Aquaman

James then showed us another scene, this one to show us a little about Aquaman and Hera’s dynamic. They are both in a cargo plane flying over the desert, and they decide to jump out. They fall into the sand dunes and land like explosions. This film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I’m enjoying that. Hera uses a a holographic tracker to find one of the lost tribes of Atlantis who dried up when the water did. She complains about how the human world is destroying the planet, and he tries to convince her to not judge his world. I think it’s interesting that they decide to talk about the effects man has put on this planet and not completely sidestep the issue. I give them some extra credit for that.

I think their dynamic is supposed to be this fun back and forth, bickering rappor,t but I saw very little chemistry between the two actors. It came off more like awkward arguing than what I imagine they were going for. They eventually fall through a hole into the kingdom of the deserts, an old dried up world below the sand. This whole clip felt very much like a National Treasure-style adventure movie to me, and if this film has more of that, I’ll be very happy.

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James Wan: When he’s in Atlantis he’s the Fish out of water but when they go on land Mera is the fish out of water. I think it’s important to share this scene between Arthur and Mera which is such a big thing in the comic book world. My pitch from day one was I wanna make my Indiana Jones, my Romancing the Stone and so it has shades of that. It also touches on the other thing that I think is important in a film like Aquaman. You kind of have to touch on the world of the environment and how that is such a big part of the reason why Orim wants to declare war. He’s so sick of the shit we do on the surface world and what we do. How literally all that flows down to them and I think that’ something we can all relate to. 

Can you talk about the editing process? I know there was a screening last week and that it was 2 hours and a half.

James Wan: It’s not 2 and a half hours. 

These one shots I’m assuming are very hard to edit. The transitions between scenes.

James Wan:  It’s always hard when you have arranged transitions between scenes. The transitions are part of my aesthetic and stylized filmmaking. It does make it tricky–to go ‘yeah I planned to go from this scene to this scene’. I try not to let the tail wag the dog at the end of the day and let the movie be what it is, right?  If I can retain the texture of my original vision, I try to stick as close to that as I can. I think that’s the kind of stuff that once the movie is out years later, people will appreciate and go back to. Just the little detail touches that they did and I think that’s important. 

Has there been a lot of change to this film from first draft to where it’s at up to this point?

James Wan: I mean things kind of progress. It’s kind of the movie I’ve wanted to tell from day one. Story points change. When things got more expansive we tried to pack in a little bit more, when things got too big we’d cull it back a bit more or  in a big way. Sometimes you go ‘we wanna go this way instead of this way’ but then end goal was always the same. We always knew going into this film that the movie is about this and we want to get to here. It became a question of like mechanics, ‘how do we get to there and what is the most fun way and the most emotionally engaging way to get to that point?”

Jason Momoa Aquaman armor

 It great to see Jason Momoa as Aquaman again. Can you talk about crafting the character with Jason, it seems so naturally his presence.

James Wan: That was the most important thing going into it. I knew I didn’t necessarily want to make the whole movie with where his character left off in Justice League. I think that might be too heavy to just follow a guy who’s just kind of you know just that heaviness of it. When I first met Jason I was kind of blown away by how funny he was and how charismatic he is in person like ‘Dude, I wanna bring that into the screen. I wanna see more of you, see more of your own personality in the movie and that’s what we did. I went back to my writers and we would do things and shape the script. We wrote it more for Jason. It actually made it easier for us to write because we’d go ‘Momoa would never say the line like this. He’s say it more like that.’ It was great because it made it easier for me to write it and ultimately it just gives the film more personality by bringing his personality out. Now Jason will always say that I took him out of his comfort zone because that’s not what he’s known for. There were few moments when I was directing him that I said, ‘Jason, you’re playing this a bit too angry’ and he’d look at me and say, ‘James this is what they paid me money to do! Khal Drogo! That’s why they paid me’ I’d say ‘Great, that’s good for Khal Drogo. We’re creating a very different character here and there will be very many moments in the movie where you’ll be able to be really tough but in this moment I wanna see you more of that light-hearted goofiness of you that is gonna service the movie well’.”

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I came away from this editing room visit being much more excited about Aquaman. I think it’s a combination of James Wan’s signature style action, the fun and sometimes silly take on the property, and the almost National Treasure-style adventure story. That one-shot action scene featuring Nicole Kidman was particularly impressive, and I can’t wait to see that again, next time on the big screen.

I’m more optimistic about Aquaman after seeing this footage, but still with some hesitations. Jason Momoa kills it when he’s having fun and not trying to be dark and brooding. I’m not sure if the dynamic between him and Amber Heard works in the way they wanted, but maybe I just have to see more. And the scenes seemed to widely vary in tone, so I’m curious to see how it flows in the larger scope of the film.

Aquaman hits theaters on December 14, 2018, and we’ll have more on the movie soon.

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