It’s been a while since a DC movie caught my attention. After the well-deserved success of Wonder Woman, the extended universe has brought us Aquaman. The film vibrantly portrayed Atlantis and did a solid job at telling the Atlantean superhero’s origin story. It’s not the “greatest movie of all time” in my opinion, but it is a breath of fresh air from the usually brooding nature of most DC films and characters. (I’m looking at you, Batman and Superman.)
There are several themes that we want to talk about and, luckily, we also got some insight from Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and director James Wan on certain aspects during their press con here in Manila. Here’s what we gathered (don’t worry, it’s spoiler-free!):
The (CGI-generated) world of Atlantis
Admittedly, my only issue with Aquaman was how the actors moved underwater. There were times it looked odd—like they were just floating heads in a suit of armor—and other times, it felt like I was watching a video game cutscene, which was very hit and miss.
However, it’s still commendable that James Wan and his team were able to build this elaborate underwater world. “It wasn’t easy to do, it wasn’t very pleasant for the actors,” he said. “It took an amazing stunt department to create the impression of swimming underwater. And it took an army of talented visual effects to come in to do the hair, costumes, and environment to make it feel like they’re underwater.”
More than a superhero origin story
James, who’s well-known for his horror titles like Saw and The Conjuring, wanted to create characters that people cared about. Plus, he was able to merge his expertise on the genre in Aquaman. Apart from that, he also crafted a story of finding one’s identity, the binding of two cultures, and environmental awareness.
For the first two themes, both James and Jason Momoa can relate to them as they grew up surrounded by two cultures. (James is Malaysian who was born in Australia, while Jason is a biracial native of Hawaii.) “Growing up, it’s like you push one aside and embrace the other one even more. But then I realized when I got older that I’m embracing the other side just as much,” James shared.
That aspect was really evident in Aquaman as Arthur Curry tried to push back his Atlantean roots as he lives with his human dad. But, as the trailer hinted, he’s the key to bringing together both the surface and underwater world.
“[My experiences are] pretty dead-on similar [with Arthur’s],” Jason said. “This is something [I can] pass down to children who may have single parents, and also of mixed races. To be the face of that and to come from that, it’s perfect timing.”
As for the environmental aspect, you’ll see them throughout the film like it’s a brutal wake-up call. James said that he jumped on the opportunity to bring awareness to ocean pollution because “[you can’t] do an Aquaman movie without [talking about it].” We couldn’t agree more.
Another strong, empowered woman
Justice League introduced Princess Mera, played by Amber Heard, and people already got to see just how badass she can be. In Aquaman, her character was explored more and we’re definitely adding her to our list of female superheroes you shouldn’t sleep on.
Amber Heard has always emphasized Mera’s strength, individuality, and the fact that she isn’t a damsel in distress. “[Mera’s] power wasn’t compromised in the film,” she said. “She is the driving force for the whole story. She is what makes Arthur, Aquaman.” On that note, she’s not comparing Mera to Wonder Woman because they’re both strong in their own respects.
She’s also thankful that she’s part of the growing demand to bring a “more accurate depiction of the female experience,” as well as representation, in superhero movies. Especially when boys and girls consume such media and look up to these characters. “[There are] so many heroes to admire. [Jason] has a daughter and she has two superheroes to look up to now in [the DCEU],” Amber said.
To which Jason said, “I am [a superhero to my kids]… at least for a couple more years.” And the crowd burst into awww‘s. He also acknowledged the MCU’s efforts to bring female representation in movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel. (Supporting the other side, we love it.)
Photos by Javier Lobregat
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