James Wan brought his new film Aquaman to Chinese audiences on Dec 7. CFP
It’s never easy for an Asian to earn a place in Hollywood, either as an actor or a director. However, 41-year-old James Wan, an Australian of Malaysian Chinese descent, is one of the great exceptions. He brought his new film Aquaman to Chinese audiences on Dec 7.
Many have praised the film as the underwater cousin of Star Wars and The Lord of Rings. However, the movie is distinctly the work of Wan. The movie borrows elements from the ancient Chinese classic, Journey to the West.
“I am of Chinese descent, so I heard many Chinese stories as I grew up. I have always liked Journey to the West and The Monkey King and was influenced by these Chinese elements when I was filming.” Wan told China News.
Wan’s Aquaman tells the story of the half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry. Curry has to find out who he really is and fight to be a king. Wan created a submarine world of giant crabs and gold and blue buildings made from coral. “The underwater stuff has never been executed like this before,” wrote US comic book writer Geoff Johns. “The visual effects shots coming in are just beautiful.”
To have created this unique imaginary world is a successful switch for the director. After all, he is best known for his blockbuster horror films Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. Saw was actually inspired by Wan’s nightmares during his first year in college. Together with his life-long colleague Leigh Whannell, he wrote a script based on them.
Wan was also greatly affected at an early age by the evil queen in the Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs of 1937, a movie he saw with his mother. “As trippy as Snow White is, it has a very dark side to it. So from a very young age I was somewhat subjected to movies with a darker streak.”
With the change in direction of Furious 7 and now Aquaman, Wan is showing that he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a “horror director”. In fact, he’s a constant innovator. “I love horror, but I became somewhat synonymous with it,” Wan told CNN. “I just wanted to prove that I’m not just a horror filmmaker, I’m a filmmaker, period.”