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‘Aquaman’ Concept Art Makes a Splash at CinemaCon

Variety logo Variety 3/30/2017 Brent Lang
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LAS VEGAS — Jason Momoa told theater owners at CinemaCon that he was leaving on Wednesday evening to fly to Australia to begin production on “Aquaman.”

Consequently, the superhero film didn’t have a trailer to show exhibitors. That didn’t stop Momoa and director James Wan from debuting a video rich with production art that promised to take audiences to a dazzling underwater universe.

“I want the audience to experience Atlantis in the way that Aquaman experiences it as well,” said Wan, whose credits include “The Conjuring,” “Insidious,” and “Furious 7.”

The mockups that Wan showed were arresting. They included drawings of an elaborate dogfight pitting warriors riding sharks and octopus-like creatures. There were also deep sea dragons, glittering palaces, and an image of Aquaman, trident in hand, riding a hammerhead shark.

“Aquaman is an absolute bada–,” said Wan. “This is the kind of movie that could not have been made five years ago.”

“Aquaman” opens in theaters on Dec. 21, 2018. The art was introduced as part of Warner Bros.’ presentation to exhibitors at CinemaCon. The sizzle reels included extended previews of “Justice League” and “Wonder Woman,” two DC Comics films that the studio hopes will rival the cinematic universe that Marvel has created.

The “Wonder Woman” footage got a strong reaction from the crowd. There was plenty of Gal Gadot in fighting form, riding a white horse into battle and deflecting bullets with her magic bracelets. There was also an extensive, sexually charged scene between Gadot and Chris Pine, as Wonder Woman’s love interest Steve Trevor. The two are shown drifting in a boat at night, with Pine, ever the gentleman, suggesting it’s improper for the two to sleep alongside each other unless they’re married.

“Suicide Squad” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” were commercially successful, racking up a combined $1.6 billion globally. However, critics hated the films, slamming them as dreary, laden affairs. Zack Snyder, the director of “Batman v Superman” and the upcoming “Justice League,” seems to have taken the criticism to heart. The “Justice League” material was heavy on quips. At one point, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is tinkering in his shop when Wonder Woman sneaks up behind him. He tells her he spent millions of dollars to install security equipment.

“You got your money’s worth,” she notes. “It took me a minute to disable it.”

In another instance, the Flash (Ezra Miller) nearly jumps up and down as the Bat Signal cuts across the night sky.

“Oh awesome!” he exclaims. “It’s the Bat Signal! That’s your signal.” Putting a hand to his mouth, he then apologizes for shouting. The film opens on Nov. 17, 2017, at which point Warner Bros. and DC will find out if the levity translates into bigger box office.

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