DC Comics’ lord of the seas is getting his own solo feature in 2018’s Aquaman. Jason Momoa will reprise his superhero role from 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League for the film, and early reviews offer reason to be optimistic about the movie’s arrival.
Directed by Insidious and Furious 7 filmmaker James Wan, Aquaman follows Arthur Curry (Momoa) as he is forced to reconcile his loyalties to the surface world with his role in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, which has become increasingly hostile to the humans polluting the oceans. The film’s supporting cast includes Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Dolph Lundgren, and Nicole Kidman.
With Aquaman hitting theaters December 21, 2018, here’s everything we know about the movie so far.
The first screenings of Aquaman in late November offered plenty of reasons for fans to give thanks, with the film earning high praise from critics in attendance. Although official reviews were embargoed until closer to the film’s release date, there was no shortage of positive reviews to be found on social media.
Fandango’s Erik Davis called Aquaman a “big, sprawling visual spectacle that is gorgeous, crazy, stuffed with terrific action, and a lot of fun to watch.”
#Aquaman is the most ambitious DC movie to date — a big, sprawling visual spectacle that is gorgeous, crazy, stuffed with terrific action, and a lot of fun to watch. James Wan, in my opinion, is the true star – he elevates the material, makes it entertaining and conquers it. pic.twitter.com/gDFjiAWICA
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) November 26, 2018
Meanwhile, Gamespot’s Mike Rougeau described it as “flawed but fun” and called Momoa and Wilson “absolute gems.”
Saw #Aquaman before thanksgiving and had a week to think about it. It's flawed, but fun. Momoa and Patrick Wilson are absolute gems. Most of all, the movie is just flat out insane. I can't believe how big, creative, and crazy it gets. Gotta see it again! pic.twitter.com/m2oRbHVtu9
— Mike Rougeau (@RogueCheddar) November 26, 2018
Entertainment Weekly collected some additional early reviews of the film from the pre-holiday screenings.
WB released the “final” trailer for Aquaman (see above) ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, possibly in the hopes of giving eager fans plenty of time to discuss it over dinner.
There was plenty to talk about in the trailer, too, which offered quite a bit more visual-effects footage and even gave audiences their first, extended look at Willem Dafoe’s character in the film.
Warner Bros. Pictures will give Amazon Prime subscribers a chance to see Aquaman a week before the movie’s official U.S. release date. The offer lets members purchase up to 10 tickets for December 15 screenings of the film at more than 1,000 theaters around the country, across AMC, Regal, and other major theater chains.
More details, a video announcing the event, and ticket-purchasing information can be found at Amazon’s dedicated Aquaman movie site.
That’s a wrap
Aquaman director James Wan announced that the film had officially finished post-production on Sunday, November 4, with a post on Instagram.
“After two years of consuming and devouring my every waking hour, this little indie movie is finally done,” wrote the filmmaker. “It was a monster undertaking. I can’t THANK enough the amazing post team of VFX/editorial/sound for working tirelessly around the clock — crazy-long days, 7 days a week, for many many many weeks without a day off — towards making this a unique and beautiful film. Everyone poured their heart and soul into it, and I can’t wait to share this 21st December! In the meantime, I’m gonna go take a really long nap now.”
The announcement followed the release of a new trailer for the film just a few days earlier, which offered some additional, effects-heavy footage from the movie.
A long look
Just a few months before Aquaman splashes into theaters, the studio released an extended preview of the film online featuring more than 5 minutes of footage.
The preview includes what appears to be several full scenes featuring Momoa and Heard as Arthur and Mera, respectively, along with new footage of the villains — including Abdul-Mateen as Black Manta — and other supporting characters.
The first trailer
Warner Bros. Pictures debuted the first trailer for Aquaman (see below) during the studio’s Comic-Con panel in July.
In the days leading up to the standing-room-only event, star Jason Momoa kept anticipation high with an Instagram video he posted Friday, a day before the event.
The first poster
Warner Bros. Pictures debuted the first official poster for Aquaman on the film’s Twitter account less than a week before the studio brought the film to Comic-Con.
— Aquaman Movie (@aquamanmovie) July 16, 2018
The poster’s debut was accompanied by confirmation of the date when the first trailer for Aquaman will be released: Saturday, July 21.
