James Wan Is Taking Control Of Aquaman's Narrative
What Marvel really has that DC doesn't is directors with a forward-facing approach who can address rumors and curb criticisms easily. James Gunn, Taika Waititi, Peyton Reed, Joss Whedon, Jon Favreau and now the Russo brothers - not to mention the sprawling cast - are constantly engaging with fans on Twitter, promoting the shared universe brand and making the Marvel narrative fit what the creators want. In contrast, the biggest social media impact for DC has been Zack Snyder opening up on his failed vision after leaving Justice League.
Enter James Wan. Wan is one of the most interesting filmmakers in Hollywood. He broke out with Saw, and later also started The Conjuring and Insidious franchises for Blumhouse before shepherding the most successful (and tragic) entry in the Fast and Furious franchise to the big screen. He's a commercially minded, fun-focused director who delivers. Chiefly, Wan understands audience - be they gorehounds, scare freaks, or petrol heads - and with Aquaman, we're seeing that's not reserved for just in the theater.
On Twitter, he's there to bolster Aquaman's standing: he debunked entirely false trailer assumptions; he brushed off reshoots as exciting "pickups"; he even slyly trashed Justice League's underwater bubble sequence when the film hasn't been out a week. He understands the fan chatter and works to address it. This is a proactive, aware approach unlike anything we've got in the past.
And it's having an impact. Patty Jenkins (who was, to her credit, always active) has been using her social feeds to be the point of contact on Wonder Woman 2 - she directly announced Kristen Wiig's casting as Cheetah - and Shazam's David F. Sandberg (who is a big Reddit user and fan of perennial joke subreddit DCEULeaks) has been more than happy to tease (read: troll) fans, even as his movie is subjected to typical DC set leaks.
Can Aquaman Turn The DCEU Around?
This is a lot of contextual talk, and there's likely a sense that we should be talking about the movie itself. After, Aquaman is, without real intention, the start of a new era for the DCEU; it's having to be some form of expectation reset after the resounding disappointment of Justice League, yet must continue Wonder Woman's trick of fleshing out its key characters. Fortunately, as a film, it seems in good hands. Wan is a choice pick for his developed blockbuster sensibility, of course, and per what's been said - again in press reports - he fought for creative control (something Matt Reeves later used as motivation for The Batman negotiations). If anyone can make Aquaman good, it's him.
But movies aren't made in a vacuum, and this PR aspect is the key. The MCU releases consistently good films, but the power of expectation and understanding of "fun" that they deliver has in some ways conditioned audiences to be more open to them. DC has the opposite problem, with skepticism at an absolute high. If it's going to turn things around, rather than simply halt acceleration in the wrong direction, it needs people on board before the movie releases.
This is why the PR shift is so important; whether it's Wan acting autonomously or part of a bigger corporate move, we're seeing the multimedia marketing telling the story of Aquaman's production, rather than have it constantly playing catch-up. It's impossible to say what the DCEU's future is, but it's looking a little bit brighter.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019