in Justice League, but it turns out there might have been a more subtle reference to the DCEU past: seeing the oil rig explosion from Man of Steel.
We have Patrick Wilson‘s Orm, a.k.a. Ocean Master, to thank for this supposed tie-in, as during the first half of Aquaman, after Arthur Curry is captured by Atlantean forces after meeting with Mera and Vulko (who managed to escape unseen), Orm explained to his chained half-brother why he wants to attack the surface world. It boils down to humanity having polluted the oceans for centuries, and to prove his point, Orm showed Arthur some holograms of the various ways have tainted Earth’s waters. Included among the footage is an oil platform on fire, which looks quite similar to the one that Clark Kent rescued all those workers from early into Man of Steel, as you can watch below.
Assuming the oil rig explosion we briefly see in Aquaman is indeed the same one from Man of Steel, then not only is this a fun DCEU Easter egg, it also directly ties into Arthur Curry’s own past. Last year, Jason Momoa confirmed the long-running theory that it was Aquaman who saved Clark Kent from the explosion and brought him back to shore was true, having learned as such from director Zack Snyder. So even though it would be another three years until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gave us our first look of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, the character has been involved in the DCEU since it launched, even if that involvement may have thrown in retroactively.
Whether or not Orm knew that Arthur was near that flaming oil platform all those years ago, that footage was just one of several examples Orm show to convince Arthur of the evils of humanity and for him to stay out of Atlantean affairs. His attempts at persuasion were for naught, and by the time all was said and done in Aquaman, not only did Arthur prevent Orm from laying waste to humanity, he also rightfully claimed the Atlantean throne. And thus a new chapter in Atlantis’ history begins, one that was ushered in by a half-human, half-Atlantean ruler who will try to bring peace between the underwater and surface worlds.