The holiday season is primed for some serious box office battles. But of all the flicks to inspire any kind of competition, I would have never imagined Mary Poppins to be an assured contender… with herself.
Mary Poppins Returns stars Emily Blunt as the eponymous musical, magical nanny, who is back on the big screen this December as a sequel to Robert Stevenson’s 1964 film. In beautiful coincidental contrast, Dame Julie Andrews — the OG onscreen Mary Poppins — has her own big movie coming out around Christmastime: Aquaman.
As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Andrews will have a voice role in James Wan’s amphibious entry in the DC Extended Universe. She fits right in with the already high-profile cast — including Jason Momoa as the title superhero plus Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and Amber Heard — playing a character pivotal to Aquaman’s coming-of-age journey.
Andrews is voicing the “Karathen,” a mythical sea creature who “holds the key” to the unification of Atlantis and the worlds on the surface. Wan has also revealed on Twitter that the Karathen holds so much power that it is certainly nothing to be messed with, either.
Frankly, we’re merely brushing the tip of the iceberg of surprises and mysteries regarding this character. The Karathen itself is a fairly elusive figure, given that this onscreen iteration doesn’t seem to have any roots in DC comics lore.
Nevertheless, according to Aquaman texture painter Reilly Lohr, we’ve actually already seen it in the final trailer for the movie. His own description of the beastly being highlights its scale and environmentally interlinked body texture as specific challenges to rendering the creature realistically.
This is evidently what the Karathen looks like:
Immediately, the image of a scaly, clawed, Kaiju-esque creature contrasts quite starkly to Andrews’ typical onscreen warmth. After all, she is still most well-known for portraying sensible characters. Not only did she break out in live-action feature films as the practically perfect Poppins, but she also embodies the sweet Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music and the kindly regal Queen Clarisse in The Princess Diaries.
Despite this, Aquaman producer Peter Safran has clarified that Andrews’ casting aligns perfectly with the Aquaman crew’s original plans for the Karathen. He tells EW:
“We wanted the Karathen to have the voice of a classic British actress, albeit somewhat digitally altered. And when we found out Julie was interested and available and excited to do it, casting her was a no-brainer.”
For her part, Andrews has proven herself to be a delightful voice actress regardless. Her first and only film role in the 1950s was a voiceover dub for the Italian animated film La Rosa di Bagdad.
Her only appearances in live-action projects in the last 10 years have been a goofy part in the wholesomely silly Dwayne Johnson vehicle The Tooth Fairy and in the educational television venture Julie’s Greenroom. Instead, since the mid-2000s, Andrews has kept busy doing voice work for some motherly characters who seem to sit in diametrically opposite ends of the niceness spectrum.
On the one hand, Andrews imbues Queen Lillian in the Shrek sequels with endearing and empowering qualities. She is a loving mother to protagonist Princess Fiona who happens to have an unexpected penchant for fighting, too. On the flip side, Andrews has had the distinct pleasure of playing the small but memorable part of a neglectful, cynical, and nasty matriarch in the Despicable Me franchise.
If there’s one thing we can say about Andrews as a whole, it’s that she’s unforgettable on screen no matter the size of her role. The Karathen sounds like a brand-new challenge for the veteran actress and her own purported excitement for Aquaman is enough to pique fascination.
The timing of the film’s release obviously makes it all the more amusing, as well. Of all the projects that could use a heartfelt actress like Andrews, she is still about to go head-to-head with the very brand that really solidified her film career from its very beginning.
Of course, a considerable cross-section of people would see Aquaman with or without a glorified cameo of hers; DC fans and Wan’s fans alone make up enough mainstream staying power, plus early buzz for the film has been positive. Yet, Andrews’ presumably intense appearance in Aquaman is already turning heads.
Moreover, a Mary Poppins sequel wouldn’t sound half as good if she hadn’t perfected her onscreen depiction years ago. Andrews has adamantly refused to dampen Blunt’s fire, electing not to appear in Mary Poppins Returns. However, she is basically synonymous with the magical nanny in question, having won a number of Best Actress awards to prove it.
That doesn’t mean Blunt will immediately do an inferior job in the sequel — I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings to the character — but Andrews is a vital part of the Mary Poppins legacy.
Basically, both Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns could serve as the most unlikely but entertaining Julie Andrews double feature and we should be all on board for it.