Beware of Minor Spoilers to Aquaman, Ye Who Enter Here

The long-awaited trailer to Aquaman is nearly upon us! Debuting this Saturday, the world will finally get a decent look at the next chapter in the DC Extended Universe. Director James Wan and star Jason Momoa have fans incredibly excited. They hope that this can be the bright light in the future of the DC Universe. As more and more has been revealed about the film, it looks both awesome and strange. An unusual adventure underneath the sea starring some of the most famous and talented actors in the business.

As the film’s release date approaches the veil will start to be lifted. Fans will hear a plethora of details from crew and cast, hopefully enough to excite them into making Aquaman a successful blockbuster. Now that a few press embargo dates are being lifted, interviews conducted on the set of the film have started to be released.

From Mera to Orm to Arthur himself, every character looks like their getting a thorough and faithful adaptation. Starting with one of the most villainous cretins in the history of comic books.

Black Manta

Yahya Abdul-Mateen ii as Black Manta in "Aquaman" - Warner Bros.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the actor who will be bringing the famous villain to life, had quite a lot to say about his character’s beginnings. Apparently the pirate-mercenary will be undergoing quite the evil transformation throughout the entire film.

“We meet Black Manta at a time where, it’s just him and his dad, and he’s riding on high, you know. He’s just come off of his win, and there’s a changing of the guards, so to speak. And then, this guy, Aquaman, comes in, and crashes the party. So, for Black Manta, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an opportunity, ‘I just got this promotion, let me go prove myself, and step myself up and, you know, step it up once more.’

So, in that first confrontation, you know, I’d like to think that Black Manta’s very excited about, ‘Okay, what it’s going to be like? This is that guy from around the way, who I’ve been hearing all these things about. And he’s supposed to be a badass, and now is my time to go show him who the real badass is around these parts.”

James Wan on bringing Manta’s Costume to the big screen…

“Yeah, I mean, like most fans, I love a really strange design of Black Manta. And I love … I see this guy and I think what we love about him is he’s kind of scary, he’s really bad ass to look at. But there’s just something kind of slightly off, right, that big, giant elbow, his big, two red glowing eyes. And so I didn’t want to shy away from that.

I wanted to take what was best about the design and kind of bring my sensibility to it and ultimately, he’s a human character and he has to go up against someone like Arthur, Aquaman, who is a superhero. And so I have to tweak the outfit slightly to kind of give him the power that he needs to take on … to fight Aquaman. But in terms of what he looks like, he’s very much in the same spirit.”

The future of Black Manta (Possibly MAJOR Spoilers)

According to Mateen, the character will evolve into the villain we know and love over the course of the film. Including a possible reveal about Black Manta’s significance to the climax of Aquaman. 

“He’s riding on high, and at the climax, he loses his father. And so, we meet him at a time when he’s just, he’s on top and then, bam, immediately, an event happens, and he’s at the bottom… he’s lost the only person who he’s ever loved, and cared for, and been able to show any type of, you know, expression, or those types of characteristics to. And then, from then on, you know, “It’s Aquaman’s fault!”

He has very little else to live for, and so it becomes that revenge story. You have the relationship between fathers and sons, and the revenge that happens when a son loses his father, and then you have Aquaman, who is the heir to the throne, who doesn’t want to be king, so it’s an epic story.”

While Black Manta might be the more famous of the two, he’s certainly not the only villain. The main villain of the film will be Arthur’s half-brother, Ocean Master Orm. Played by James Wan-regular collaborator, Patrick Wilson.

Arthur and Ocean Master Orm

Patrick Wilson and Jason Momoa in "Aquaman" - DC Comics

Jason Momoa easily establishes the difference between the film’s 2 villains.

“I think a lot of my scenes [with him] are really heavy and I love-we really get to get into it-he’s just a great actor, he can just sink into it and we can go at each other. Where me and [Black] Manta are, it’s more physical. I mean, not that me and Orm aren’t gonna be physical, but a lot of our scenes are brother scenes. And I think James’ view of how we get together they’re sentimental moments.

I always knew I had a brother and there’s moments that aren’t always just like ‘I hate you, you were never there for me’. There’s just these moments where these guys could get along, but they can’t, because it’s from two different worlds. It’s kind of interesting.”

On Their Rivalry in the Film

“I think the biggest conflict is with himself and that’s my big arc. Obviously, the world’s gonna-if I don’t step in and intervene, Orm’s just gonna take over the land. It’s really cool, what-you think about all the harm we’ve done to the oceans-and are still doing-and if you lived under there, you would absolutely despise and hate these people that lived up there and why wouldn’t you send a tsunami and just wreck the whole place.

