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James Wan Says All That DC Upheaval "Doesn't Really Affect" Aquaman 2

The DC movieverse may be changing, but apparently Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom won't be concerned with that at all.


Before the first trailer for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was revealed publicly on Thursday (you can watch it right here), Warner Bros showed the trailer to members of the press at an event on Wednesday, with director James Wan presenting. Speaking and fielding questions for nearly a half-hour, Wan touched on nearly every major talking point about the film--including how the sequel will be handling Amber Heard's character, and how it accommodates, or ignores, all the changes happening at DC Studios lately.

Chief among those changes being that James Gunn and producer Peter Safran are now running the show at DC, and are in the process of rebooting the big-screen DC universe--an effort that has seemingly become more urgent after a bunch of disappointing box office performances in a row for what should be a juggernaut of a franchise. Since it's a sequel to a movie that came out five years ago, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom would appear to be a vestige of the existing franchise, rather than a part of whatever's next. But maybe that whole discussion is immaterial.

"Definitely I'm aware of everything that's happening around me. I use the analogy that I'm living in a house that's getting renovated, right. And so it's hard to not be aware of the renovation that's happening around me," Wan said of the upheaval. "But that's the beauty about Aquaman 2 and Aquaman 1. I've always designed these two films to be within their own world. And so the advantage about not being hooked into this bigger universe is ultimately whatever happens over there, it doesn't really affect my movie, right?

"And so as you can see, in this film, it's like, it doesn't hook into anything, it lives in its own world. And that's pretty much what we found worked really well for us on the first film, and we're doing exactly the same thing. And so, sure, there's noises going around, but I'm just in my cocoon in my underwater kingdom."

James Wan addresses Mera's status in Aquaman 2

Mera is Aquaman's love interest and now the mother of his child, but actress Amber Heard's real-life conflict with her ex-husband Johnny Depp has cast a pall over her involvement with DC for years. Now, there's a common thought among the fandom that Mera has been relegated to a much smaller role in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom because of all that real-world stuff, but Wan said it was always the plan to shift the focus from Aquaman's relationship with Mera to Aquaman's relationship with his brother, Orn.

"Mera obviously is a massive character in the comic book, right, in the Aquaman world. And so we obviously want to be respectful to the character of Mera as well. That's the bottom line. I want to be respectful to all the characters in this and try and do everyone justice," Wan told us. "But at the end of the day, I have this story to tell, but then I have so many other characters to service. And I felt like I told the Arthur and Mera story in the first one, [so] that I can ultimately just sort of focus on Arthur and Orn in this one."

Wan said that Arthur and Orn are the two main protagonists, "and then the other characters sort of pepper their world, if you will."

Wan also joked that his emphasis on Arthur and Orn stems from his gig directing Furious 7.

"I learned about family from Fast and Furious, you guys," Wan quipped. "The family aspect in this was something that was very important for me. And we have Vin [Diesel] to thank for that."

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What's the deal with Black Manta and his new Black Trident?

Black Manta, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, was a secondary baddie in the first movie, but he's taking center stage this time around thanks to a new tool: a shiny, jagged Black Trident that will give him the power to go toe to toe with Aquaman.

"My plan with the first movie was always to kind of set up the relationship with him. He was kind of like a glorified side character in the first one. But we knew that the second movie was where we were actually going to go into with him in a much bigger role," Wan said.

"So Manta, basically, after the first movie, he's on this relentless quest to kill Arthur Curry or just destroy everything that Arthur has built, right and so he's been searching nonstop for ways to do that. And in his search, without giving too much away here, in his search to try and fix the power suit that he had in the first movie that was all banged up and destroyed, he stumbles across something much bigger."

That something bigger, Wan said, has changed this man in a significant way.

"In the first movie, he's obviously a human, which he still is in this one, but because he has stumbled onto the lost kingdom, he's now empowered in a way that he wasn't in the first film. So finally, you know, he's able to kind of go one on one with Arthur Curry, who is, you know, a super human being."

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will "tee up" Aquaman 3

Wan isn't much of a sequel guy, doing just a few second movies (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious) and never getting to a third. Could Aquaman be the exception? Wan isn't saying if he'd return for it, but he wants you to know that they're definitely setting up a third Aquaman film here.

"The Jason Momoa story as Aquaman definitely has more places to go," Wan said. "Where we go at the end of this movie, it does tee up something bigger--not bigger, but it does tee up a direction for that story." Given the situation at DC, it's hard to figure what this might mean, story-wise.

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Yes, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will feature a climate change allegory

Wan discussed Aquaman's place as the steward of the oceans and, by extension, an environmentalist--he said that the Aquaman sequel absolutely has some thoughts on real-world climate change.

"We do have something important to say. I mean, like, look at us, this is like one of the hottest summers we've ever experienced, right? Not just in the US, but everywhere around the world. We really do kind of lean into that, like the environment is shifting very much in this movie, and Arthur needs to be able to work with his brother to try and stop this from spiraling into complete catastrophe," Wan said.

"You know what the scientists are calling the tipping point-- we're trying not to hit the tipping point, even though some scientists said that we're already passed the tipping point. We definitely don't want to get there and not be able to reverse it back. So that is obviously another big theme. We don't want it to be too preachy, but we're definitely, you know, not shy about that. Because I think that's something that we need to talk about, even in a context like a fun adventure movie."

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom swims into movie theaters on December 20.

Phil Owen on Google+

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