As teased by Warner Bros. earlier this week, the first trailer for Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom was released today in all its aquatic glory. Yesterday, POC Culture had the opportunity to attend an exclusive trailer reveal event with the director of the film, James Wan. After screening the trailer, Wan provided a deep dive on a few still shots from the trailer, followed by an informative Q&A regarding his creative process.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom sees the return of Jason Momoa as the iconic Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. Years ahead of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’s production, James Wan embedded seeds for this story within his first Aquaman film, which released in 2018. In particular, Wan used the first Aquaman to set up the relationship between Arthur and Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who will have a much bigger role in the sequel.
“[Black Manta] was kind of a glorified side character in the first one. But that was gonna be okay because we knew that the second movie was where I was going to have him in a much bigger role,” Wan said.
Wan also talked about where we find the other main characters in Arthur’s life at the start of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Regarding Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna, Wan shared that she will play a more visible and critical role next to Arthur, explaining that “Nicole definitely plays more like the right hand to the king in this one. She’s a mother figure but also an advisor in this.”
This revelation was one of the tidbits that excited me the most. Kidman and her action sequences were incredible in the original Aquaman. I hope she has plenty of action sequences in the sequel, but I look forward to scenes explaining Atlantean history and laws to her son, who finds himself being the king despite growing up on the surface.
Speaking of the title hero, Wan also revealed that this film is about Aquaman’s growth and his relationship with family, even when it comes to estranged family members.
“In this next movie, it’s about the growth of Jason’s character Arthur. In the first one he was a wanderer trying to figure out who he is, but he ultimately becomes the king of Atlantis,” Wan said. “He’s a dad in this one, and he ultimately needs to reach out to his family member, the one that was the antagonist in the first movie, and they have to ultimately be a family together. The family aspect in this film is something that was very important for me.”
Wan, who previously directed Furious 7, also joked that he learned a lot about family from the Fast & Furious franchise, which made the entire room laugh. After this, he referenced some of the inspirations for both of his Aquaman films to explain the difference in tone between the two.
“I describe the first film as a romantic-action adventure in the spirit of Romancing the Stone…. In the second one, the plan was always that Patrick [Wilson]’s character [King Orm] was gonna switch. That’s why I didn’t want to kill him at the end of the first movie,” Wan said. “That he was gonna ultimately be a pseudo anti-hero in this one…[Jason and Patrick] have such great camaraderie and chemistry that I describe the second one as a bromance movie. The first one is romance, the second one is bromance; like Tango and Cash. That was the spirit we were going for.”
Next, Wan turned his attention to the world-building that went into Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, saying that his dream would be to create a self contained Aquaman universe of films.
“The world-building is very important for the Aquaman universe. We enjoy all the different worlds that really, no superhero movies kind of go into and that’s what’s so cool about the Aquaman films. It’s really stand-alone. It lives in its own universe. My dream would be to create a Seven Kingdom cinematic universe all on its own where we could visit all the different worlds we touch on in these two films,” Wan said.
Wan went on to discuss the aesthetic inspirations for the movie, which includes a focus on the Silver Age Aquaman comics.
“As you can see in the trailer, aesthetically I’m leaning pretty heavily into the Silver Age comic book of Aquaman; the 1960s, Silver Age Aquaman. A lot of the designs in this film is very retro feeling. The spirit and the tone is very retro,” Wan said. “It is a little bit darker, as second movies tend to be. It felt like the correct progression for this film.”
It will be fun to see how Wan walks the line between creating a darker film, while also being one that families and kids can still enjoy. After Wan’s presentation, he took some questions form the journalists in attendance and I asked about the real world traditions and cultures that influenced this movie.
“I really enjoy working with Jason [Momoa] on this. We lean very heavily into the family dynamics he has, with the father who is of Māori descent, so we kind of lean into that a lot more. That aspect comes across. It’s not in your face, but we want to use that as a nice and aligning flavor for the film,” Wan said.
Arthur’s relationship with his father Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) in the original Aquaman was refreshing, so it will be nice to see that Arthur is a father himself now, and how their culture might be reflected through that new dynamic.
When asked about Black Manta’s journey, Wan said that we will see a different and potentially more powerful Manta in this film, with a singular goal to crush Arthur Curry.
“Manta, basically after the first movie, has his relentless quest to destroy everything Arthur has built. He has been searching for ways to do that. In his search to try and fix the power suit that he had in the first movie, he stumbles across something much bigger and I’ll just leave it at that,” Wan said.
DC fans may take interest in his response to being asked about how the recent change in leadership and scope affected his film, now that James Gunn and Peter Safran are in charge.
“Definitely, I am aware of everything that is happening around me. I use the analogy that I am living in a house that is getting renovated. It’s hard to not be aware of the renovation that’s happening around me,” Wan said. “But that’s the beauty of Aquaman 2 and Aquaman 1. I’ve always designed these two films to be in their own world. So the advantage of not being hooked into this bigger universe is, ultimately what happens over there doesn’t really affect my movie. It lives in its own world, and that’s what we found worked really well for us on the first film, and we’re doing exactly the same thing. Sure, there’s noises going around, but I’m in a cocoon in my own underwater kingdom.”
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom releases December 20th in theaters. Watch the trailer below!
Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist. To support the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.
Director James Wan and Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa—along with Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Nicole Kidman—return in the sequel to the highest-grossing DC film of all time: “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”
Having failed to defeat Aquaman the first time, Black Manta, still driven by the need to avenge his father’s death, will stop at nothing to take Aquaman down once and for all. This time Black Manta is more formidable than ever before, wielding the power of the mythic Black Trident, which unleashes an ancient and malevolent force. To defeat him, Aquaman will turn to his imprisoned brother Orm, the former King of Atlantis, to forge an unlikely alliance. Together, they must set aside their differences in order to protect their kingdom and save Aquaman’s family, and the world, from irreversible destruction.
All returning to the roles they originated, Jason Momoa plays Arthur Curry/Aquaman, now balancing his duties as both the King of Atlantis and a new father; Patrick Wilson is Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and his nemesis, who must now step into a new role as his brother’s reluctant ally; Amber Heard is Mera, Atlantis’ Queen and mother of the heir to the throne; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is Black Manta, committed more than ever to avenge his father’s death by destroying Aquaman, his family and Atlantis; and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna, a fierce leader and mother with the heart of a warrior. Also reprising their roles are Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Randall Park as Dr. Stephen Shin.
Directed by Wan, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is produced by Peter Safran, Wan and Rob Cowan. The executive producers are Galen Vaisman and Walter Hamada.
The screenplay is by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, from a story by James Wan & David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Jason Momoa & Thomas Pa’a Sibbett, based on characters from DC, Aquaman created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger.
Joining Wan behind-the-camera is his sterling team of “Aquaman” artisans: director of photography Don Burgess (“The Conjuring 2”), production designer Bill Brzeski (“Jumanji: The Next Level”), editor Kirk Morri (“Furious 7”), composer Rupert Gregson-Williams (“Wonder Woman”) and music supervisor is Michelle Silverman (“Malignant”). Visual effects supervisor Nick Davis (“The Clash of the Titans” films, “The Dark Knight”) and costume designer Richard Sale (“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Ready Player One”) also join.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents An Atomic Monster / A Peter Safran Production of A James Wan Film, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” set to open in theaters internationally beginning 20 December 2023 and in North America on December 20, 2023; it will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at POCculture.com. He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.