‘Aquaman’ is nothing if not ambitious, effectively taking audiences on a tour of the undersea realms from which the title character hails. As a result, it is a film rife with memorable imagery. And some of the most memorable of those images are tied to the Trench.
First introduced by Geoff Johns in the ‘Aquaman’ comics that followed the New 52 relaunch, the Trench-like Atlantians are descended from survivors of the destruction of Atlantis. Monstrous and vicious, they adapted over the years to life in the deepest parts of the ocean. With a description like that, the Trench have all the makings of a great movie monster. And given James Wan’s background as a horror director (responsible for the likes of ‘Saw’, ‘Insidious’, and ‘The Conjuring’, among others), you could be forgiven that he was simply throwing a monster into the movie because, well, what else is a horror director going to do?
But that’s not the case. While there is an element of, as Wan puts it, “leaning back into” his horror roots, the Trench were not there simply for the sake of throwing a monster into the film. Rather, there’s a thematic element to it, both in terms of Aquaman coming face to face with his future subject and in showcasing what you might call the duality of the ocean. As Wan explains to ScreenRant:
“I really wanted the hero to see the different kingdoms that eventually he’ll be king of, right? So he needs to see his subjects. And one of the races are the Trench people. Going into it I knew that I wanted Atlantis to be very vibrant, to be very sort of magical and wondrous and all that. But I also wanted to portray, or rather to capture, the tone and feel of the ocean to me. The ocean is big and magical and all of that, but also we’re terrified of the ocean as well. I felt that moment allows me to lean back into my horror roots to do something like that. And ultimately it allows me to really showcase one of my signature shot designs of the film, which is a cross-section of the ocean. And you get to see what’s above the surface and what’s below the surface. That was one of the first images I came up with during pre-production, which is Arthur and Mera swimming down, with a cross-section of the ocean. It’s a big, wide shot, and we just see them swarmed, surrounded by the Trench creatures. and the only thing that’s holding them back is this flare, the bubble, within the safety of the flare light. So I just thought from a visual standpoint it was something that was very captivating.”
Directed by James Wan, ‘Aquaman’, starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Temuera Morrison, and Patrick Wilson is now playing in theaters everywhere!