There have been several big reveals at San Diego Comic-Con this year and while I’ll be breaking down several of them over the next few days possibly the biggest and most exciting sneak peak we got is our first trailer of “Aquaman”, the DC Extended Universes next cinematic venture focusing on the former butt of jokes water-based superhero who became a standout star of the “Justice League” movie thanks to a charismatic performance by Jason Mamoa. With a charming leading man, great lore and an accomplished director at the helm many are hoping for great things from this project. So let’s take a look at our first peak into what the film has to offer as I break down the first trailer for “Aquaman”. As always let me know if I missed anything in the comments below and you can watch the trailer in full at the end of this breakdown.
The trailer starts with Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) explaining his origin. His father was a lighthouse keeper who found his mother, an Atlantean played by Nicole Kidman, washed ashore. We do get to see his parents in the flesh including a snapshot of what appears to be the same trident used by Aquaman in past films. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Aquaman receives this weapon as somewhat of a family air loom later in the film. We learn from the voice over that his mother was the queen of Atlantis and that she had her son with the human lighthouse keeper making Aquaman a half-human half-Atlantean being which might not surprise fans of the comics but if you’re unfamiliar with the lore of the hero it’s a good start. We see of Aquaman as a baby and his mother says “you could unite our worlds one day” which is in stark contrast to the status quo we learned in “Justice League” where Atlanteans, Humans and Amazons are separated into their own worlds on Earth. It’s an important sentiment that probably plays into Aquaman’s growth as a character later on in the film as he has to embrace what makes him both hero and human.
We then see a young Arthur Curry, the human name given to Aquaman, in what else but an aquarium. Curry is presented as a bullied young boy and when two kids decide to pick on him they are shocked when a shark in the tank not only bumps the glass, he cracks it. The visuals here leave quite a bit to be desired in my opinion, so I hope they get more polish before the final product. Regardless this is an important character moment for Curry because this looks to be the birth of his powers which had probably developed over the course of his young life. We see his eyes turn yellow, which seems to be a sign that his powers are being used, and we get this cool shot above of all the sea life in the tank focused purely on him as if they are waiting for their command. It’s a cool way to set up the power Aquaman will have over the sea and while his ability to talk to fish is often played for parody laughs James Wan makes a bold statement with this shot alone telling us this isn’t going to be the same lame Aquaman we’re used to. He’s a badass who demands respect.
We then see a grown-up Arthur Curry doing his thing underwater attacking a submarine for an unknown reason. Probably because they’re bad guys of some sort. Of course he’s shirtless (because he’s Jason Mamoa) but this kind of fits the character at what I suspect to be a young adult age where he’s more careless with his powers and does the right thing more because it’s cool than anything else. He even throws a nice comedic jab saying “permission to come aboard” which is consistent with the sarcasm we got from him in “Justice League”. Aquaman is looking more and more to be DC’s version of Thor in their cinematic universe. The wisecracking hero with powers and an ego he doesn’t quite know how to manage until a situation arises that forces him to do so. We get to see his physical strength as he beats the crap out of the men in the submarine which kind of fits the James Wan style action we should expect from the director of “Furious 7”.
We are then introduced to Mera, played by Amber Heard, who we also saw in “Justice League” but only briefly. She’s wearing a comic book accurate green outfit, but she also has the traditional Aquaman symbol on her waist which says this isn’t likely just associated with Aquaman specifically even if it matches the A in his name. We also saw that symbol on the file that Wonder Woman views in “Batman v. Superman” so it’s likely this symbol is not just for Aquaman in these movies, it’s a symbol shared by the entirety of the Atlantean race which is a nice bit of world building in a very subtle way. It’s like a seal of sorts. Mara tells Curry she has been looking for him and shows awareness of his lineage because immediately she introduces us, and Aquaman, to the main enemy of the film, Aquaman’s half-brother Orm who she calls King.
We get our first look at the main baddy with some pretty neat makeup to make Patrick Wilson virtually unrecognizable. He looks more like a man who is built for underwater life. The fact that he’s called king is important too because it means that Atlantis is his kingdom and that Aquaman is in line for the throne. Assuming he wins his battle, which we know he likely will at some point, it would be his place to rule the underwater kingdom. Anyways Mara dumps some exposition on us that Orm, also know as Ocean Master, is preparing to declare war on the human world. While “Justice League” might not have been a great movie it provided enough world building where we know why this is a big deal. As I already said the worlds of water, Amazons and humans have been separated for generations so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for a power-hungry, or even vengeful for whatever reason, king to bring the forces of the sea against the humans of the land. We then see a tidal wave with a boat take down Curry in his car and that same car is shown to be flipped behind him during a zoom-in shot also containing Mera and Curry’s father Thomas who is played by Temuera Morrison. The fact that Aquaman’s father is in the picture may be a key to pushing him to his superhero duties. Considering he just got toppled from a tidal wave himself, which the wave actually looks really really cool by the way, that’s just the kind of revelation where he’d look at Aquaman and say “you know what son I think you need to do the right thing here”.
