Aquaman’s Underwater World: James Wan on Designing Atlantis


From the marvel and discovery of Arthur, to the power and willpower of Mera, to the relentless anger of Black Manta, Aquaman is filled with exceptional characters, all with their distinct motivations and wishes. Yet, whereas the heroes and villains of the most recent DCEU film might steal the highlight, particularly in the most recent posters, on the coronary heart of the movie is one thing equally essential and distinct.

The kingdom of Atlantis.

It’s as a lot part of the story and world of Arthur Curry as his trident and energy over sea life. Aquaman is a story of coming residence. However, with regards to this distinctive superhero, “home” is like nowhere on Earth…or in any present superhero film.

“I’ve been wanting to make a design movie for the longest time,” says Aquaman director James Wan. “That was part of what I really enjoyed about this character. Not only do I get to revamp this underdog character, but I also get the opportunity to design the different worlds visually and create the different kingdoms. I’m a big fan of world creation.”

While final yr’s Justice League had a scene set in Atlantis, the film took a minimalist strategy to what was proven, retaining a lot of the kingdom off digital camera. That meant Wan and his manufacturing design staff had few restrictions when it got here to designing the legendary undersea kingdom.

“One of the things that I really want to capture with the civilization of Atlantis is that it’s a bit of new and old,” Wan reveals. “We’re all acquainted with the legend of Atlantis—that they’re such a complicated race of individuals and culturally far forward, however they turned too highly effective for their very own good. They created one thing they usually sank because of that.

“I took plenty of that mythology and performed with it. Even although Atlantis is now a civilization underneath water that has been round for a very long time—a whole lot of years—they’re very technologically superior. Socially, they’re very superior. Yet, in different methods, they’re considerably archaic. They nonetheless have a [monarchy] that they’re very true to. They have a really inflexible method of taking a look at issues.”

That rigidity, together with their isolation and dependence on the ocean, has led to a serious mistrust of the floor world—one thing that has existed for years within the Aquaman comics. Most Atlanteans don’t go to the floor, which means all they know concerning the world above is what they’ve been advised. Of course, the arrival of Arthur—a half-Atlantean who grew up on the floor—throws a wrench into what they consider.

“They’re a race of underwater people and they don’t usually come up here that much,” explains Wan. “They don’t like us and what we represent, so they have no desire to come up here. They’re not accustomed to surface world traditions. They have their own traditions.”

Coming up with these traditions, and the tradition that spawned them, is a part of the method once you’re designing a fantasy world. Often, the perfect fantasy has its roots in actuality—consider Tolkein being impressed by European historical past and Neil Gaiman trying to myths and folklore when creating the world of The Sandman. In designing Atlantis, Wan appeared in the direction of our world and society, but in addition past it, into the realms of nature and, sure, monster films. (Wan’s background is in horror, in any case.)

“I was a big fan of Toho and giant kaiju movies growing up,” he shares. “I’m a big fan of Godzilla. I love Gamera. All of the magic and wonder of those scary, wonderful creatures that Ray Harryhausen created. I tried to bring a bit of that sensibility into here, and it works perfectly because the different races of people have that kind of look. I haven’t really shown you the monsters in this, but it definitely plays heavily into the film. They’re a big part of this world that Arthur gets to explore.”

When requested concerning the totally different races, Wan continues, “You hear quite a bit right now about variety in movies, and casting a various forged. I really like the concept on this world, I can truly go even additional and present us all the totally different ethnicities and races within the totally different kingdoms.

“There are seven kingdoms within the underwater world. [There are] a handful of the kingdoms the place they appear extra like regular people—such as you and I. But then there are different kingdoms. You’ve seen within the trailer that there’s one the place they’re all merpeople. Then there’s one other kingdom—the Brine Kingdom—the place they’re principally all big crustaceans. They’re massive crab women and men. I assumed it will be actually enjoyable to lean into that. Then, in fact, the opposite kingdom is the Trench, that are these monsters. Obviously, a number of that is closely impressed by what Geoff Johns did for the New 52.”

Wan and his workforce put simply as a lot effort and time conceiving the dominion as they did its individuals, one thing that began with realizing an underwater metropolis would by no means be constructed like a land-based one. It additionally wouldn’t resemble our underwater constructions. Don’t search for the pressure-resistant metal and piping you see in submarines and in films like The Meg and The Abyss. The buildings in Aquaman have been constructed by individuals who have lived their complete lives underwater.

“The concept is when ancient Atlantis sank, they ‘grew’ new Atlantis on top of it,” says Wan. “Structurally, I’ve tried to think of what construction underwater would look like. There would be no steel or wood. No metal. The way I believe they would do it is how coral is made. They grow corals. So, buildings are grown like corals. Just from that, it really informs what the visuals would be.”

Aquaman is a film that takes you someplace you’ve by no means been earlier than, made all of the extra exceptional by the truth that it’s set on our world. The fantasy of Atlantis has endured for hundreds of years for good purpose—with a lot of the ocean unexplored, who can say Atlantis couldn’t truly exist?

“The thing that I really like best about it is that I get to create this big, fantastical world, but it’s not like we’re going to visit these magical worlds in outer space or in another dimension,” Wan shares. “It’s taking place right here on Earth. I think that’s the coolest thing. We’ve explored so little of the ocean. We’ve explored space more than we have explored the ocean, so the idea that there could be this massive civilization of beings is super exciting to me.”

Aquaman arrives in theaters on Friday, December 21, 2018. For extra on the upcoming DC blockbuster, click here.



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