James Wan on How Classic Japanese Cinema Influenced AQUAMAN

San Diego Comic-Con is a sensory overload as we battle our way through the crowds to catch a glimpse of the things that we love and the people who bring them to life.

I was lucky enough to catch a quiet moment with Aquaman director and horror icon James Wan on the Warner Bros. yacht, where we chatted about the concept of a hero’s journey, and the influence classic Japanese cinema has had on his version of  Aquaman.

I was really interested in Wan’s vision for Aquaman, as it is very likely to become the defining one. The idea of creating something original was vital to Wan, and part of the reason he chose to take on Aquaman at all. As for Arthur Curry, his arc in the film goes back to a trope established in classical Chinese folklore—e.g.: the 16th century novel Journey to the West—that is still utilized in more contemporary classics. “It’s very much a hero’s journey—no different to Wizard of Oz, right?” Wan said. “You follow your heroes as they go on this journey, and sure, they have to try and potentially do something at the destination. But really what’s fun is the journey they go on.”

When we talk about the Hero’s Journey it’s hard not to think of the iconic Japanese director Akira Kurosawa who perfected the trope with films like Kagemusha and The Hidden Fortress. Wan is clearly looking to these as he redefines Arthur Curry. “He’s mischievous, he wants to have fun, and that pretty much describes Jason Momoa’s personality to begin with,” Wan said. “That was one of the first things when I sat down with him to talk about the film and the character. I said, ‘I have to make this character my own, along with you. We’re partners, you know? I see your character going on a hero’s journey. You begin as this reluctant hero, and you feel like you don’t fit in, because you’re from two different worlds… but at the end you realize you’re the best of both worlds!'”

Family and tragedy will be a huge theme in the upcoming film and Wan explained that he looked to the classic comic books, which pointed him in an unexpected direction.”I believe that the [Aquaman] writers back then must have been heavily inspired by classic Shakespearean drama. And you know Kurosawa pulled from them. And can I just say that we have a big Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune influence in this film? Willem Dafoe really wanted to play [Vulko] as an old school samurai, because he is the mentor to Aquaman. For the two of us, the inspiration was Toshiro Mifune in all of the classic Kurosawa films.”

A sprawling undersea family saga inspired by Kurosawa sounds like the coolest thing we’ve ever heard, and we cannot wait to see what Wan has up his sleeve when the film is released on December 21!

Will you be swimming to your local cinema on opening day? Just obsessed with Willem Dafoe doing his best Toshiro Mifune? Still caught up on Aquaman’s damp jeans? Jump on your favorite talking dolphin and dive into the comments!

Images: IFC, DC Comics, Warner Bros.

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