Black Manta, Orm, and more
Just over six months before Aquaman hits theaters, Entertainment Weekly revealed a set of photos from the set of the film featuring Momoa’s Aquaman, as well as several other characters being glimpsed for the first time.
Among the photos was the first look at Abdul-Mateen as David Hyde, the character who will become the aquatic villain Black Manta, gazing at the film’s version of Manta’s helmet.
Another photo featured Momoa’s Aquaman facing off with Wilson’s Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and the film’s primary antagonist. This was the first look at Wilson as Orm.
More Aquaman photos are available on EW’s website.
A different look
Warner Bros. released the first photo of Momoa in Aquaman via EW on December 7, It shows a ripped, imposing, and, of course, shirtless Arthur Curry striding with purpose against a backdrop of steam. He looks different than he did in his most recent DCEU film, especially when it comes to his tattoos.
Wan prepared fans for the fact that Aquaman brings changes, just like the photo.
“It’s going to look very different,” the director told EW, “it will feel very different — aesthetically, tonally, story-wise — it’s my own take.”
The film will cover ground (and sea) its predecessors didn’t have time to in either Batman v Superman or Justice League. With the aquatic superhero as the film’s focus, it will be able to take a deep dive into his backstory. Momoa highlighted as much when he spoke to EW, teasing that we’ll see his character not only as a hardened man with a chance to become king but also as a boy “finding his powers.”
Wan described the film as “a much more a traditional action-adventure quest movie,” and Momoa clearly approves of the direction the director took.
“I think James Wan just killed it,” Momoa said.
No dialogue bubbles
Audiences for Justice League got a good look at how Aquaman would fit into the DC Extended Universe, but one aspect of his role in the film caused some intense debate among fans that necessitated a message from the Aquaman director himself.
At one point in Justice League, Aquaman interacts with Mera after an undersea battle with the villain Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). Before they speak to each other, Mera uses her powers to create a pocket of air around them and make conversation possible. This prompted some fans to wonder whether such an air bubble would need to be created every time anyone has a line of dialogue in Aquaman — a plot device that would likely get a bit repetitive over the course of the film.
The conversation surrounding the “air-bubble dialogue” eventually led Wan to issue a statement about his film.
????????️♀️ Fret not, no “air bubbles for dialogue” in my underwater world. https://t.co/rRbWp2Ejfd
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) November 21, 2017
“Fret not, no ‘air bubbles for dialogue’ in my underwater world,” Wan wrote on Twitter.
How the filmmaker will present undersea conversation in Aquaman remains a mystery, but apparently, we now have confirmation on how it won’t be handled.
That’s a wrap!
Filming on Aquaman officially ended October 21, 2017, after a five-month shoot that began in May 2017. Most of the film was shot in Australia, with significant amounts of footage shot at Village Roadshow Studios in Gold Coast, Queensland.
Wan commemorated the start of filming with a post on Twitter in May that revealed the working title of the film at the time: “Ahab.”
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) May 3, 2017
Man and Aquaman
Over the years, Aquaman and his powers have earned a reputation for being, well … not exactly cool. That is something that Momoa is not only aware of, but has made it clear he’s hoping to change with his portrayal of the character in Justice League and Aquaman.
“The cool thing with Aquaman is how it taps into the native culture,” Momoa told Digital Trends in February 2017. “That’s something that we’re only taught a little about, so there’s a lot of interesting things. I really think it’s the right time.”
The world got its first look at Momoa as Aquaman in 2015 when director Zack Snyder released a promotional image for Batman v. Superman depicting the actor in costume as the character.
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) February 20, 2015
While his appearance in that 2016 film was brief, the world got to see more — much more, in fact — of Momoa as Aquaman during the marketing campaign leading up to the release of Justice League. Along with giving Aquaman an expanded role, Justice League also introduced audiences to his powers and the undersea kingdom of Atlantis that would factor heavily into the plot of his solo movie.
Momoa’s portrayal of the character got the spotlight in a March 2017 promotional video for Justice League released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Every king needs a queen
The Atlantean queen, Mera, has become almost as prominent a character as Aquaman in the DC Comics universe in recent years, thanks to her water-controlling “hydrokinetic” powers and telepathic abilities.
