A league of his own

Un­der­wa­ter wars and ar­moured sharks: does Aqua­man rep­re­sent a sea change for DC?

Empire (UK) - - PREVIEW -

JAMES WAN ISN’T re­ally treat­ing Aqua­man as a su­per­hero movie. It has ir­refutable comic-book roots, of course, but the film — the first solo out­ing for hairy, boozy, fish-whis­perer Arthur Curry, played by Ja­son Mo­moa — “has a fan­tasy ap­proach to it,” the di­rec­tor tells Em­pire. “It shows you a part of Earth we’ve never seen be­fore. That’s what en­ticed me to it: the op­por­tu­nity to play on a big can­vas.” Judg­ing by the first trailer, the can­vas isn’t just big, it’s also drenched in bright, salty wa­ter­colours. Not only will the movie ex­plore Curry’s back­story, it will also plunge head­long into the sub­aquatic realm that helped spawn him via his At­lantean queen mom At­lanna (Nicole Kid­man). A realm now lorded over by his hu­man-hat­ing half-brother Orm (Pa­trick Wil­son), who wants to wipe out all us air-suck­ing land­lub­bers for dump­ing all that shit on his manor. But it goes way be­yond the phos­pho­res­cent mer-tropo­lis that is At­lantis. Not only do Arthur and the scar­let-tressed Mera (Am­ber Heard) head off on a Ro­manc­ing The Stone-alike, terra-firma-based trea­sure hunt for an an­cient relic, they’ll also ven­ture into other briny na­tions. “There’s seven king­doms in the un­der­wa­ter world,” Wan ex­plains, “and in my movie we get the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore them.” One of his favourites is the King­dom Of The Trench, in­hab­ited by “mon­strous an­cient ones of the deep” that en­abled the Malaysian-born mas­ter of hor­ror to in­dulge his pas­sion for H.P. Love­craft. But there’ll also be big-pin­cered crus­taceans and green-gilled tri­tons join­ing in the bub­bly fun. Not to men­tion tri­dent-wield­ing war­riors. Who ride sharks. Which all, as you’d ex­pect, re­quired Wan to deal with more vis­ual ef­fects than he’d ever had to wrangle be­fore. De­spite his pref­er­ence for the prac­ti­cal, he had to con­cede that, when it came to han­dling Aqua­man’s sea-fauna, it was an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity. As he rea­son­ably points out, “you can’t put ar­mour on sharks and ride them around”. Aqua­man doesn’t feel much like a straight­for­ward su­per­hero ad­ven­ture to its star, ei­ther. Which is prob­a­bly just as well, given the re­ac­tion to the mud­dled, dis­ap­point­ing Jus­tice League last year. “It’s a lot of fun,” Ja­son Mo­moa tells us of the new film, “and it’s some­thing dif­fer­ent [for the DCEU]. It’s like when Guardians Of The Gal­axy came out, and they were up in space. There’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be that Star Wars el­e­ment where, just un­der the sur­face, there’s a whole world go­ing to war — seven of them!” Sounds epic. Might be time for Bat­man to break out his shark re­pel­lent spray. DAN JOLIN


Em­pire spoke to to the Aqua­man cast and crew on dry land on 11 and 12 July 2017. Main: Aqua­man (Ja­son Mo­moa) and Mera (Am­ber Heard) have an il­lu­mi­nat­ing time in At­lantis. Here: Aqua­man is slip­pery when wet.

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