After his maiden voyage as part of the ill-fated team extravaganza Justice League, Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman is returning for his own self-titled blockbuster, due in theaters on Dec. 21. The first footage from the DC Comics-derived aquatic adventure premiered at CinemaCon yesterday, and Yahoo Entertainment was on the scene to talk to both Momoa and director James Wan. Asked how his time fighting alongside superfriends like Batman and Wonder Woman prepared him for a solo swim, Momoa credited Justice League with teaching him all about the wedgies and calluses he’d have to endure as Atlantis’s king and protector. “It was nice having Justice League to establish the character [with director Zack Snyder] and then be able to go into Aquaman.”
Wan, meanwhile, credits Wonder Woman’s record-breaking period adventure, directed by Patty Jenkins, with pointing the way forward for his own comic-book movie debut. “What made Wonder Woman so great is having the heart and the story and characters we care about,” said the horror expert behind movies like Saw and The Conjuring. “I think that applies to all the movies one should be making. My Conjuring films are not just about scary scenes; it’s about people that you care about and a story you’ll be invested in.”
Based on the CinemaCon footage, that story will pit Aquaman against his half brother, Orm Marius, aka the Ocean Master (played by Wan’s Conjuring collaborator Patrick Wilson), who would like to sit on Atlantis’s watery throne himself. While that coup is brewing in the ocean depths, things aren’t going swimmingly on terra firma either, as the Ocean Master and fellow villain Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) tries to sour relations between land and sea. Good thing Aquaman is suitably blunt about stopping their campaign: “I’m a blunt instrument, and I’m damn good at it,” Momoa’s character growls at one point.
Although Wan cautioned the crowd that the film’s visual effects were far from finished, the footage leaned heavily on spectacle, whether it was Momoa lifting a submarine clear out of the water or a younger Aquaman training with his quindent for the first time. There were also glimpses of Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe as science advisor Nuidis Vulko and of Amber Heard as supersoldier Mera, who made a quick cameo in Justice League but plays a much bigger role here. “She’s not a damsel in distress,” Heard promised. And Atlantis itself loomed large as a striking place to visit, with skyscrapers and giant shark-horses dotting the underwater landscape.
Even with unfinished effects, Aquaman was far from a washout with the CinemaCon audience, many of whom took to Twitter afterward to share their thoughts.
— Lauren Cox (@Iaurencox) April 24, 2018
— DCEUniverse (@DCEUnited) April 25, 2018
— Rohan Patel (@KingPatel7) April 24, 2018
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) April 24, 2018
— JoBlo.com (@joblocom) April 24, 2018
As for when those of us not at CinemaCo, when will be able to get our first glimpses of Atlantis and its king in action? … Well, don’t hold your breath. “This movie is filled to the gills with VFX, and the process is as slow and laborious as a sea slug,” Wan joked. “Even shots for the trailers take forever to do, and I refuse to put out anything that might be construed as subpar.” Take Dory’s advice and just keep swimming, James; if it’s as impressive as promised, we’ll wait.
Aquaman swims into theaters on Dec. 21.
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