Why wouldn’t you? You burn up your cars and take the fossil fuels and put acid rain in the ocean and-why wouldn’t you?

It’s just interesting, because Orm’s not coming from this-I’m this bad man; He’s just going, ‘This is what they do to our people’ and so the treaty is over with. It’s interesting. And, I’m the guy coming from it going like, ‘I get it, but you can’t and you gotta find this place.’ But, who’s obviously gonna be king. It’s gonna have to be a person between two worlds.

But, he didn’t believe in himself nor does he give a shit [laughs] He’s kind of the reluctant king and that’s what’s great about him. He doesn’t want the responsibility. And, I think even probably when he gets it-he’s always had it-he’s still a reluctant king in a way.”

Sounds like that battle for the throne is going to be downright epic. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.

Nicole Kidman as Atlanna

Queen Atlanna in the "New 52" - DC Comics

This film has an undeniably amazing cast. One such name is Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna. While the role could be minor, it’s great to see it go to such a phenomenal and critically-lauded actress. Director James Wan had high praise for Kidman.

“I think Nicole has such a beautiful vibe about her and just very classic and classical about her. And so much of the backstory of where they come from, Atlantis, before it sank and all that stuff, right, has that very classic, Greek backstory… Nicole just seems like she would be beautiful Greek goddess, princess. And so she just fit it perfectly as someone who could potentially spawn the offspring of someone like Momoa.

It’s not a massive, massive role, but her character is very integral to the emotional arc of our movie. The relationship of Arthur’s mom and dad is the reason who he is today. And the way they teach him what it means to … that he sees himself as a half-breed and he sees being a half-breed as a negative thing and his parents, his mom’s teaching, that’s not a bad thing. What you have is you have the best of both worlds.”

James Wan and the DCEU

What exactly does the director of Saw and The Conjuring bring to the table? Jason Momoa explains:

“He’s just a total visionary, man. I mean, just his films alone. But, his worlds, what he’s built, like, the layouts, I’m sure you went to the war room and saw-I mean, when you see us go against the Trench people, that’s gonna be insane. Just his visual-same thing like Zack [Snyder], he’s just amazing that way. I’m really excited because he comes from a lot of horror.

And that is through-you really have to tell a story without saying a lot, you know what I mean, you can build the intensity and the suspense. So, that’s one thing that’s gonna be really, really cool.”

The Aquaman actor sounds amazingly confident in his director. That’s exciting news. How exactly did that director manage to channel his previous work into this film?

Not a Horror Movie

Considering he’s known for more than a few horror films, Wan might have added a terrifying touch or two. But he knows exactly the kind of touch this film demands, not just his own personal preferences.

“I didn’t set out to make a horror movie. I mean, that’s not what this is about. It just so happens that you’re dealing with … you’re dealing in a world that is beautiful, magical, but at the same time, scary as well, right? People are terrified of the ocean because they don’t know what’s down there. There are all these creatures that live down in the ocean that are dangerous to humans.
I want to capture the fear that we have of the ocean, the scariness, but at the same time, the magical and wonder that comes with it as well. The ocean’s such a beautiful place and so just naturally built into the story … my story for this film. Our heroes goes on this rite of passage journey, this quest, and on the way, they meet all sorts of fun creatures of the deep, let’s say. Creatures of the deep that love craft wood beer.”
Sounds like a perfect blend of the director’s style and the same mentality that many Aquaman comics maintain. It’s a scary world under the ocean, and it should be frightening to explore.

How does Wan’s directing style differ from that of Zack Snyder’s? Amber Heard Explains:

“It’s a very small role in Justice League, Mera is just merely introduced, so I had a very limited role there. And James Wan is very different from Zack Snyder — their way of telling the story, approaching the characters, shooting — so different, you’d be hard pressed to find more different approaches. James is very much doing so much to honor the original integrity of the comic book characters that it’s just a whole other experience working with James.”

While some of Zack Snyder’s contributions to the DC Universe should always be appreciated, this is exciting news. Momoa’s words especially highlight why James Wan was the perfect choice to helm Aquaman.

“James has a really, really different vision and it’s a very spectacular, different view of what, originally, when I was with Zack, so it’s fun to go, like, “All right, well we haven’t really reviewed these finer aspects of the character, ‘cause now it’s my origin, so we’re connected to all those pieces.’ So, it’s left open to go, like, ‘All right, we didn’t need to develop that for Justice League. Now…’

That definitely was one of the hard things was going like, ‘Okay, here’s Aquaman’s life and here’s Justice League.’ So, I made up a whole bunch of different scenarios of what it was like beforehand, then he comes and he joins the team and then he goes back to his life.

