AQUAMAN’S James Wan on the World of Atlantis and its First Family

Now that we’ve all gotten a taste for the outrageous, expansive, and colorful world of James Wan’s Aquaman, fans are desperate to find out as much as they can about the characters who inhabit his technicolor vision of Atlantis!

Luckily, we got to catch up with James Wan as he prepared for his massive Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about the genesis of  his Atlantis and Aquaman, as well as the family at the heart of his upcoming underwater epic.

Wan is clearly exhilarated for fans to see the vibrant visual landscape of his first foray into superhero movies. “I’ve always wanted to get into world creation, and I’ve sort of done that in my horror properties–Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring–but I wanted to play more in the fantasy world. Design my own world, create my own creatures, and figure out my own language so to speak. And I got to do that with this film!” Wan exclaimed.

Although he’s pushing boundaries with the special effects and fantastical elements of Aquaman, the director told me that at its heart the film is all about the personal relationships. “One of my main themes in the movie is family. I’m not giving anything away here, but the story in the comic books is that Queen Atlanna falls in love with a surface world lightkeeper, like a classic fish out of water, like… Splash! The human guy falls in love with the mermaid, and in this case they have a child, and that child is Arthur. So it’s a story about family, and how she has to give them up to save them, and return to Atlantis or else something really bad could happen to them.”

For the director the drive to create something personal in the face of a mammoth blockbuster came from the directors that he first fell in love with as a kid. “I’m of the Spielberg generation, the Cameron, Lucas, Burton generation. So I grew up loving these filmmakers who made these commercial films that are also very personal stories. So I’ve modelled myself on those filmmakers–I don’t know how successful that has been–but at least that’s my aspiration,” Wan laughed.

It’s not just Arthur’s relationship with his father and mother that’s central to the film, but also with Mera, who in Wan’s version of the film is sent to call Arthur back to Atlantis. “Another of the themes I really lean into in the film is Arthur being the best of both worlds. So you get to see him as a–and this is very apropo–fish out of water in Atlantis, and then when they go on land, Mera is now the fish out of water on the surface world. I think that makes for a really interesting dynamic with the two relationships, because they have to get along, and you get to see this real fun stuff that they have to do!”

As for why Wan thinks that these characters are so timeless and why the audience keeps returning for them, for the director it’s all about finding ourselves in the stories. “I think most superhero movies that work are, at the end of the day, the ones that are relatable and universal, the kind that people around the world can relate to. I think that’s the thing about superhero stories and characters–they appeal to a wish fulfillment side, the part of us that wishes we could fly or swing from building to building, and save people! I think that’s why people have so much fun with these films.”

Are you super stoked to see Wan take on superheroes? Just want to know what’s going on with The Conjuring 3? Swim into our comments below!

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