Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment debuted the trailer to "Aquaman" at this year's San Diego Comic-Con to high praise. Getting even more buzz was the exclusive footage that "Aquaman" director James Wan brought along to show fans — it reportedly revealed more action than the trailer.
WB/DC needs "Aquaman" to be a winner in a "Justice League" era in which only its "Wonder Woman" franchise is a sure-thing crowd pleaser. "Shazam!" looks to have some super-potential to change the attitudes toward WB/DC's superhero offerings, but it doesn't arrive until next spring. Come this December, all eyes will be on "Aquaman" to see if the Jason Momoa-starring film can help us forget about the failure that was the buildup to "Justice League."
Therein lies perhaps "Aquaman's" biggest hindrance: his superhero team affiliation. You can't help but listen to Momoa scream as he jumps out of a plane during the "Aquaman" trailer and think back to a similar scene when he was air-surfing bad guys in "Justice League," a movie that was rushed and didn't deliver the iconic superhero-gathering moment it should have, especially given the roster of heroes involved. At first glance, "Aquaman" looks nothing like another "Justice League" and instead seems to show WB/DC learning from the success of "Wonder Woman." "Aquaman" will attempt to tell a solid origin story not weighed down by universe-building and instead focusing on a singular heroic tale, enhanced by a top-notch cast featuring Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard and Willem Dafoe.
WB/DC rarely has a bad Comic-Con. Similar buzz followed the SDCC footage of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad," and we all know how those films turned out in the eyes of many. Winning Comic-Con isn't enough to guarantee success. Marvel Studios hardly attends SDCC anymore, so that should tell you how important succeeding in July is. It's like winning the offseason in sports.
What matters come this winter is the story. If "Aquaman" leans enough on the comic book tales of Geoff Johns' stellar run writing Aquaman comics, it should be in good shape. The Comic-Con footage gets a lot right. The underwater scenes look great, and Atlantis and all the life it hosts are a sight. Those worried that they'd be treated to more air bubbles for conversations like we saw when Heard (who plays Aquaman love interest Mera) chatted with Aquaman in "Justice League" should be happy. We don't see too much of Aquaman's half-brother, Orm/Ocean Master (Patrick Wilson), who wishes for Atlantis to rule the surface world, but we've seen enough of Wilson as Nite Owl in "Watchmen" to know he's good at playing complicated comic book characters.
Perhaps the two most geek-tastic moments from the trailer were Aquaman lifting an entire submarine over his shoulder while flying/swimming through the sea and the highly anticipated first look at Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as fan favorite Aquaman villain Black Manta, who looks like he jumped right out of a comic book panel. "Aquaman" arrives in theaters Dec. 21.