Many of you probably had Superman, or Batman, as your favorite initial superhero. Me, I had Aquaman. Yeah, when I was young, many of my buddies didn’t get my appreciation for the orange and green-dressed blonde dude who could communicate with fish. But as a massive Jaws fan when I was too young, I thought it would be rad to chat with a shark or a dolphin. And that fish guy could do that. And now, thanks to James Wan and Jason Momoa, we have a new vision of the deep sea-dwelling hero. After a few years since Wan’s original Aquaman sent audiences into an underwater adventure, we finally have its follow-up with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
Recently, we accepted an invitation to get an early look at the new trailer, with an introduction from the man himself, Mr. James Wan. After the trailer reveal, Mr. Wan opened up about his plans for the sequel, the “bromance” element with Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa, the idea of a trilogy, and what happened to The Trench standalone idea. James went into all of this and more. He then answered a few questions about what we had just witnessed. You can check out all that he had to say below.
As an early fan of the character and an admirer of the wacky world James Wan explored in the first film, I am intrigued – and excited – by the latest footage. The action aligns with what we saw the first time around, and I always love seeing Mr. Wilson, so I’m already looking forward to that aspect of the film. I have questions about the story’s focus, the parental element when it comes to Mera and Arthur, and how Manta gets to the Black Trident. But this looks like an imaginative continuation. Wan has a talent for mixing humor with thrills, and it never hurts to give Patrick Wilson more to do. The man is always a blast to watch.
After the trailer reveal, James Wan took the stage to discuss his latest:
James Wan: If you’re an Aquaman fan or know the world of Aquaman, you know that Black Manta is a big nemesis of Aquaman, Arthur Curry himself. And my plan with the first movie was always to establish a relationship with him. He was kind of like a glorified side character in the first one. But that would be okay because we knew that the second movie was where we would ultimately go with him in a much bigger role. And Patrick Wilson, who played Ocean Master in the first one, is clearly working with Arthur in this one to try and stop Black Manta and his bigger, evil plan in this movie.
I want to point out that in the first movie, he’s a human, which he still is in this one. But because he has stumbled onto the Lost Kingdom, he’s now empowered in a way that he wasn’t in the first. Finally, you know, he can kind of go one-on-one with Arthur Curry, who is, you know, a superhuman. So one of the things we love about the Aquaman characters and the world they live in, especially from the comic book, is just how Aquaman has always been about the environment more than any of the superhero characters. Right? And so we felt that we wanted to lean into the environmental aspect of this movie. So we wanted the second film to be fun, adventurous, colorful, and everything like the first one. But we want to have a little bit more to say something a little bit more grown-up. This one is about the growth of Jason’s character of Arthur.
In the first movie, he is a wanderer trying to find out who he is. But in this one, he ultimately becomes the King of Atlantis. He’s a dad in this one. And he ultimately needs to reach out to his family member, the one that was his antagonist in the first movie. And they have to be a family together ultimately. I learned about family from The Fast and the Furious. You guys, that’s coming into play in a big way. You can see a bit of that play into this in a big way. No, seriously, the family aspect in this film was something that was very important to me. And you can have Vin to thank for, really. I describe the first film as a romantic action adventure in the spirit of Romancing the Stone. Right? That’s what I kind of said for the first one, like Romancing the Stone with a romance between Arthur and Mera. In the second one, the plan would always be that Patrick’s character would switch. I knew that from the get-go in the first film. That’s why I didn’t want to kill him at the end of the first movie since he would ultimately be somewhat of a pseudo-anti-hero in this one.
I wanted to see just the relationship between Jason and Patrick. These two are really great in the film. They’ve got such great camaraderie and good chemistry that I describe the second one as a “bromance” movie. The first one’s romance, the second one’s bromance. That was the spirit that we were going for.
So the world building is very important for the Aquaman universe. We enjoy all the different worlds that really no superhero movies kind of go into. And that’s what’s so cool about the Aquaman films, is it’s really standalone. It lives in its own universe. Like my dream would be to create a Seven Kingdom cinematic universe on its own, where we can visit all the different worlds we touch in these two films. But the first movie, this one, leans into the Harry house and the Ray Harry house and sort of spirit even more shades of Jules Verne in this as well. And as you can see in the trailer esthetically, I’m leaning pretty heavily into the Silver Age comic book of Aquaman, the 1960s Silver Age Aquaman.
A lot of the designs in this film are very retro. I feel the spirit, and the tone is very retro. It is slightly darker than the first movie, as second movies tend to be. And it just felt like the correct progression for this film. And I don’t know how to stay away from horror. So, The Lost Kingdom will introduce many creepy, scary, Lovecraftian-looking characters. And ultimately, that’s why our heroes have to work together to stop this Lovecraftian universe from breaking through into our main world. That’s one of the things that I really enjoy working with Jason on this. Right. We leaned very heavily into just picking into the family dynamics that he has with the father, who is of Maori descent. And so we lean into that a lot more. That aspect comes across in the film. I mean, it’s not in your face. But we want to use that as sort of like a nice underlining, just flavor for the film. Just esthetically. Just give it something a bit more.