Fans got their first look at Heard as Mera in a photo posted on Twitter by Snyder in October 2016.
Saw this hydrokinetic vision come out of the sea and snapped a photo with my Leica. pic.twitter.com/rwU54XzScK
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) October 12, 2016
The photo posted by Snyder features Heard in the version of Mera’s costume seen in Justice League, complete with shoulder armor and crown.
A few months later, Wan posted another photo of Heard as Mera from her first day on the set of Aquaman. The photo, which was posted to Twitter, featured a different costume this time around. with considerably less armor and no crown.
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) May 18, 2017
Villains of the sea
Reports indicate that Aquaman will feature multiple villains challenging the film’s titular hero for control of the seas.
The first among them to be cast was Watchmen and The Conjuring actor Patrick Wilson, who joined the film in December 2016 in the role of Orm, the half-brother of Arthur Curry. Orm is better known to comics fans as the villain Ocean Master, a brilliant, powerful member of Atlantean royalty who frequently attempts to take control of Atlantis by any means necessary.
A few months later, actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was cast in the role of David Hyde, the villain who goes by the name of Black Manta in the DC Comics universe. A vicious treasure hunter and mercenary, Black Manta has proven to be one of Aquaman’s deadliest foes despite being a human. He wears a high-tech suit that gives him powerful abilities underwater, along with a massive helmet that contains an array of sensors and weapons that rival Aquaman’s own natural abilities.
No stranger to physical acting, Abdul-Mateen made a name for himself as the disco-dancing Cadillac on the Netflix series The Get Down.
As if that wasn’t enough for Aquaman to handle, Rocky IV and The Expendables actor Dolph Lundgren was added to the cast in April 2017. No stranger to playing comic book characters thanks to starring roles in 1989’s The Punisher 1987’s Masters of the Universe, Lundgren is expected to play King Nereus in the film.
Nereus is described in the casting report as the leader of the aquatic kingdom of Xebel, and “claims Mera as his own and wants to kill Aquaman.” Nereus has roots in Aquaman’s comic book adventures, too, having debuted in a 2013 issue of DC’s Aquaman series.
The supporting cast
Joining Momoa, Heard, and the film’s trio of actors in villain roles is a supporting cast that includes more than a few noteworthy names (and faces) from big- and small-screen projects.
Academy Award winner Kidman (The Hours, Moulin Rouge) was cast in the role of Aquaman’s mother, Atlanna, in February 2017. In the DC Comics universe, Atlanna was Atlantean royalty who fled the undersea kingdom and fell in love with a human lighthouse keeper. Their child’s unique genetic makeup gave him powerful abilities, and he eventually became the superhero known as Aquaman.
This won’t be the first DC Comics role for Kidman, who previously played the Dark Knight’s love interest in 1995’s Batman Forever.
Playing Aquaman’s father, Thomas Curry, will be Attack of the Clones actor Morrison, who previously played Jango Fett in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In Aquaman’s comics continuity, Thomas Curry was responsible for teaching Arthur Curry to handle his powerful abilities at a young age and keep them hidden from humanity.
Oscar-nominated Spider-Man and Platoon actor Willem Dafoe is also reported to have a role in Aquaman as Vulko, the advisoer to the Atlantean royal family. Dafoe was initially expected to make his debut as the character in Justice League, but his scene was cut from the final version of the film, according to Momoa.
“It’s a huge movie introducing three new characters, and for myself and The Flash and Cyborg, there was a lot that was there we just couldn’t get in,” Momoa told Entertainment Weekly. “It could have been two movies. We had some stuff with William Dafoe. The whole Atlantean part, about me being this reluctant king. There was no need for it because you’re going to see it in Aquaman.”
Additional supporting cast members include Power Rangers actor Ludi Lin as the leader of the “Men-of-War,” a specialized strike force in the Atlantean army, and Waiting to Exhale actor Michael Beach as the father of Black Manta. Beach is a familiar voice to Aquaman’s fans, having voiced Black Manta in the animated series Justice League Unlimited.
Updated on November 30, 2018: Added excerpts from early reviews of the film.