After a few fun action shots and Amber Heard dry for a change we get to see an armored Arthur Curry. It’s not the traditional uniform we’re used to seeing, and the one that figures as Comic-Con apparently teased he will wear, but it does look like something an Atlantean soldier would wear. We also get yet another fun quip as Curry tells someone their pep talk sucks. We’re meant to think he’s talking to Mera but considering the way the scenes are cut that’s probably not the case. Then we get this really cool shot above that shows us Atlantis in all it’s colorful glory. This looks amazing and perfectly captures the imagination of what an underwater city might look like. Atlantis even LOOKS more advanced than humanity. This jaw dropping imagery is the colorful presentation we needed from a movie like this especially considering the darker tones of the DC Extended Universe so far. It’s in perfect contract to “Wonder Woman’s” yellow pallet and the blue, grey and brown hues of “Man of Steel”, “Batman v. Superman” and “Suicide Squad”. Aquaman’s world already feels brighter and I think the movie will be better off for it.
King Orm then appears, in comicbook accurate armor by the way, telling an audience that his brother is challenging him for the throne. It’s almost obvious that this will probably be one of if not THE first confrontation between the brothers and that Aquaman will likely lose and use that loss as motivation to spur his victory later on. Their fight is depicted as a battle-royal style showdown with a rowdy crowd of Atlanteans who all cheer when someone hits a forcefield-like they are pushed against. This calls back to “Justice League” where we say Aquaman and Mera talk in a bubble underwater. It’s possible, hell probable that this one-on-one fight takes place in such a bubble where the resistance of the water wouldn’t play a part. We do in fact see the brothers fighting outside of the water. Hell, it even makes sense that a group of Atlanteans would see such a fight as entertainment especially if Orm’s rule is as ruthless as Mera implies. They’d be desensitized to this kind of action. Regardless the crowd cheering speaks to the mood and tone of this movie which promises not to take itself too serious, and that’s a good thing.
As with most trailers the final moments are a collection of smash cuts including a scene of a teenaged Arthur Curry training by catching his mother’s trident and Curry lifting a submarine out of the water all on his own. It’s probably the same one he is shown entering earlier in the trailer. A voiceover from Aquaman describes how he didn’t ask to be a hero. He was forced into action “to save his home” but I don’t think Atlantis is what he’s talking about here. Orm has declared a war on humanity so the home he’s talking about is probably Amnesty Bay and the human world that raised him into the man he has become. His journey to Atlantis was not to become king, it was to stop a man only he has the power to stop and with that logic he really doesn’t have a choice. He has to do it or watch people suffer as a result. We also get our first shot of Vulko in this montage, an Atlantean scientific advisor played by Willem Dafoe, as well as our first look at The Trench who swarm a boat that Aquaman and Mera jump off of as the swarm follows them into the deep. It’s a neat shot (shown above) that again shows the potential of the visuals in this film.
Many have waited to see another villain make his debut and we do get that in Black Manta, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who is first shown without his iconic helmet which we see later in the trailer is not only comicbook accurate but has functioning red beam eyes. In this film Manta is supposed to be a rogue weapons expert of some sort so him teaming with a war-hungry Orm will be no surprise. We do see the shot above soon after where his costume is revealed and it does have me super excited to see him on the big screen face off against his famous superhero foe.
We get to see many different underwater races, including shark riders and seahorse riders, some human, some more aquatic looking, who have been gathered together, probably by Orm, to potentially invade dry land. We actually hear Orm saying that war is coming to the surface world and that he is bringing the rath of the “seven seas” with him. The film supposedly has seven kingdoms involved in the undersea world so if each sea has its own race of beings that would be why there are so many different kinds of underwater creatures featured in this trailer, some more creatively designed than others. The trailer approaches its final 20 seconds with what appears to be Orm’s army beginning, or continuing, their assault. We also get to see Black Manta use his ray vision against Aquaman on dry land which is super cool. What’s important to point out is that the army charging ahead in these closing seconds is not charging towards land. They are, indeed, underwater which means that Orm’s war begins probably by attacking those who defy him in his own territory. It would make sense considering how power hungry he really is. Plus, if he shows his muscle against defectors it sends a message to the other realms. Fight with me or die by my hand. The more I watch this commercial the more excited I am to see Ocean Master come to fully realized life based on his seemingly ruthless nature alone. We then get the title card followed by a little comic relief as Mera jumps out of a plane, surprising both the pilot and Curry who follows exclaiming “red heads, gotta love em” before yelling as he makes his dive into…a desert? That’s odd for a pair of water based beings huh. Hmmm….
Anyways that’s my breakdown of the “Aquaman” trailer. It looks like it’s going to be a whole lot of fun, much lighter in tone that the other DC Extended Universe movies and has James Wan’s signature effects-laden flair all over it. Jason Mamoa seems to be truly enjoying himself as Arthur Curry and after he brought the character to a new level of cool in “Justice League” I’m really hoping the film lives up to its promise. Some of the effects look like they have a lot to be desired, but the visuals of the tidal wave and Atlantis look promising and the villains look like they will be a joy to watch as well. This could very well be a much needed shot in the arm for DC much like “Wonder Woman” was last year, but we’ll have to wait until December 21 to find out.