Why ‘Aquaman’ Is Very Isolated From ‘Justice League’

Though Aquaman will have its connections to the larger DC Extended Universe, it was important to the team behind the standalone movie to make it as independent as possible.

Back in July of 2017, ComicBook.com head out to the set of the first film to follow Justice League in the DC movie canon. At the time, Justice League was four months from release, but Aquaman director James Wan already knew he wanted to keep his film isolated from the ensemble flick.

"It picks up after Justice League," Wan said. "I don't want to give too much away, but it picks up after Justice League, but it is its own standalone movie. Ultimately it's a movie... I don't know how to talk about it without kind of giving too much of it away."

Aquaman actor Jason Momoa describes the approach as a give and take, of sorts, with roots in Zack Snyder's version of the character being wholly shaped by Wan as details surrounding the character were never truly cemented by his previous appearances.

"When we originally signed on to play Aquaman, I knew a great deal of what Zack [Snyder] had built the character like," Momoa said. "So, I built a lot of it off of using backstory. Little things like, parents were alive, parent’s weren’t alive? All that kind of stuff, we could shift when I got to James [Wan]. The bare bones of where he came from and what he was about, we’d already established from the very beginning and really what Zack was like, ‘This is what I want to bring to the team.’ So, coming over here it’s just like trying to balance and match that, but also James has a really, really different vision and it’s a very spectacular, different view of what, originally, when I was with Zack."

While it was important to Wan to introduce Atlantis, an element intentionally left out of Justice League by his request, Momoa and company are excited to explore such avenues in depth.

"So it’s fun to go, like, 'All right, well we haven’t really reviewed these finer aspects of the character, ‘cause now it’s my origin, so we’re connected to all those pieces,'" Momoa said. "So, it’s left open to go, like, ‘All right, we didn’t need to develop that for Justice League. That definitely was one of the hard things was going like, ‘Okay, here’s Aquaman’s life and here’s Justice League.’ So, I made up a whole bunch of different scenarios of what it was like beforehand, then he comes and he joins the team and then he goes back to his life. So, that was really important to all the forward stuff, because afterwards that was up for James to go, ‘Hey, the future is yours. You’ve already done Justice League. I need everything pre.’"

Producer Peter Safran wouldn't rule out any Justice League characters appearing in the film, a decision which has certainly been made by now, but Wan wants to focus on his titular hero more than anything. Though, Momoa jokes, his movie "doesn't have it in the budget" to involve the other big heroes. "I think it would be great," Momoa said. "If this does well and if that does well.. Probably, the same thing that happened with Marvel, you know what I mean?"

Still, Aquaman's story on the big screen having merely bare bones versions exploited, gives the creatives full freedom for the December film.

"I feel like the good thing about having something that isn't really established is I get the opportunity to kind of set the world, set the tone, and set the flavor for who this guy is, and the world that he lives in," Wan said. "That's what we love about superheroes, right? We love that they represent the best part of who we want to be, right? What we strive for, and what we aspire to be. And I think what I liked most about this character, and actually what Jason Momoa brings to it, is the idea that this is a guy who's kind of trapped between two worlds. He doesn't feel like he belonged in the surface world, but he doesn't feel like he belongs in the world of Atlantis as well, the underwater world."

Momoa's Aquaman, a character burdened with repositioning the public's perspective of an often though light hearted and sometimes silly hero given one of his super powers is talking to fish, has a tremendous amount of inner conflict throughout the film.

"It gives him more color than just a very clean cut superhero, right?" Wan said. "And he's not just sort of out there to just defeat bad guys strictly for that. And so I think someone like Jason who plays his role, who is himself a mix ethnicity as well. And so I think he brings a lot of that flavor to it, and I think it just makes it more interesting. I think it's kinda cool to see the world through through someone like that's perspective."

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Though this character of Arthur Curry has been introduced on the big screen twice over, Wan's version will truly definie him. "He goes on his own story and this standalone movie, and he goes to this journey, and he ultimately becomes the Aquaman as we know him," Wan said.

Aquaman opens in theaters on December 21, 2018.