Aquaman's movie ends in a fight, but it starts as a classic love story between his parents, a humble lighthouse keeper and the Queen of Atlantis. And while some have criticized that fairy tale flashback as a bit too 'sentimental' or 'cheesy' to work, director James Wan says it's the only way he was ever going to tell his Aquaman origin.
The criticisms are anything but surprising, in an age when even Marvel movies have become buffets of brooding, grim, and defeated heroes. By contrast, basing Aquaman on not one, but two stories of true love (set to the tune of Roy Orbison and Sigur Ros) feels more like a Disney film than a DCEU movie. But before viewers start to claim it's a mistake, they should hear why James Wan believes he's still following the instincts that led to his best-reviewed films, as well.
Screen Rant had the chance to discuss the tone of Aquaman with Wan, and how it shares more than a little in common with Wonder Woman. Not just as solo origin stories, but as films unafraid to be heartfelt and sincere in a genre filtering out such classic sentiments. The similarities are undeniable, and now that Wan has confirmed it's completely intentional, the same can be said for the reasoning.
When Patty Jenkins was talking about Wonder Woman, she spoke pointedly about people criticizing sincerity as "cheesy," or something blockbuster movies are "too cool" for these days. Your movie seems to embrace that same idea wholeheartedly, with an opening that plays closer to almost how Arthur's father might tell him the story. Was that a choice you were aware of when making it, or would that have been there regardless, with you directing?
That would have been in there no matter what, just because that's who I am. I tell people, go all the way back and look at my horror film. Go look at The Conjuring, right? I'm not afraid to go romantic and sentimental with my characters, Ed and Lorraine have such a sentimental relationship. Especially for a movie like this, that is a classic story about a sailor who falls in love with a mermaid, everything about it has such a romantic, nautical theme to it, I felt like it was the right thing or us to do.
And of course, Steven Spielberg is one of my idols, and he's one guy who is not afraid to be sentimental in his films. So I thought you know what, there's nothing wrong with that. And I don't care if people think it's cheesy or too sentimental. It is who I am, and that's the only way I know how to make my films: be true to myself.
You've now gotten the chance to see the movie with different crowds, is there a part of the film that you're pleased to see getting the reactions it does? Or any moments that remain the best for you?
Ummmm [Laughs], you know I’m always generally very anxious about watching my movies with a crowd, so I actually haven’t done it that much. But yeah, there are scenes - when I’m brave enough to watch and sit in there with a crowd - there are scenes that I love seeing peoples’ reactions... The scenes I really love, and I love to watch with an audience, even though it’s a quieter, more muted moment, is watching the emotional stuff between mum and dad. I love the love story, the movie is more a love story of mum and dad than Arthur and Mera for me, that’s how I feel.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for more from our full interviews with Aquaman's director and cast.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018