James Wan has a vision for Aquaman. It’s epic, it’s action packed, and one of his biggest influences is… Romancing the Stone? Recently, we got to hang out with the director in his editing bay during an intimate visit to the Warner Bros. Studio lot. Whilst sharing clips of the upcoming film with us, Wan explained how his first foray into superhero filmmaking will, of course, be bursting at the seams with brilliant adventure, just like audiences expect. But what might surprise some is that at the core of the film are two vital love stories with some very romantic ’80s influences. Wan is a director who made his name in genre films, creating the most successful R-rated horror franchise of all time with The Conjuring, and even helming a massive summer blockbuster smash with Furious 7. Oh, and he created this little thing called Saw. So it’s unsurprising that he’s pulling from multiple sources for his take on Arthur Curry. “Even though it’s about a superhero character, my approach to it really wasn’t as a superhero film,” he says. “I pulled influences from stuff that’s inspired me since I was a kid, all the way from Ray Harryhausen to Spielberg’s earlier stuff. I’ve mentioned my love for Romancing the Stone and the way that the characters interact, so I wanted to play a little bit in that world.”
We got to see a hilarious scene between Arthur ( Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) which really leaned into Wan’s aforementioned love for Robert Zemeckis’ 1984 adventure comedy classic. As we saw in the first trailer, Arthur and Mera both jump out of a plane parachuteless before traversing a vast and barren desert, which is revealed to be the ancient home of a tribe who abandoned Atlantis. The pair bicker playfully along the way, with Arthur attempting to sell Mera on the pleasures of the surface world, and the chemistry between the two definitely invokes not only the romantic leads in Romancing the Stone but also Indiana Jones and his romantic misadventures, not to mention Han and Leia in Star Wars.
That classic opposites-attract trope was something that Wan clearly enjoyed playing with as he crafted the epic world of Aquaman, saying, “Part of the fun of making this is that the [Atlanteans] are a race of underwater people and they don’t like what we represent. They’re not accustomed to surface world traditions and so I tried to play into that a lot, especially between Arthur and Mera. Jason is the fish out of water when he’s in Atlantis, and she’s the fish out of water when they’re on the surface world. They have to work together and part of that is where the fun comes from, so I try to touch on a little bit of that.”
However, it’s not just the burgeoning romance between Mera and Arthur that interests Wan–it’s also the love that created the man who would become the king of Atlantis. Wan showed us the opening of the movie which focuses on the Splash-like romance between the land dwelling Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison)–a fisherman in Maine–and the young would-be queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman). For Wan, it’s a vital part of the world and origin of Aquaman. As he tells it, “It’s how mom and dad meet in the story, and that love between Atlanna and Tom Curry creates Arthur, and I think it’s a really important piece of the story. Of course, there’s the love story between Arthur and Mera, but to me the love story between mom and dad is just as important. Their love story is the emotional backbone, it’s what drives our main character for the rest of the movie, so I think it’s a really important thing.”
Wan is clearly dedicated to the small and intimate moments that are vital to making a superhero movie packed with huge setpieces feel special. His love of classic comedies and romantic adventures gave the moments that we got to watch a very unique, fun, and fresh feel. We can’t wait to see what he delivers when we head to see the full film on December 9th.
Are you excited to see Aquaman rise to the top? Can’t wait to see Amber Heard kick some butt? Love that James Wan loves Romancing the Stone? Let us know below!
Images: Warner Bros.