'Aquaman' Director James Wan Aiming For Epic, Fun Fantasy Adventure

A brightly colored costume and often deemed silly skill set have placed Aquaman among the most respected DC Comics heroes, until now. Director of the hero's first standalone outing on the big screen, James Wan, is embracing the character's campy nature but juxtaposing it with intense action and an authoritative lead actor.

While visiting Wan's edit bay for the December film, ComicBook.com not only got a look at a trio of scenes ahead of their release, but talked to Wan about his approach to reinvigorating Aquaman's public outlook. "We associate so much of the cheese of the character so much with the Super Friends cartoon that we're familiar with, and the look of it, but that's also what really makes him cool," Wan said. "It was kind of like taking that idea and making sure that that aesthetic fits with the look of what Atlantis is today, or what Atlantis was back then."

In fact, it won't take long for Aquaman to stun audiences and flip their perspective of Atlantean heroes. In an opening sequence set in 1985, Nicole Kidman's Atlanna will be thrust into destructive but impressive action-sequence, including the type of continuous shot Wan had mastered in his Conjuring efforts. By the end of the apparently action-packed film which splits its underwater and above sea level time quite a bit, Jason Momoa will rock the classic orange and green suit Aquaman fans have embraced for years.

"The key was to try and take that classic outfit and make sure it's not goofy, make sure it's not cheesy," Wan said. "Just trying to do it justice, but do it in a way that potentially wink at the classic old costume, but bringing a sort of modern sensibility to it."

aquaman trailer
(Photo: DC Films)

Between the powerful punches, Arthur Curry will be forced into a journey in search of the King's Trident, a more powerful tool than his quindent dubbed, "the Mother's Trident." Simultaneously, his brother Orm will plot against the people of land as their pollution ways and neglect have begun to take its toll on his underwater kingdom. Along the way, Momoa will deliver touches of snark and wit with some comical dialogue against Amber Heard's Mera. Mera's more serious role counters Arthur's often laughable lines, providing a necessary sense of balance and grounding.

"I don't think making an Aquaman movie can be any other tone than this, right?" Wan says. "In pop culture, he is known as the lamest super hero. So you've got lean into that. You've got to play into that. You've got to have fun with it, right? Like, yes, he rides seahorses, but in our movie, you wouldn't be laughing at a seahorse like that. I wanted to embrace what people think is goofy and potentially campy about this world and really make it fun and adventurous in a cool way."

Wan admits a major inspiration for his tone was Romancing the Stone, saying Aquaman has "a bit of that flavor." Taking place heavily underwater, Wan dives in to explore a new world which no Marvel or DC film has before, offering something unique in a saturated market. "I went into this film, not necessarily wanting to make a super hero movie, but wanting to make an action adventure fantasy movie," Wan says.

"I definitely got to create a massive part," the director said, having already admitted it was important to him Atlantis be established in his film, and not Justice League before it. "I really think what has been really fun, and I think for moviegoers, not just the fans, is when they see this film, they're not just seeing a world of DC. They're literally seeing a world within Aquaman itself."


While it is uncharted territory for DC Films and comic book movies, it is also brand new for Wan. "I've never made a movie that is so heavily designed to this extent, and it was really awesome just being able to come up with really interesting things, and just run with it," Wan said. "And when the film comes out, I think you're going to see how crazy big it is."

Aquaman is set for release on December 21, 2018.