Since the release of the very first Aquaman trailer, it feels like we’ve already seen way too much of James Wan‘s foray into the DC Extended Universe. The decision to drop a whopping five-minute long trailer in October 2018 was ambitious if potentially concerning for the film’s marketing campaign.
That extended look into Arthur Curry‘s dual worlds does serve as a much-needed confirmation that both the shore and the depths of Atlantis will be vibrant and rich in ways that many prior DCEU films have not been. However, do all those scenes, which include a hefty amount of cheeky banter and glorious CG animation, dampen the prospects of this final trailer release?
In my opinion — as well as Wan’s — absolutely not. Because I like the idea of being continually convinced that this mashup of spectacle and humor will unequivocally work. Luckily, each Aquaman trailer has topped its predecessor. Now that these teasers have reached their final form, the footage plays more concisely and enchantingly than ever.
Watch the new, final trailer for Aquaman below.
Wan’s movies always have a sense of otherworldly escapism about them; even the bloodiest and creepiest of his projects are infused with confident aesthetics and stylish visual cues that they’re just immediately immersive. Aquaman takes that particular proclivity of Wan’s and kicks it up several notches. What we’ve now got is a visual feast; thankfully, with enough pathos and empathy to remain resonant. Let’s break it all down together.
Is there a better way to open a trailer than with a Nicole Kidman voiceover? The spot begins with what is essentially a quickfire version of Arthur’s origin story. His mother, Atlanna, warmly tells him the story of the “fallen” city of Atlantis, waiting to rise again at the hands of destiny.
It’s so easy to be continually won over by various iterations of tiny Arthur. Here he is looking especially wide-eyed and optimistic. He probably has no idea that he’ll soon be that teddy bear with the giant fork.
Seeing this shot (and others like it as the trailer goes on) of what looks like a golden age of Atlantis above water adds a definite wow factor to the film. I do wonder where these scenes will factor into a finished movie clearly filled to the brim with present-day quandaries and adversaries. That said, a flashback or dream sequence a la the cinematic retelling of Amazonian history in Wonder Woman is a safe speculatory bet.
The trailer does a good job establishing character growth and relationship dynamics via a series of comparative cuts. “This is the exact spot that (Nuidis) Vulko gave me my first swimming lessons,” Arthur tells Mera (Amber Heard). Immediately, Willem Dafoe puts young Arthur in his place and spurs the first inklings of his Atlantean abilities — well, “instincts.”
The graphics have already been more than commendable, so far. However, the moment Arthur truly embraces his underwater capabilities, a whole new world opens up for him and the audience.
Time for a training montage! Swimming among sparkling coral and jellyfish, jumping through the waves with dolphins, and honing the art of fighting with a trident (or a quindent, per Jason Momoa) does wonders of taking us along for the ride through Arthur’s fantastical coming-of-age story.
Before long, Momoa steps back into Arthur’s shoes as “the protector of the deep,” lifting an entire submarine (an example of David Kane / Black Manta’s underwater piracy, perhaps?) to the surface. He utters a line that feasibly fits well as a movie closer. Nevertheless, it still complements the ongoing journey of this smirking almost-king well. Despite having personal qualms over being the one true leader, Arthur is more than ready to stop the greedy machinations of humankind from invading the water.
From the depths of the sea to the arid dunes of the desert, falling into step with Arthur and Mera’s quest in search for King Atlan’s trident is effortless. We are constantly treated to gorgeous color palettes and shot compositions. This is really one of the more lusciously beautiful DCEU films. It’s still on track to surpass Wonder Woman in that department.
Upon finally encountering King Atlan’s hologram, Arthur and Mera are confronted with the truth of the trident’s inexorable power. The sequence actually plays out as a more detailed centerpiece in the previously released extended trailer. That version notably also includes a number of quips between the duo. In contrast, this final spot banks more on a tale of cautionary lineage than levity, which I find works better.
Patrick Wilson‘s Orm makes a tangible and ominous appearance in full costume as a worst-case scenario. On the one hand, this shot would serve as a more unwelcome throwback to the muted blue-grey tones of grimmer DCEU offerings. Yet it works rather well in this admonitory setting. This guy is about to wash out the vibrancy that Aquaman promises and we can’t have that!
“The time has come for Atlantis to rise again.” Wilson’s typically likable persona in many a Wan collaboration melts away to pure menace in Aquaman. His hair is still pretty amusing, but the guy travels by mosasaur. He means scary business.
Vulko and Mera have a plan for Arthur, though. We’ve already seen it put into motion, but this is an excuse to throw in an obligatory joke. This quick reference to both Arthur’s cocky foolishness and Vulko’s patient mentorship does make for a nice touch.
“A war is coming to the surface, whether you like it or not,” says Orm. This underwater craft could be another of Black Manta’s technological beasts. Still no sign of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
This is one of the most noteworthy action sequences in the entire trailer. The striking choreography and visual effects work together seamlessly to produce a deep-sea skirmish that’s purely entertaining.
That’s not to say that stakes on this battlefield don’t seem pretty damn high. (This shot gets bonus points for being my favorite throughout the whole trailer, as well.)
Finally, we’re face-to-face with Black Manta. He’s all decked out in his strange and captivating costume, ready to shoot some intense lasers at our heroes. So far, the trailers truly make him look cool, and besides that, Black Manta could present a legitimate threat to Arthur’s road to self-discovery. As the second formidable foe in Aquaman, representative of humanity’s excess, I’m hoping this character gets his due alongside the inevitable Arthur and Orm family drama.
Temuera Morrison makes a quick appearance as Thomas Curry, ready to deliver some much-needed pep talk to his brooding son.
And as a fantastic reminder of how badass the Queen of Atlantis really is, we can’t just have her sit around and tell folk stories. Atlanna protects her home with all her might.
Morrison’s encouraging voiceover is still happening, and it’s only fitting that any mention of “our two worlds” also includes a shot of Black Manta suitless and all too human. He is likely prepping an onslaught on Atlantis with his fancy (and absolutely beautiful) submarine.
As war wages on Arthur and his comrades from all fronts, Mera gets to kick ass in her own right. She features more sparingly opposite Arthur in the final trailer compared to the earlier extended one, but this is really her time to shine as an unadulterated warrior.
“What could be greater than a king?” “A hero.” There are a ton of mesmerizing and vivid screencaps to choose from in this trailer. As the footage wraps up towards the end of its two and a half minutes, plenty of these shots are gorgeously rendered action scenes. So, instead, I’m choosing to focus on one more parallel drawn between two Arthurs, because that’s the emotional core of the movie at the end of the day. His maturation over time makes the final reveal…
…of the King of Atlantis and his classic gold and green suit all the more rewarding.
Catch Aquaman in theaters on December 21st.