Aquaman movie: Willem Dafoe teases "horror influences", release date, and everything you need to know

Fast Facts:

  • Aquaman movie release date: December 21, 2018
  • Director: James Wan
  • Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin
  • Writers: James Wan, Geoff Johns, Will Beall

Update: October 5, 2017 - Willem Dafoe says Aquaman won't shy away from its "horror influences"

As an actor, Willem Dafoe is no stranger to horror, having starred in films like Antichrist, Daybreakers, and, more recently, Netflix's adaptation of Death Note. This perhaps explains why he agreed to come on board for Aquaman, which is being directed by James Wan, a modern horror auteur famous for his work on Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring. 

Indeed, in a recent interview with comicbook.com, Dafoe said that Wan's horror credentials are precisely what makes him the perfect director for Aquaman, which is currently in production and slated for a 2018 release. 

“I wouldn’t say I’m a horror movie aficionado, but I appreciate them", explained Dafoe: "Those directors in particular, James Wan, when you see his horror movies, you know there is a director there and that was very appealing and evident on Aquaman.”

The actor went on to suggest that Aquaman won't be without its horror elements, either, explaining that the genre "is a really good platform to mold these [directors] with good film language; it’s a good genre to strut their stuff. And superhero films is a good place to strut those horror influences, I think.”

Could Aquaman end up becoming the scariest DC movie yet? It's far too early to tell, but it's certainly interesting to consider how Wan might mix his particular creative sensibilities with the source material. 

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The Aquaman movie will take us under the sea

The roaring rush of the tide breaking on the shore, the deceptive calm just before the storm, and the clear pools of the Mediterranean: the ocean is a changeable mistress. We've not been treating it nearly as well as it should, and you know who's unhappy about it the most? Aquaman. We've known Jason Momoa will be playing the King of Atlantis since all the way back in 2014, and we got a brief glimpse of him swimming through the deep shirtless during last year's Batman v Superman. Tattooed, bitter, (and an alcoholic by the looks of the Justice League trailer), awaiting us is a largely untapped main character, an offbeat ensemble cast, and a great choice of director. Here's everything we know so far.  

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The Aquaman movie release date swims to shore late next year 

Aquaman will be the fifth film in DC's cinematic universe, and will be the next instalment after Justice League in November 2017. Warner Bros. recently announced that it's pushing back the Aquaman movie release date by a couple of months, from October 5, 2018 to December 21, 2018 (a spot originally meant for James Cameron's Avatar 2). While release dates do shift around, it usually isn't a good sign when a major tentpole movie like Aquaman is moved by this much. On the other hand, 2018 is a way off yet so perhaps there's time for director James Wan to turn it around. 

Aquaman begun filming in May 2017 in Queensland, Australia, before moving to Sicily in Italy. By then, we'll have been introduced to Arthur Curry and Mera, and likely would've had some peek at their kingdom of Atlantis in Justice League - though they're bound to conceal a full reveal for the solo movie. 

Snyder's team-up flick is DC's chance to sell us on why Aquaman can be cool. If Arthur Curry really becomes the standout hero in that movie, people will immediately be hungry for more - and the timing of the picture so relatively soon after Justice League certainly suggests DC is confident about the character's chances of resonating with superhero fans. In May Aquaman director James Wan has posted this seemingly innocuous photo to Twitter with the caption "Months of intensive prep have led to this. Here we go." Yes, the hashtag and the clapperboard say "Ahab," but that's just the film's codename while filming. Not sure why they even bother since we all know that's what we're looking at, but it is what it is. Point is, Aquaman is officially filming as... of... now.

Read more: Every upcoming DC Extended Universe movie until 2020 and beyond

The Aquaman movie trailer: when to expect your first look 

There's no trailer for the standalone Aquaman just yet, but get your first look at Momoa in action in the Justice League movie above. Expect an Aquaman trailer to arrive with Justice League's release in November, or perhaps early next year. However, if you simply can't wait for the sounds of the rushing sea and want a glimpse of the enigmatic sea-dwelling superhero, we have good news: audiences at San Diego Comic Con got a glimpse of the trailer in all its glory. You can read the full description for what went on in the Aquaman trailer right here, but here's the TL;DR. A couple of chaps are out fishing, and one gets a bite that's way more than he can handle - so he lets the fishing rod go and looks over the side of the boat. Below is a stingray, but it looks vaguely technological as there's blue lights around its edges. A shark fin emerges from the ocean, one of an aquatic fleet of undersea ships. A lot of undersea ships. 

They're looking at The Ocean Master's army - and it's impressive to say the least.  The clip ends with Aquaman in ordinary clothes, with his back to the camera. "You don't want to talk about this, do you?" he asks someone offscreen. "Neither do I" he goes on to say, striking a heroic pose. We'll just have to wait for his own trailer to be released to see more of the fishy fella, but by the sounds of it this was a promising hint of what's to come. 

