Yesterday we explored the plot of DC’s upcoming superhero origin movie Aquaman in our set visit report. The filmmakers revealed the story is set after Justice League, but will also explore Arthur Curry’s origins through flashbacks. “In this movie we actually go soup-to-nuts on who he is all the way to the end where he’s King of Atlantis,” explains production designer Bill Brzeski.
The film, in UK cinemas 14 December, sees Aquaman (Jason Momoa) teaming up with Atlantean princess Mera (Amber Heard) on a quest in order to take on Orm (Patrick Wilson). Aquaman’s half-brother is hellbent on waging war on the surface-dwellers for polluting his ocean home, and so Aquaman must unite the seven underwater realms to stop his half-sibling from destroying half the planet.
Now, in the second half of our set visit report, we can reveal a little bit more about the film’s supporting characters and how they fit into the story.
Mera – Amber Heard
Amber Heard’s Mera was first introduced in Justice League, but in Aquaman she has a much bigger part to play. The film is essentially a buddy adventure movie in the vein of Romancing The Stone, but Mera has more agency than Kathleen Turner’s Joan Wilder could ever have dreamed of.
“Mera is a warrior queen,” explains Heard. “She’s not queen yet, but not gonna lie, that’s how they sold it to me, and it worked! I was like ‘a sword… and a crown? OK, I can do this!’ They know how to pitch to their audience!”
“She’s a driven powerful woman who is driven by a sense of duty and honour and respect, and is determined to not let anything derail her from being everything that she can be for her people.”
One of Mera’s powers is hydrokinesis, the power to control water with her mind, which she uses effectively during an action sequence set in Sicily. With her powers she uncorks hundreds of bottles of wine and fires the liquid like bullets at Black Manta and his men. She’s also able to turn the water in a fountain into a “sea dragon” to fight back her foes.
However, as a water-dweller, she’s literally a fish out of water on land which leads to some hilarious misunderstandings including a moment she eats the heads off a bunch of roses that Arthur hands to her.
In the story Mera is betrothed to Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother, but it’s no arranged marriage. In fact, Mera has a very good reason to seek an alliance with the crown prince of Atlantis.
“[The marriage is] probably as driven by [Mera], as it is my male counterpart played by Patrick Wilson – in the movie, he’s King Orm. It’s Mera who wants to protect that alliance for reasons of maintaining stability amongst the kingdoms of Atlantis. In order to do that she sees that that’s a strategic marriage.”
Orm – Patrick Wilson
King Orm is actually Patrick Wilson’s third DC movie outing having already played Nite Owl in Watchmen (not part of the DC movie universe), and POTUS (on the phone) in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but this is definitely his most substantial comic book role to date.
The brothers, who share a mother in Nicole Kidman’s Atlanna, are on course to a huge showdown throughout the movie.
“I got together with my stunt and visual effects teams to devise this epic showdown between these two characters, who confront each other in what we call the Combat of the Kings,” explains director James Wan. “They basically stage their battle inside this massive underwater coliseum built into the cone of a submerged volcano [laughs]. So, you’ll get to see this crazy underwater fight sequence and watch these two brothers surrounded by steam and lava while they duke it out for the right to the throne of Atlantis.”
Wilson worked his butt off to get into shape to play Orm, in order to be a physical match for the man mountain that is Jason Momoa.
“He became a monster. Patrick Wilson was the first guy cast in it after Jason and Amber,” explains producer Peter Safran.
“He’s been on a workout regimen that you would not believe. He got huge for the movie, just in unbelievable shape. Orm doesn’t have any special powers, but Orm is an Atlantean who’s been trained from the day he was born to be the leader, to be the most powerful, to be the strongest, the most adept fighter – so he is also a very worthy adversary. Arthur underestimates him at first, and you’ll see in the movie what the results of that are.”
Black Manta – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Black Manta is a classic Aquaman villain, but as an adversary he plays second fiddle to Orm in the film.
“Black Manta is introduced in our movie and he is an integral character in this particular story, but he is not the main nemesis confronting Aquaman,” explains Wan. “We meet Black Manta at the start of the film, and, at that moment, he’s not quite Black Manta yet; he’s still just David Kane. He and his father are leading this mercenary pirate team that hijacks a submarine.
“That’s how his character comes face-to-face with Aquaman for the first time. But then, through the course of events, his father is killed and he blames Aquaman for his death. So, it’s a classic sort of revenge motivation for his character. From that moment on, he just hates Aquaman and becomes single-minded in his approach to one thing: eradicating Aquaman off the face of this planet.”
The character first surfaces as Black Manta, in his laser-shooting glory, during the Sicily sequence in the film. The character, who builds his own armour aboard his submarine, remains on the tail of Aquaman and Mera throughout the movie.
Vulko – Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe wasn’t on set when we visited the film studios in Queensland, but we learned a lot about his character Nuidis Vulko, who was cut from Justice League during the massive restructuring of the film.
Vulko is an esteemed member of the court of Atlantis, and we believe Aquaman first meets him when he discovers his powers as a young boy. He then acts as Aquaman’s mentor, explaining to the burgeoning hero about his place at the heart of Atlantis’ royal family.
“Volko knows who Arthur is and he’s aware of his birth and he’s like shepherding him through to become a king. So he keeps an eye on him,” explains production designer Bill Brzeski.
“Arthur, when he’s a little kid, and he’s in water doing all this stuff he gets a little help from an Atlantean guy who just tells him about his mother, and he starts to understand. Arthur always knew he was from Atlantis, but he doesn’t know where Atlantis is, he doesn’t know where his mother is, he doesn’t know the extent of his powers. He doesn’t know anything about it.”
In this way, Vulko is Obi-Wan Kenobi to Aquaman’s Luke Skywalker. He helps to teach the young Atlantean about his powers, which include the ability to swim at an incredible speed.
While the filmmakers remained tightlipped on any cameos that we can expect to see in Aquaman, we did learn about one huge sequence that would have featured a bunch of them, however it was cut from the script.
“There was a version of this movie where they were going to destroy New York City or Sydney, and the Justice League was going to help,” shares Brzeski, “but they took that out, so now we never really need Wonder Woman to help. I’m sure they would have liked to but it just didn’t make a good story.”
The film still features a sequence where Orm’s army seeks to wreak havoc on a major city, but now Aquaman heads him off underwater leading to a huge battle that the surface-dwellers are never aware of.
Aquaman arrives in UK cinemas on 14 December. Expect the first trailer to drop this week at San Diego Comic Con.