With films like The Flash, Wonder Woman, and Justice League all under pressure to do well with both the fans and critics, DC and Warner Bros. are slowly but surely beginning to catch up to Marvel’s massive head start in terms of establishing a must-see brand of movies. There’s still ground to be covered before reaching Marvel’s billion-dollar standard, but the studio may have some wild cards up its sleeve.
James Wan’s (Furious Seven) upcoming underwater adventure Aquaman remains one of the studio’s more intriguing titles. With a hero firmly cemented in pop culture as something of a joke, and lacking any prior cinema appearances or ties (barring a brief cameo in Batman V Superman), the Aquaman movie has its work cut out for it. Not only does it need to establish a new character in DC’s shared universe, but work at changing the audience’s existing, negative opinions of him – while also creating a fun, entertaining, and credible movie.
Yet while speaking to Uproxx, Wan divulged that he actually opted to direct Aquaman over The Flash, (a seemingly less troublesome or challenging project) citing the reasons – largely creative – for doing so:
“Oh jeez, this would be a big tidbit: They asked me which of the two characters I’d be interested in and it was between The Flash and Aquaman. This is how I weighed it: For me, we’ve seen various versions of The Flash… There’s a popular show on TV and there was a great one in the ‘90s – I loved that Flash! But the thing that ultimately pushed me more towards Aquaman is I love the possibility of creating a whole new world. I’ve always wanted to do a world creation story and visually create this amazing, incredible, magical kingdom. And also, I love the fact that Aquaman is an underdog character. I love the fact that people like to make fun of him. [Laughs.] I feel the bar is a lot lower and I can have fun with him!”
The director, who’s currently promoting his latest horror The Conjuring 2, makes a valid point: a brand new world he can create seems much more appealing than a real-world environment that already exists. The director has already teased the “unique” world of the hero and the monstrous creatures and secret civilizations hidden in our oceans, but Wan is also aware that he’s claimed the underdog of the Justice League as his own.
While some might view the widespread ridicule of the character as a hurdle, Wan admits to using it as a means of taking any expectation off him; allowing the helmer to be more playful with the hero and essentially recreate him into a much more respectable icon (or, in casting Jason Momoa in the role, a more intimidating one). But in the process, find a new way to make fun of the hero – literally:
“Everyone makes fun of him! And I actually don’t mind that! What it allows me to do: I think people are a lot less precious with him than, let’s say, you were doing a Spider-Man or a Batman or whatever… I felt like it allows me the freedom to just tell the story of the character I wanted to tell. And I think what I proved for myself with Fast and Furious 7, how I took on this massive movie and I was able to overcome the tragedy that befell the production – I think it really proved to everyone I’m capable of doing more than just horror movies.”
Comic fans don’t need any proof that adapting or re-imagining a famous hero can go horribly wrong, so Wan feeling nothing but excitement, knowing even a decent adventure or hero would be a victory, make sense. And given his clear enthusiasm – and having chosen to tackle this character – it adds weight to his previous claims that all rumors of his potential departure were off the mark.
It certainly allows Wan’s exploration of the world to be less restrictive, and it’s true that people are less precious with the sea dweller. Zack Synder’s depiction of Batman and Superman recently came under scrutiny in both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice – the idea of Superman AND Batman both taking lives was heavily criticized – but fans aren’t as aware or passionate about Aquaman’s code of conduct, which gives a heck of a lot more freedom for Wan to tinker with.
There’s still a couple of years until we finally see Aquaman emerge, so we’ll likely know a lot more as clips and a more complete cast is revealed. One thing’s for sure: with James Wan in charge, it certainly stands a solid chance of surprising everybody, most certainly those who already dismiss the ocean-set epic.
Suicide Squad will hit theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two 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.