Speaking underwater is fairly simple to portray on a page, but does pose quite the challenge on actual film. We first met the DC Extended Universe’s version of Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) in a short cameo in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – as he’s swimming into the light from the depths of the ocean, without speaking a single word. Some expected to hear at least a gurgle, a blub, or even a few air bubbles. The Comic-Con teaser trailer for Justice League, Aquaman’s next appearance, didn’t give us any hints either. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) approaches him on land in a local pub in a sea-fairing village, where the King of the Seven Seas only grumbles one word under his breath,“Talk,” before smashing Bruce up against the wall.
We’ve already seen plenty of characters speaking underwater; however, most of these films are animated. The recent box-office hit, Finding Dory comes to mind, where every character that speaks underwater is a sea creature and the humans only speak on land. Using underwater voices is fairly easy for animated features, but live-action movies are a completely different story. Considering we have yet to see Aquaman talk while submerged in the sea, fans are eager to hear what his voice will actually sound like. Will we be able to understand the menacing King of Atlantis or will his language be communicated through captions?
In an interview with IGN, Aquaman director, James Wan, attempted to explain how the merman speech aspect of his character would work:
“Yeah, speech bubbles, right?! Maybe it’ll be speech bubbles. [Laughs] I never thought about that… Words come out of the bubbles. It’s brilliant! That’s a cool visual.”
That was just a joke. Wan goes on to explain how he will determine the final voice after he see’s what works and what doesn’t in Zack Snyder’s Justice League:
“No, here’s the thing I always say, if you have water in your lungs, like these characters do, there’s no air bubble. So I don’t know… I just think in my movie, I want to kind of create… I love the idea of underwater speaking but with a real sort of sonic, aquatic quality to it. So there’s this sort of aquatic, almost sonar/whale thing. Even though it’s in a human language, there’s this slight sort of underlay to it, this ping to it, which I think would be interesting for us to design from a sound design perspective. Yeah, it will be fun. Also, Zack has some ideas that he’ll be doing in Justice League.
“Listen, I’ll be honest, in some ways, JL will be an experiment for me to see what works and what may not work as well. And then kind of go, okay… Here’s the great thing, with all these superhero movies, you watch from one movie to another, and they always sort of slightly change things along the way. You kind of have to do that to make what’s best for your film.”
Now, here’s an acclaimed film director (Wan) openly saying that if another director’s (Synder) ideas for Aquaman don’t work, he will fix it. Interesting approach, right? Wouldn’t it make more sense if Wan’s ideas were put forth in all of Aquaman’s live-action appearances to maintain consistency throughout the DCEU? Either way, Wan knows what he’s doing and will no doubt give us the Aquaman we want to see; even if he does sound a bit like a whale.
Suicide Squad is in theaters now. Wonder Woman opens on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash, the Batman solo movie and Man of Steel 2 are currently without release dates.