Aquaman’s James Wan: Atlantis is kinda scary, but ‘I didn’t set out to make a horror movie’

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Feb 26, 2020, 3:48 PM EST (Updated)

As superhero settings go, Aquaman’s Atlantis always has saddled DC with a unique mix of opportunities and problems. Informed by tropes cherry-picked from Greek myth, the deep ocean is a place that’s ripe for visually rich, stylized romanticizing — but it’s also an alien environment that remains poorly explored here on this side of the comics. It’s one of the real world’s most unknown places, and that makes it all just that much more mysterious and strange.

Aquaman director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) might be as apt as anyone to tap into the creepy side of Atlantis’ ocean depths — perhaps even subconsciously, given his deep horror roots. But Wan explained to Collider that his take on Atlantis is meant to evoke equal parts menace and magic, sounding very much like a guy who wants to strike a perfectly delicate balance between The Abyss and The Little Mermaid.

“…I didn’t set out to make a horror movie,” he said on a set visit late last year, which Collider recently released as part of its pre-SDCC Aquaman coverage. 

“I mean, that’s not what this is about. It just so happens that you’re dealing with … a world that is beautiful, magical, but at the same time, scary as hell, right? People are terrified of the ocean because they don’t know what’s down there…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.”

Aquaman actor Jason Momoa said he’s totally excited to dive into a role that walks the fine line between terror and wonder — although he admitted, in a separate Collider interview, that he’s partial to Wan’s horror pedigree and how it might turn up in unexpected ways.

“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,” Momoa said. “So, that’s one thing that’s gonna be really, really cool.”

The Aquaman buzz already is ramping up at the start of Comic-Con week, with the release of a new poster, as well as Wan’s own Twitter tease for the much-anticipated trailer that’s set to splash down sometime this weekend. The movie itself is only a few more leagues distant, too: Aquaman swims into theaters beginning December 21.

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