After the introduction, we went into a brief Q and A with Wan and the collection of writers invited to the event:
Can you talk about Black Manta getting that Black Trident and what that does for him?
Yes. So Manta, basically, at the end of the first movie, is on this relentless quest to want to kill Arthur Curry or just destroy everything that Arthur has built. Right. And so he’s been searching nonstop for ways to do mean without giving too much away here in his search to try and stop Arthur, or sorry, in his search to try and fix the power suit that he had in the first movie that was all banged up and destroyed. He stumbles across something much bigger, and I’ll just leave it at that.
The first movie had some delightfully offbeat moments that were very well received – like an octopus playing drums. I saw in the EW article that it has a larger role. Did the success of the first movie let you know? Okay, I can go pretty weird here. I can keep leaning into that.
I’ve never been shy of leaning into “the weird.” Every movie I’ve made has been pretty weird. If you guys have seen Malignant, you would know how I’m not afraid to go weird. I don’t know. That was part of the reason why, very early on, when I was sort of given a few properties to look at, I picked this particular one because I felt like I could really kind of lean into that world, the quirkiness, the weirdness, and just have fun with it. And yes, definitely seeing how much people enjoyed that in the first film meant that that gave me more confidence to lean into that in this one. I know the trailer doesn’t quite touch on it, but there are a lot of really kind of quirky, sort of underwater characters in this one. And it may be weird to us, but not for them. You know what I mean? That’s another species. That’s another race for them. And that’s ultimately what Arthur, the king of Atlantis. Those are his people. And, yes, Topo has a big, big role in this. A much bigger role in this one.
Yeah. So, there were plans to move forward with a trench movie to further explore the world. Did you find yourself using some of those ideas for the trench coming into Lost Kingdom?
The answer is yes. We had developed the Trench movie, and ultimately, like most things, you know, you develop if they work out, great. If they don’t, then that’s fine as well. We didn’t want that project to potentially step on the Aquaman films, but we came up with a lot of really interesting ideas and really cool stuff that I felt we could use in this one. And so with The Trench movie, it was going to be a secret Black Manta movie. And initially, we announced it as a Trench movie, but ultimately, we wanted to surprise the fans because that was going to be a standalone Black Manta movie. And when that didn’t happen, some of those ideas found their way into this.
Just knowing that you aren’t always particularly drawn to making sequels, I’m curious just kind of what the experience of going to Malignant after making Aquaman and then coming back into this world kind of did for you and your vision.
Well, yeah, I don’t do that many sequels, and when I do, I usually just stop at number two. And that’s usually because I don’t go further because I feel like I’ve said all that needs to be said. And I feel like I don’t really have any more stories within myself to want to tell. And that’s not to say that the world doesn’t have more stories, but I felt like I’ve done all that I wanted to explore. And what I like about my process is I like to make a big movie and then go back and do a smaller one, and then come back to do a bigger one and then go back to do a smaller one. It just helps me sort of kind of control how I feel. If I go from one big movie into another big movie, it is so exhausting. I’ve spent four years on this film, so three to four years, that’s a long time. And for me to jump into another big movie next, I don’t know. That’s just really exhausting. And so I like to kind of calibrate myself by balancing it. I know other filmmakers do similar things.
I think Steven Soderberg does that as well. And for me, it works out well because what it does is it rejuvenates me to want to come back with more ideas for the next one.
What’s it been like making this movie as the scope of DC has changed so much in the interim? Do you have added pressure? What’s it been like dealing with all the changes while you’re trying to focus on the film?
I’m aware of everything that’s happening around me. I use the analogy that I’m living in a house that’s getting renovated. And so it’s hard to not be aware of the renovation that’s happening around me. But that’s the beauty about Aquaman Two and Aquaman One is I’ve always designed these two films to be within their own world. And so the advantage about not being hooked into this bigger universe is, ultimately, whatever happens over there, it doesn’t really affect my movie. And so, as you can see in this film, it’s like it doesn’t hook into anything.
It lives in its own world. And that’s very much what we found worked really well for us on the first film. And we’re doing exactly the same. Sure, there’s noises going around, but I’m just in my cocoon, in my underwater kingdom.
I’m a huge fan of Mera from the comic books. I know she has a lot more stories to tell, but as you said, it sounds like she’s sort of taking a backseat to the bromance that’s happening. But what can you share about what is her role in this movie?
Mera is a massive character in the comic book. So, we obviously want to be respectful to the character as well. That’s the bottom line. I want to be respectful to all the characters in this and try and do everyone justice. But at the end of the day, I have this story to tell. But then I have so many other characters to service. And I felt like I’ve told the Arthur and Mera story in the first one that I can ultimately just sort of focus on Arthur, Arthur and Orm in this one. And so basically, it’s a journey movie, really, with those two and then the other characters sort of like peppered their world, if you will.
Speaking of Orm, what would you say surprised you the most, kind of getting to bring him in and play with him less as a villain and more as an antihero, as you described?