So, that was really important to all the forward stuff, because afterwards that was up for James [Wan] to go, ‘Hey, the future is yours. You’ve already done Justice League. I need everything pre.’ And, uh, building all that stuff on your own is building a character.”

Aquaman and the Justice League

As the first film in the DC Extended Universe to follow last year’s Justice League, there were a few continuity questions. Luckily, the film’s timeline appears to be pretty straightforward as James Wan explains:

“It’s pretty much … it picks up after Justice League. I don’t want to give too much away, but it picks up after Justice League. But it is its own stand-alone movie and ultimately, it’s a movie … I don’t know how to talk about it without kind of giving too much of it away.  I would never give anything too big away. So even though Arthur, Aquaman’s already established and set up in Justice League and a bit in BvS, right, but more definitely in Justice League.

But we now pick up after Justice League and he goes on his journey, he goes on his own story in the stand-alone movie. And he goes on this journey and he ultimately becomes the Aquaman as we know him.”

When asked if the League will be making an appearance in the film.

“I think it would cost a lot of money, probably. [laughs] I don’t think we got it in the budget. But, I think it would be great. At some point, I’m pretty sure, if this does well and if that does well…Probably, the same thing that happened with Marvel, you know what I mean?”

Obviously, the cohesive Universe will still be maintained. But only to a certain degree. However, one of the best aspects of Arthur is always his partner-in-heroism, Mera. As one of the most powerful beings on the planet, she’ll likely have a major part in the upcoming film.

The Relationship between Mera and Arthur

Amber Heard as Mera in "Aquaman" - Warner Bros.

As his lifelong partner, Mera will likely have a huge role in the movie. But as any fan of the comics knows, Mera is not your typical wife. She and Arthur are both powerful beings with “equal responsibility.” Amber Heard elaborates:

“[The] thing I really like about this is I feel it has a more modern approach, I think, to what would otherwise be a more classic superhero formula. This is very much a story where they are equal partners. Because they come from different worlds, their strengths are very different. Where one excels in one world, the other is a fish out of water. Pun intended. [Laughs] I guess I’ll be saying that a whole lot. Just gonna get used to owning it!

But it’s true. Mera, when she’s on the surface world, it’s very much an alien world to her. Same way that when Arthur is in Atlantis, he’s completely out of his element. But we both excel at being in our own worlds, and because we have our own identities and because our identities are tied up in who we are in our respective worlds, we share equal responsibility in the journey.”

But let’s get things straight, while Mera is a partner, she’s her own hero.

Mera is No Aquawoman as Heard explains:

“Mera’s her own woman. She’s her own superhero, she’s not Aquawoman, she’s Mera. Part of what got me, you know…when I first talked to Zack [Snyder] on the phone about the prospect of doing this film, he said, ‘She’s a warrior queen.’ Basically, you get a sword and a crown. And I was like, ‘OK, you know how to pitch to your audience.’ Alright, I’m listening now. ‘Cause at first, I don’t want to be a damsel, I’ve played a range of characters, as diverse as I’ve been able to.

Being a woman, especially a bit of a young woman in this industry, raising myself in this industry, it’s been limited, but I’ve done the most with what I can, especially considering that. The one thing, the one element they all have in common is that they’re driven or powerful in their own right. I’ve not been interested in playing reactionary women or weak female characters.”

Bringing Comics to Life

It sounds like the Aquaman team is doing everything they can to ensure this is a thorough comic book adaptation. From Orm to Arthur, from Mera to Black Manta, every single actor seems to be approaching their character from the right angle. While the DC Universe has been filled with enthusiastic actors from the very beginning, never have they sounded more on-point. Could that all come from the influence of the DC Universe’s next director?

Clearly,the entire team speaks very highly of James Wan. While he’s created some amazing films in the past, this will be brand new territory for him. Well, Under-the-Sea superhero films are probably unknown territory for everyone, to be honest. But it sounds like Wan is leading his team through a wonderful project. DC Films and Warner Bros. have a lot riding on this wave. The DC Universe needs a win. With Shazam! and Wonder Woman: 1984 coming next year, it would help if Aquaman could set off this next phase with a fun and entertaining film.

Does all this information get you more excited for December’s Aquaman? Let us know!

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About The Author

Daniel Mills
Batman & DC Writer

Daniel Mills is a screenwriter and director working in Los Angeles, California. Far too many comics and Forgotten Realms-novels led him to want to tell stories of his own. From articles and opinion pieces to reviews and screenplays, he sees every new opportunity as another new realm waiting to be explored.

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