Read more: Here are all 9 (yes, 9!) DC movies confirmed by Warner Bros. during their San Diego Comic Con 2017 panel

The Aquaman movie cast stars Game of Thrones’ Drogo

Jason Momoa reprises his role as Aquaman, having first cameoed in BvS in 2016 (remember when he swam to the camera to say hello?), with his first full appearance coming in this year's Justice League movie, as glimpsed in that movie's trailer. How many of Aquaman's extended cast will appear in Zack Snyder's team-up movie is yet to be determined, but Amber Heard is confirmed to play his wife, Mera, in that film. The first image of Heard in costume was tweeted by Snyder in October of last year. 

In recent months, the ensemble cast has really bulked up. Frequent Wan collaborator Patrick Wilson will be playing the Ocean Master, Orm, who in DC Comics lore is essentially Aquaman's evil half-brother. Aquaman's rogues gallery isn't quite Batman's when it comes to breadth or identity, but his most iconic villain is probably Black Manta, who wears a kind of creepy diving outfit and has a personal grudge against Aquaman. He'll be played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, one of the breakout stars from Baz Luhrmann's Netflix series The Get Down - you'll also see him in that Baywatch movie that's happening to us this year. Sometime Spider-Man villain Willem Defoe plays Dr Vulko, Atlantis's chief scientific advisor. Rounding out the ensemble cast, Aquaman's mother will apparently be played by Nicole Kidma, who was reportedly in talks for the role as of January 2017.

Plus in May a new face has been added to the Aquaman movie cast in the form of Power Rangers' Ludi Lin. He most recently played the Black Ranger in the superhero reboot and will take on the role of Murk opposite Jason Momoa's aquatic hero. In the comics, Murk is the leader of the army of Atlantis, known as the Men-of-War, and Aquaman’s trusted ally so it looks like Lin will be #TeamAquaman. 

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The Aquaman movie plot is apparently a love story inspired by Indiana Jones... what? 

There's no official synopsis for Aquaman yet, but Wan has described the movie in interviews as a combination between Indiana Jones and Robert Zemeckis' Romancing the Stone. "I kind of don’t want to give too much away, but know this: The spirit that I’m going for is like a classic sort of swashbuckling action adventure, sort of high seas adventure story." 

Wan also adds that Justice League just offers a 'flavour' of what the standalone Aquaman film will entail, given the appearance of Momoa and Heard in that film. "And that is just scratching the surface of what I plan to do."

The fact that DC Comics' Geoff Johns wrote the treatment for this film is telling: he championed the character back in 2011, when the Justice League and Aquaman comic books were being rebooted. He put Arthur Curry front and centre as a pivotal member of DC's premier superteam, portraying him as this all-powerful monarch who can summon powerful, weird sea life against real enemies. Johns worked to debunk the inherent daftness of the character, and was self-referential about how he's never taken seriously. Wan has cited this portrayal as a leaping off point for his version in the movie. 

In Johns' Aquaman solo book, he brought focus onto his relationship with Mera, which was a cornerstone of his depiction of the character. That's almost certainly the inspiration here too: Mera's presence in Justice League suggests she's going to be a huge part of his story, and far more than just a love interest. 

Read more: Oh, God: Justice League is nearly 3 hours long - here's how it stacks up with the rest of the MCU and DC

The Aquaman movie director has a flair for horror and the Fast and Furious 

James Wan, the prolific director behind the original Saw, as well as The Conjuring, Insidious and their respective sequels, signed up to direct Aquaman in 2015. His biggest blockbuster to date was 2015's monster hit Furious 7. While the film has had a few writers in the lead-up to this point, Will Beall is currently set as penning Aquaman's screenplay, based on a treatment by Wan and DC Entertainment's overseer Geoff Johns. 

Wan is a pretty amazing hire for Warner Bros. Not only did he get the Fast and Furious series on track again after a difficult shoot following the death of star Paul Walker, but he's left an enduring mark on the horror genre with three separate, influential series. If Aquaman's going to explore the weirdness of the ocean's depths, while also being a fun action movie, Wan seems like a great fit. In recent months, the director's been location scouting for the film. Check out this shot with Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Patrick Wilson:

According to an interview with IGN last year, Wan was able to have some influence on the character's portrayal in Justice League, and described the character's appeal as being that of an 'outsider'. "I actually think it's a brilliant move on Zack and co. to cast someone like Jason. Immediately, the whole joke aspect of Aquaman goes out the window. You have such a muscular, superhero-y character and one that is almost, to me, in some ways... I look at him, he's kind of the Wolverine in some respect." 

Read more: 30 superhero movies with secret (and not-so-secret) political messages

The Aquaman movie costume is very different from the comics 

(Image: © Warner Bros.)

In character, Jason Momoa looks pretty different to the Aquaman we're used to in the comics, who has bright green trousers and an orange frock of sorts. It goes hand-in-hand with the character's perception problem, really: he just looks too daft to make the leap over to live action. Something had to change - and Momoa's costume in Justice League looks perfect, underlining the regal nature of Arthur Curry with a suit of armour, while also showing off the fact that, yes, Momoa looks amazing with barely any clothes on.

Momoa has also hinted there will be some traditional orange and green in the finished costume. This getup is designed to reflect his rage at the world, for polluting his lovely oceans. No one fancies wearing orange when they're in a foul mood.

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