James Wan On ‘Aquaman’ Tone & Jason Mamoa’s Influence

Aquaman Jason Momoa

Aquaman is already an established part of the DC Extended Universe, but the character and Atlantis are still shrouded in mystery.

In many ways, Zack Snyder, the former head honcho of the DC Extended Universe, shaped this version of Aquaman for the big screen. During a visit to the Aquaman editing bay on the Warner Bros. backlot, director James Wan said star Jason Momoa’s personality played a big part of creating his take on the character.

“I think it was important very early on when I met with Jason Momoa and just seeing how likable the guy actually is in person, how charismatic and how funny and goofy he is. Right off the start I just wanted to bring a lot of his personality into the character. I didn’t want to make a whole movie where he’s kind of heavy and moody, that’s not the movie I wanted to make. So just diggin into Jason and getting that out of him was very important. And his personality plays really strongly throughout this whole film. I really wanted to lean into who he is and make this character kind of synonymous to him, and I think a lot of the humor definitely comes from what he’s like.”

More than just the sense of humor, Mamoa himself grew up dealing with some of the fish-out-of-water feelings that Arthur Curry did. As Wan put it, Mamoa grew up “part Polynesian, Hawaiian and part white American, so he always felt like he didn’t quite belong in Hawaii and he didn’t quite belong in the Mid-West growing up.” Throughout the course of the movie, audiences will see Arthur Curry struggle with his position straddling two worlds, but Wan says that by the end of the film, he will understand “he’s the best of both worlds” and that he is unique because he can serve as a “bridge between the two worlds.”

While Mamoa’s take on the character may be fun and boisterous, Wan wanted to make sure the look of the character didn’t come across as “goofy.” In his opinion, audiences “associate so much of the cheese of the character with the Super Friends,” but he also thinks those classic adventures are part of what makes him “really cool.”

“So the key was kind of taking that idea and making sure that that aesthetic fits with the look of what Atlantis is today or what Atlantis was back then. And just trying to do it justice but do it in a way that potentially can wink at the classic, old costume but kind of bringing some modern sensibility to it.”

In Wan’s opinion, he’s landed on the ideal tone for the film. Inspired by classic adventures like Romancing the Stone, Wan said he wanted the movie to feel more like an action-adventure, fantasy movie with some romantic overtones instead of a traditional superhero movie.

“I don’t think making an Aquaman movie can be any other tone than this. In pop culture he’s known as the lamest superhero, so you gotta lean into that, you gotta play into that, you gotta have fun with that. Like yes, he rides seahorses, but in our movie  it’s a different kind of… you wouldn’t be laughing at a seahorse like that. So I wanted to embrace what people think is goofy and potentially campy about this world and really make it fun and adventurous in a cool way.”

Directed by James Wan from a script written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, the film stars Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko, Patrick Wilson as Orm/Ocean Master, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta and Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna.

Aquaman opens in theaters on December 21, 2018.