Atlantis needs a hero, and the surface dwellers need a protector.
On Friday, Warner Bros. dropped a new, extended look at Aquaman, the upcoming entry in the studio’s DC superhero movie universe. The five-minute clip centers on Jason Momoa’s titular hero and Amber Heard as the Atlantean aquakinetic known as Mera. It explains a lot of the basic background of the movie: the origin story of Aquaman a.k.a. Arthur Curry; the introduction of Black Manta, the energy beam-wielding villain; and the impending war that the whole world, surface dwellers and underwater denizens alike, hinges on.
In between all that setup, though, we also get big bursts of color and humor, in the form of glimmering CGI underwater creatures and copious wisecracks from Momoa, respectively.
It all adds up to a clip that suggests a tonal shift away from previous Warner Bros. superhero movies like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, toward a brighter, more colorful strain of superheroism that feels in line with the mega-hit Wonder Woman.
The undersea scenes are full of bright reds and pinks spangled onto a banner of crystal blues and greens. Momoa’s more buoyant, slightly sardonic take on the hero — not to mention his shiny golden version of Aquaman’s classic costume — is a pronounced departure from the grimness of the studio’s recent iterations of Batman and Superman (and not totally unlike the recent direction Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has taken over in the Marvel universe).
The clip also features an extended chase scene that provides a sense of what director James Wan might bring to Aquaman. Wan made his name with horror hits like Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring, but broke out in a serious way with his work on 2015’s Furious 7, which feels in some ways like a direct precursor to Arthur and Mera’s high-flying, explosive rooftop pursuit.
Following the relatively tepid response to last year’s messy misfire Justice League, the best-case scenario for fans and everyone involved would be an Aquaman that’s not only a breakout hit but also a great movie. While we won’t know whether it succeeds until Aquaman hits theaters on December 21, 2018, this clip suggests the ingredients are all there.