James Wan hesitates when he's asked to show footage for his upcoming DC solo film, Aquaman. The acclaimed director played the same "it's a work in progress" card at San Diego Comic-Con when he unveiled the very first footage from Aquaman, and he hemmed and hawed from the stage of CinemaCon 2018 before playing some spectacular footage from the pending blockbuster.
At first, I thought this act was false modesty. But now, having seen it, I understand James Wan's hesitancy. He's planning something massive with Aquaman, a grand-scale adventure set above and below the surface of the world's oceans. And showing it off in its unfinished state steals a little bit of the scope and beauty of what Wan is accomplishing.
But based on what we saw in Las Vegas, damn... this is going to be an epic chapter in the DCEU.
The Aquaman footage that we saw at CinemaCon opens over the ocean, of course. The camera skims the surface before plunging down, and we begin to see Atlantis, Aquaman's kingdom. The closest thing I can relate it to, at the moment, is the bright, color and expansive Land of the Dead from Pixar's Coco. It's this, but not quite this:
There are a number of establishing shots as Arthur Curry returns to Atlantis (presumably after his adventures alongside the Justice League). And then we start to get a sense of the plot. In a scene reminiscent of Black Panther, Arthur has to battle his corrupt half-brother (Patrick Wilson)... and it appears he might lose. Banished to the surface world, Arthur will do what he can to protect the land, as his step-sibling, Orm (the Ocean Master) promises to bring an army to our world so he can conquer from the sea.
The concept art sprinkled into the montage of battle scenes shows what James Wan and his team have in store Soldiers riding on the backs of sharks. We see massive ships, training sequences for young Arthur Curry, Jason Momoa battling folks on a submarine (and telling Mera that he's a "blunt instrument" who is very good at his job). The movie claims to reference Lord of the Rings and Romancing the Stone, and the shot that seemed out of place -- but still intriguing -- was Mera and Arthur walking through a desert. No clue where they were heading.
In general, though, the footage looked incredibly bad ass. We got a brief look at Black Manta, and the costume looks fantastic (straight out of the comics). We saw quick shots of Willem Dafoe -- but not Nicole Kidman... unless she whipped by quickly. Not to compare everything to Wonder Woman, but Wan's vision looked far more complete and confident -- like Patty Jenkins' take on Diana -- than anything we have seen in the DCEU up to this point, so I an eager to see how it all plays out later this year.