In our exclusive chat with him for his new horror film Malignant, director James Wan explained why he squeezed in what he calls his return to his “more gritty, rough thriller roots” in-between shooting the massive studio productions Aquaman and its sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. While Wan has made sequels before — The Conjuring 2, Insidious: Chapter 2, and the now-filming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom — he says he only does them when there’s a new hook to the story that interests him or some new aspect of the characters he loves that he feels is worth exploring. Otherwise, he’s not interested in repeating himself:
“There’s a reason why I don’t make three movies in the same series. It’d be lucky to get me to make a sequel. And then after that, I just get bored. I want to do something different.”
So what then is about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom that made him return to the DCEU?
“I would say the thing that really got me excited to come back to it is finding a story that I think is worthy and if not better than the first movie,” Wan said, adding, “And also, for me, really, when I come back to a sequel, whether it was for Insidious 2 or The Conjuring 2, and now Aquaman 2 is I helped shape and create these characters that I eventually fall in love with, and I feel like I’m not done with them yet. So I feel like I owe them one more story from me.”
Wan, who is currently in London filming the Aquaman sequel, said he really wanted to come back in order to “continue the next chapter of Arthur Curry’s story, and Orm’s story, and Mera’s story, and Black Manta’s story.” He credits screenwriter David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick for “finding a really cool story to bring all these characters back, and then growing them in a big way, and taking them to the next level or the next chapter of their lives.”
Beyond the characters, it was the potential of more underwater world-building that kept Wan interested in making another Aquaman film. “The first movie introduced the audience to such a big world that was only scratching the surface. And I feel like I can now dig deep into that and expand on that more,” Wan told IGN. “It’s when I feel like I no longer have anything else to say, that’s what I back away. But right now that’s not the case with the Lost Kingdom.”
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Judging from recent social media posts, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will explore a similarly lost underwater civilization, Necrus. In the DC Comics, Necrus was a militant society ruled by the tyrant Mongo and, unlike Atlantis, Necrus wasn’t in a fixed location but rather could appear in various locations thanks to its ties to a roving alien satellite in Earth’s orbit.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is scheduled to open in theaters on December 16, 2022.