director James Wan explains why he’s not taking the standard superhero approach with aquaman… words matt maytum
The fishy fella with the trident hits Hall H…
Because his back catalogue includes the likes of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, James Wan’s name is probably still most closely associated with low-budget horror. For now. Because as Fast & Furious 7 proved, he knows how to handle an established blockbuster franchise, and he’s looking to put his own unique stamp on the DCEU’s next standalone superhero movie.
“I grew up loving all the classic George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron movies,” Wan tells TF ahead of debuting a new trailer (and some exclusive footage) at San Diego’s Comic-Con. “So deep down, I’ve always wished I could make those kind of movies. And that has always been my goal. I love [horror]. It’s definitely the best way to break into the industry. I just became somewhat synonymous with it, so that people had a harder time seeing me for anything else outside of horror. I just wanted to prove that I’m not just a horror filmmaker, I’m a filmmaker, period.” sea change
Wan certainly looks set to be expanding his range with Aquaman. While following on from Justice League in timeline terms, it also serves as the Atlantean king’s origin story as it flashes back to his early life. Given that Arthur Curry (Aquaman’s alter ego) remained somewhat enigmatic throughout the aforementioned DC team-up movie, this is the chance to get to know him properly before he faces off against his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) and Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). And if the DC movies have a reputation for gloominess, Aquaman is stepping far away from that, with a subaquatic kingdom that’s more reminiscent of Avatar than BVS.
If any character is in need of bold treatment, it’s Aquaman. Before Game Of Thrones beefcake Jason Momoa picked up the trident and took the character in a more badass direction, Aquaman was the whipping boy of the comics world, his powers and look relentlessly teased. Wan is under no illusions about the character’s reputation. “Let’s face it, he’s the superhero that everyone makes fun of,” he laughs. “There was a bit of reservation at the start about whether or not I should pursue this character. But the more I thought about it, I always love being the underdog. Coming from the horror genre, you’re always the underdog. So I got used to that mentality. And then I thought, ‘Aquaman could be that guy! How awesome would that be if I’m the one that made Aquaman supercool?’ And with Jason as well, it takes it to a whole different level.”
Proving himself a valuable asset to Warner Bros with the Conjuring films, Wan earned the chance to pitch for a superhero property. “I said, ‘I will do it only if I can do it my way. This is how I would do it.’ They heard my pitch, and they loved my take for it.” Wan’s take involved harking back to those aforementioned directors and the classic adventure movies he grew up with, wanting to emulate that style of filmmaking, rather than follow the classic superhero origin story template. “He goes on this journey to became the hero that he’s supposed to be.”
Also key to Wan’s vision for Aquaman was his fantasy-esque take on Atlantis, which further distances it from traditional superhero fare. “I pitched the visual world and how I wanted it to be, like a big world-creation film, somewhat like Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings and things like that. But uniquely my take of that, because it’s unique that it’s underwater. They loved the idea of that. I said, ‘I can have monsters in there. Are you guys OK if I have monsters in there?’ They said, ‘Have monsters!’” Although, as different as it may seem to other comic-book movies, Aquaman is being true to its source. “I didn’t just make stuff up,” laughs Wan. “It’s inherently built into the mythology of the comic book.”
Director James Wan StarrinG Jason momoa, amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, YaHYa abdul-mateen ii, nicole kidman eta 14 december 2018