The success of James Wan's career to date has resulted in finding himself in the unusual position of being offered not one, but two superhero franchises to choose from. With Warner Bros. eager for the director to helm one of their movies, Wan had the choice between Aquaman and The Flash.
Wan recently revealed that he chose The King of the Seven Seas over Barry Allen because, as well as the rich visual possibilities of creating an aquatic world, the "bar was a lot lower" with that DC character. Elaborating, Wan said he believes reduced expectations with Arthur Curry have resulted in more creative control.
And he may have a point. For all the success of the superhero genre in recent years, those at the helm are constrained within the paradigm of canon, comic book history and crazy fanbases. As a result, a number of clashes and disagreements have occurred between studios and directors.
Precedent Suggests Aquaman Is The Right Choice For James Wan
So much so, it often leaves creative control for films involving characters such as Aquaman in a catch-22 situation. Perhaps one of the most well known instances in recent times centers around Fox's failed Fantastic Four reboot last year. Director Josh Trank was seriously not shy about expressing his disappointment with what he felt was studio interference, tweeting that fans would never see his version of the film.
Factor in the complexity of expansive shared universes, such as the DCEU and the MCU, and you have an added level of consideration. For all the obvious benefits to the multi-billion dollar Marvel juggernaut, at times having such an overarching vision has put Marvel Studios on the collision course with the director in charge.
Joss Whedon has spoken of his struggle with executives while directing Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Speaking to Empire podcast around the promotion of the film last year, Whedon admitted to feeling "beaten down" after constant disagreements over what to include, or exclude, from the film.
And while Marvel made a small addition to its shared universe by introducing Ant-Man last year, director and producer Edgar Wright — who had been working on a script (and even shot test footage) since 2006 — left the project in 2014, citing "creative differences" as his reason for departure.
Studio Input Versus James Wan's Creative Freedom
There's no doubt studio involvement is important, and Wan will be aware that Warner Bros. will be required to ensure correlating storylines match within the DCEU, where Jason Momoa's Aquaman has already featured.
However, unlike The Flash, who has risen to prominence thanks to the successful CW TV show, Wan clearly feels that Aquaman provides more room for freedom. It's certainly an interesting challenge, as the character has been made fun of throughout the years, despite actually being pretty badass.
Considering Wan's track record — typified by the recent release of Conjuring 2 — plus his desire to make an interesting deviation within the realm of the DCEU, taking charge of Aquaman could prove to be a shrewd move.
Aquaman is released on July 27, 2018.