Stop Overthinking Aquaman’s Underwater Dialogue


Pretty much since we learned that Aquaman would be a part of the DCEU and that he would be getting his own movie, there has been a lingering question about how the character would work onscreen. The concern being how characters would communicate underwater, without air, in a way that made sense and didn't come off as weird or cheesy. Justice League had Mera and Aquaman speaking inside an underwater air pocket, but that wasn't true to the character and some people took issue with it. So how will the upcoming Aquaman tackle this problem? Director James Wan believes this issue is much ado about nothing, saying:

People are overthinking it. They're just gonna talk!

There you have it, from the man himself, all the fuss has been for nothing. So for all the strategizing as to what sort of tricks or devices could be used to make the underwater dialogue work, James Wan seems to have went with the Occam's Razor approach and chose the simplest answer: just having the characters talk normally. As he told EW, we've all been way overthinking this problem. The characters are simply going to talk as they would if they weren't underwater. There will apparently also be some visual cues when the characters are speaking that imply sound waves are traveling through the water, but other than that, there won't be some grand device to make the communication scenes work.

Frankly, this is the most obvious answer and it seems like the right one to me. It is also the most practical approach. The Atlanteans have water in their lungs, so air bubbles aren't really an option. Plus having to create Justice League's giant conversation air bubble every time characters want to talk isn't practical. And there's no way the studio would make blockbuster audiences read subtitles for three-quarters of the movie. So, better to just eschew all of these distracting visuals that try to bend the dialogue to some kind of scientific standard and just have these characters be able to magically talk underwater.

It is funny that this was a concern while no one bats an eye when fish in Finding Dory talk underwater, but move it to the live-action realm with human actors and suddenly it becomes a complex problem. After all, this is a movie basically about merpeople -- are we really going to draw the line of believability at underwater speech? The small sound wave visual effects also seem like a clever way to indicate that there is something happening to allow the underwater speech, without being too distracting.

We're still waiting on the first trailer for Aquaman, but the early footage shown at CinemaCon impressed and the DC staff that have seen the whole movie praised James Wan's vision. The film stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson. Aquaman splashes into theaters on December 21st. For all the latest in movie news and subaqueous linguistics, stay tuned to CinemaBlend.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.