Ever since rumors first started swirling about a potential Aquaman movie back in 2004, the hype around seeing Arthur Curry on the big screen never let up. And just over 14 years later, all that excitement finally paid off as Jason Momoa's blockbuster became the DCEU's highest-grossing film yet while earning an already confirmed sequel. And there are so many reasons to love Aquaman, from the adventurous story to the incredible wardrobe to the breathtaking visual effects. But it turns out that there was just one specific scene—or rather one shot in particular—that fans have to thank for getting the first Aquaman made.
At the grand opening of DC Universe: The Exhibit's new Aquaman presentation at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, Aquaman producer Peter Safran revealed that after finishing the first movie, his greatest joy was "watching the Trench sequence come to life."
"That was a really complicated sequence to create," Safran says. "We built a ship—a giant gimbal. We had our actors there, we were hurling gale force rain and wind at them, and the boat's moving back and forth. Craziness! But that sequence where they dive off into the water and then the camera follows them down as they follow the flare and you see thousands of Trench creatures swarming around them? That was a piece of concept art that we had that I think actually got us the green light for the movie."
He smiles as he thinks back to that one particular shot. "To see that come to life was incredibly gratifying," he adds.
It's not hard to imagine how seeing that now-iconic Trench shot could convince the Powers That Be to make Aquaman, but if they needed any additional reasons to make the movie, look no further than the underwater duel between Arthur Curry and Patrick Wilson's King Orm, surrounded by all of Atlantis.
"I always, from the early days of the concept art, loved the gladiatorial fight in the volcano," Safran shares. "I always had this incredible sense of what it could be. And when we finally had it done, it surpassed every expectation I possibly had."
When Safran saw that sequence completed for the first time, he knew that DC had a massive hit on their hands.
"Just the movement in the fight between Jason and Patrick was spectacular," he adds. "The look of the crowd, the look of the statues there, the whole environment, the lava that was bubbling beneath them, everything about it was better than anything I anticipated."
And considering how much work went into making Aquaman’s big set pieces and action sequences to life, Safran's relief and pride makes a lot of sense. Even scenes that would be considered easy in other films had so much more additional work put into them, since most of the movie takes place underwater.
"There's really no simple scene where it's four people sitting around a dinner table," Safran elaborates. "If it's four people sitting around a table in our movie, they're underwater and they have to have neutral buoyancy and they're floating up and down and it requires them to be harnessed. Everything was complicated. That was a real challenge."
Not only did it require a ton of visual effects work in post-production, but it also meant that filming on this movie was extremely tough for the actors.
"You've got to have these actors in harnesses and on tuning forks for such long periods of time," Safran says. "Thankfully, all of our actors are in amazing shape and are real pros, so nobody was complaining, but it makes it difficult. It makes everything a little a little tougher."
Of course, once all the filming concluded, the real hurdle began: perfecting every single VFX shot to bring Atlantis, and anything underwater, to life.
"It is a big VFX challenge creating a lot of these environments,” Safran says. “There are thousands of shots. That's always a challenge because with a director like James Wan, who is so specific about every single frame of film, it just takes a long time to get it to the place where he's happy. We always knew we had a stellar script and a stellar cast and a great director, but the physical nature of making the movie was so much more complicated."
Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Patrick Wilson, is now available on Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.