‘Aquaman’ Director James Wan On The Aquatic Hero, Batman & ‘Mortal Kombat’

Batman James Wan Aquaman Jason Momoa Amber Heard Furious 7 Zack Snyder Dark Knight Rises

We recently sat down with visionary director James Wan to talk all things Aquaman, and he gave us some interesting bits of information on the superhero epic, as well as his take on Batman.

Aquaman is finally hitting theaters in North America tonight and it’s starting to look like it will be a huge hit. The reviews are good and fans are excited to see James Wan’s take on the King of the Seven Seas. Aquaman is already breaking records in China and has so far grossed more than $300 million globally. 

James Wan looks like he’s having a hell of a time during the Aquaman press run. While the director was in New York, we got a chance to talk to him and he had a lot to say. He even told us about his hypothetical idea for a Batman movie. You can check out our full interview with James Wan below.

Q: My favorite scene in the film is the scene with the Trench. I thought that the entire scene with the flare was visually stunning, but the creatures of the Trench made me jump out of my seat. So, my question is: with this being an action adventure film mostly marketed towards children, did you always intend on them being as frightening?

James Wan: I definitely wanted it to be a four quadrant family movie. It’s a movie that’s good for mom and dad, teenagers, college kids and for young kids as well because I think kids love sharks, kids love the magical world of Atlantis, but of course you know, I joke that you can take the boy out of horror but can’t take the horror out of the boy. So, it’s always that part of me that loves to make a tribute to that world. But, also, it was a part of the comic book as well and it’s part of the hero’s journey that eventually I wanted them to kind of cross into the kingdoms of the Trench because I think they’re such interesting, fascinating sea creatures and it’s one of the really cool creations by Geoff Johns that I wanted to make sure was in this film.

Q: How did you shoot the scene with the flare and the boat? Were the actors actually on water?

James Wan: The boat was basically built on a giant gimble on a soundstage and we just sort of pummeled it with tons of water and huge water cannons and obviously visual effects come in to add in the ocean and stuff like that. It’s a pretty precarious sort of sequence just because of how much the boat rocks and stuff like that and how slippery and wet it gets.

Q: Were there any major differences shooting this film than other films you directed like The Conjuring and Furious 7? 

James Wan: Uh, no difference in terms of storytelling. I say time and time again it kind of doesn’t matter what genre you make your film in or how big or small the budget of your film is, storytelling is storytelling. It’s all about creating interesting characters, characters that you care about, an interesting storyline and ultimately making a movie that engages with the audience on an emotional level. That works on all levels of storytelling, but obviously from a filmmaking level I had bigger toys to play with this one and bigger resources.

Q: Which of those films was the most challenging for you?

James Wan: Emotionally it would have to be Furious 7.

Q: Jason Momoa has stated that he has some ideas for the sequel. Do you have any ideas and would you return for a sequel if this is successful?”

James Wan: I’m sure Jason has many thoughts. His brain is always firing. I don’t have anything to add to that question… it’s way to early to talk about anything.

Q: Were there any other comic book properties that you would have liked to tackle before you unded up with Aquaman?

James Wan: In the past like most people I loved the idea of directing Batman, but a horror version of Batman. That would be a potential fantasy of mine, but I feel like he’s been done quite a fair bit. But, I do love the idea of doing an outright scary Batman. I feel like that’d be really cool.But, I don’t know… I feel like I got a little bit superhero’d out on this film, so I’m not quite sure if I necessarily want to venture further into the superhero territory down the line, but we’ll see.

Q: This summer you sent out a tweet that false information about the Mortal Kombat movie reboot was circling the internet. Do you have any official updates on the film?

James Wan: That has been such a tricky one just trying to get the script to a point. People don’t know this, fans don’t understand this, but there’s just so much on the business side of things… to try and get the right budget for it, and we want to make sure we have enough resources and the budget to do the film right. If I can’t get the right resources and find the right filmmaker for it, I don’t want to do it, and I’m so busy already. I don’t need to clutter my plate with more stuff if I don’t believe it can be done right.

Q: Which characters in Aquaman did you wish could have more time on screen together?

James Wan: The movie is already so full. It’s such a full meal as I describe it. But, it would be amazing to see more of Vulko’s storyline and King Nereus. I feel like it is a big world and each person has their own story. But, this movie is called Aquaman so we follow Aquaman’s story.

Q: How did you make Aquaman your own after Zack Snyder introduced the character in Justice League?

James Wan: I was talking to DC and Zack [Snyder] quite early on before they even started making Justice League, so I had a very good insight into what they were doing and I ultimately realized the story I wanted to tell doesn’t really clash with what they were doing.  I wanted to take my hero in a hero’s journey that is basically, narrative wise, a classic quest story that takes us into the seven worlds of Atlantis, and ultimately, I knew that it was such a standalone story that I wasn’t gonna affect them and they weren’t going to affect m,e and I could really just make it Aquaman’s movie.

Q: Did you always intend on the costumes being as accurate to the comics?

James Wan: I really wanted to be faithful to what it is we love about the comic costumes and the comic designs, but we did tons of redesigns to all the costumes. As cool as it is that people love this costume, we did tons of designs to try to get it right, make sure the scale looks right, make sure that it fits on Jason, and what is my version of the classic hero’s costume to make it look really cool. You know how like in the old days his costume was a big part of what made him look a bit goofy and silly (the big bright orange). In this one, I try to work it into a backstory and give an origin to the costume as well. So that when he finally puts on the hero’s outfit, there’s a hero’s journey to get to and he’s not just putting it on because we want him to wear it. There’s a story to it. Kym Barrett and I worked so hard to design everyone’s costume in the movie. All the costumes in the movie are so complicated to get right. Not only do we need them to look cool, pull inspiration from the ocean because you have a lot of seashell and coral inspiration to it, but also they have to work in the rigs as well that we use to float the actors.

Q: In the realm that we’re in with all these superhero movies, how did you differentiate Aquaman from the rest?

James Wan: The first thing I wanted to do was take it out of the traditional superhero box. I didn’t necessarily want it to have a traditional superhero storyline and that’s why I made it more of a classic adventure story… a quest movie, and in terms of genre it leans more towards fantasy than anything else. It’s probably more like Krull than it is any other superhero movie. It’s more like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars than what we’re used to seeing in the superhero landscape.

Directed by James Wan, Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Patrick Wilson as Orm / Ocean Master, Dolph Lundgren as Nereus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta, Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, Ludi Lin as Captain Murk, and Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry.

From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime—one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.

Aquaman will be released in theaters on December 21, 2018.

Nathaniel Brail

Nathaniel Brail

Running things at HH. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @NateBrail