This Was Aquaman's Biggest Challenge According To James Wan

Comic book superheroes are inherently kind of silly, which is part of their charm. That's not to say you can't use them to tell dramatic stories or explore serious real-world issues; many talented comic book writers and filmmakers have done exactly that. All the same, it's quite easy to poke fun at them, from their vibrantly colored outfits to their ridiculous superhuman powers.

Case in point: Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. Created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris for DC Comics in 1941, the character was a glorified punchline in the public's eyes for a long time, and not without reason. It's not just that Aquaman's classic orange-and-green costume was particularly easy to mock, but his ability to communicate with marine life just didn't have the wow factor needed to convince his detractors that he was anything other than, well, a dork with a trident who hung out with the Justice League.

Did that discourage James Wan from directing Aquaman's first solo movie in the DCEU? Not at all! In an interview with MTV in April 2016 (over two years before the film's release in December 2018), Wan said this challenge only invigorated him while he was working on the movie:

"As we all know, Aquaman is somewhat the butt of the joke in the superhero world. There's something cool about that. I love the idea of being the underdog, coming in with a take on this underdog character and completely blow people's expectations away. Like, 'Oh, you thought he was going to be a wimpy character? No no no.' It's going to be so cool."

Nothing's Too Silly for James Wan

It ought to be noted that Jason Momoa had only just made his (very) brief DCEU debut as Arthur Curry in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" a few weeks before Wan said all this. By the time "Aquaman" hit theaters, though, Momoa was already starting to change the public's perception of the character thanks to his scenes and one marvelous catchphrase ("My man!") in the misfire that was the 2017 theatrical cut of "Justice League."

Even so, you have to give Wan kudos for not balking at the challenge of trying to make Aquaman cool. Indeed, one of his best qualities as a filmmaker is that Wan's never been afraid to include silly or cartoony material in his movies. He is, after all, the same storyteller who named a monster the "Lipstick-Face Demon" and gave them a marionette collection in the otherwise straight-faced horror film "Insidious." Wan is also the director who made the leap to the world of tentpoles with "Furious 7," a movie in which the heroes airdrop cars out of an airplane. And where do you even start with his gonzo Giallo throwback "Malignant" (besides recommending it to everyone you know)?

What's great about "Aquaman" is that Wan didn't shy away from the weirder aspects of Arthur Curry and his comic book mythos, either. If anything, he embraced them and pumped them full of steroids. In doing so, Wan delivered a blockbuster where, among other things, an octopus plays the bongos, there's a character called the Brine King, and the plot is a cross between "Indiana Jones," "King Arthur," and too many other pulpy action-adventure franchises to recount here. The result is one heck of a fun time that made over $1 billion at the box office. Mission accomplished, to put it mildly.