Aquaman has often been regarded as more of a punchline than a superhero in pop culture. With the character's upcoming DCEU release, starring Jason Momoa, best known as the powerful Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones, perhaps past perceptions of the hero will change. When director James Wan was approached for Aquaman, he was acutely aware of the character's current reputation. Riding high on an immensely successful film career thus far in the horror genre, some might say Wan was taking somewhat of a risk to tread outside the waters of his proven strengths, with an often-overlooked hero and with the technical challenges of a film that primarily takes place underwater. However, the director took on the project with confidence, seeing it as an opportunity to break into the genre. Here's what he said about joining Aquaman:
There was a bit of reservation at the start about whether or not I should pursue this character. But the more I thought about it, I always love being the underdog. Coming from the horror genre, you're always the underdog. So I got used to that mentality.
James Wan has been far from an underdog in the horror genre for many years. He started the Saw, Insidious and Conjuring franchises with his direction, has served as producer for their successors and directed perhaps the most memorable Fast & the Furious entry, Furious 7. Wan's transition to the big leagues of superhero films may seem seamless, but the genre often comes with large budgets, and therefore there are higher stakes for them to do well at the box office. Wan continued in his interview with Total Film by explaining his aspirations to venture outside what he is known for with Aquaman.
I love [horror]. It's definitely the best way to break into the industry. I just became somewhat synonymous with it, so that people had a harder time seeing me for anything else outside of horror. I just wanted to prove that I'm not just a horror filmmaker, I'm a filmmaker, period.
In the interview, James Wan also cited Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and George Lucas as his childhood inspirations. With Aquaman, Wan is getting closer to making movies to what his director heroes are most famous for. The filmmaker shared that he paid homage to Star Wars: A New Hope in the upcoming release by including a Obi-Wan/Luke Skywalker dynamic moment. The film is an origin story of a hero who has been an underdog among the Justice League in popular opinion.
Warner Bros' choice of a horror filmmaker to create the underwater fantasy world for Aquaman might at first glance seem bizarre, but the studio took James Wan's impressive track record to heart, likely looking to make Aquaman the first of a successful franchise. With Wan's aspirations to become a great filmmaker who can tackle multiple genres, the hero couldn't of asked for a better director to do him justice. The next DCEU release splashes into theaters on December 21.