Well, I mean, the great thing is Patrick’s just such an amazing actor, and there’s a reason why I kept working with Patrick Wilson. He’s so versatile. He really can kind of, oh, you want me to play this guy full on villainy? I’m happy to do that. He doesn’t kind of fight me. He trusts me. Patrick and I have such a close relationship that we trust each other with how we approach the characters that he plays. And one of the things we wanted to do with this one is he was the bad guy in the first movie. And even though he’s working with Arthur in this one, it’s still very important to kind of still remember where he came know there’s still antagonism between the two of them throughout the whole movie, which is actually where some of the fun derived from. Just seeing the two of them bicker, but at the same time also leaning on the more sort of human aspect of his character. If you sort of look at him in the first film, he was just trying to do what is right for his people from that perspective. He doesn’t see himself as a bad guy, so to speak.
He’s just trying to protect his people. And I think because of like, Arthur kind of respects that as well. And again, Arthur, Jason’s character is so much about the family, about the family dynamic. And we touched a bit on it in the first film with how he’s always wanted to reach out to his younger brother and try and build a relationship. Well, he gets to do that in this film.
What is Nicole Kidman’s role in this movie? How involved is she in the new film?
Nicole definitely plays more like the right hand to the king in this; she comes in, and she’s a motherly figure, but she’s also an advisor in this as well, like a royal advisor, just because there’s a bit more politics within the world of Atlantis. And again, Arthur is not really from that world and so he needs someone to help guide him.
And what’s Orm’s relationship with his mother in this movie?
You know, it’s kind of where we left off in the first one, you know, where the mom has, you know, lots, lots of love for her kids. But she felt that Orm was misguided when he went down the wrong path, and she continues to want to give him the love that he deserves, which she felt she never had the chance to give to him when they were growing up, his whole life. So it’s just kind of continuing on with that.
I want to jump in a little bit more about what you mentioned with the first film. There was Lovecraftian ideas in there. Are you amping that up? It seems like you kind of like to go like you said, you’re a horror guy. Are we going to see more of that, the Lovecraft influence?
Yeah, I guess I just naturally leaned to that darker stuff, dark but without it not being fun. And I felt like the Aquaman films allow me to play in my love for that genre, for the horror genre, but still make them fun and not necessarily too scary that young kids that may like these films and not be able to watch it because it’s too frightening. And so that’s kind of that fine line, try and capture that sort of early Spielberg sort of spirit, early Zemeckis spirit of like yeah, we can kind of lean, dark, but it can also be fun as well. And there definitely is sort of shades of that in this world with just leaning into the monsters of it all. But for me it really is just kind of scratching the surface. It makes me want to do more, put it that way.
You were talking about that the movie will have more of a grown-up theme in some parts. What can you tell us about that? And also about the parenthood, like Arthur now being the father, how you guys are tackling it.
One of the things that excited me, the writer – and Jason – is just growing his, you know, again, as I said, he starts off as this guy in the first movie, and in the previous movies, where he doesn’t really have anything to care about, one of the things we want to do is give him something to care about so that when his world starts falling apart, it hits him harder. Right? It means more to him and whether that’s his immediate family or the family with the kingdom that he’s looking after now. And so those are the things that we’re building on, that we sort of touch on in the first movie that we didn’t really go in as deep. Like, he wasn’t the King of Atlantis in the first movie, but now he is, and so he has duties. And how does he balance the duty of looking after a kingdom and dealing with politics and taking care of their people? People are getting sick and all that. Meanwhile, he has to be back home changing diapers and putting the kid to sleep and stuff like that, as well, and dealing with the family.
And then in amongst all of this, he has to strike up a relationship with his brother because if they can’t come together, they can’t solve the problem that is facing them immediately. These are sort of like the bigger thematic things. And then, like I said, we do touch on the environmental aspect in a much bigger way that the trailer doesn’t go there, which is fine, but we do have something important to say. I mean, look at us. This is one of the hottest summers we’ve ever experienced, right? Not just in the US. But everywhere around the world. We really do kind of lean into that. Like, the environment is shifting very much in this movie, and Arthur needs to be able to work with his brother to try and stop this from spiraling into a complete catastrophe. Do you know what the scientists are calling the tipping point? We’re trying not to hit the tipping point – even though some scientists said that we’ve already passed the tipping point. We don’t want to get there and be unable to reverse it back. So that is obviously another big theme.
We don’t want it to be too preachy, but we’re definitely not shy about that because I think that’s something that we need to talk about even in a context like a fun adventure movie.
You had said that earlier that when you made the first Aquaman, you had a lot of things that you were thinking about that you’re expanding on in this film that you planned all along. When we asked Peter Saffron if the Jason Momoa Lobo rumors had any substance, he said that Jason always saw Aquaman as a trilogy. So I’m curious if you have stuff that you’re doing in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom that you’re already thinking like you did in the first one to round out a trilogy, or if you think you’d be comfortable with this for the end of the road.
I can speak to the Jason Momoa story, as Aquaman definitely has more places to and yes when we get to the end of this, the answer is yes. I don’t know how to answer that without kind of giving things away because where we go at the end of this movie, it does tee up something bigger. Not bigger, but it does tee up a direction for that story. I don’t want to speak to that just because it’s the end of the movie.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/james-wan-reveals-aquaman-and-the-lost-kingdom-trailer/