"Tone" has been the magic word for the DC Universe since the release of Batman v Superman. Would future films get the right tone, giving audiences a sufficiently fun, superhero feeling to go along with the universe's decidedly dark vision? Well, at CinemaCon 2017, that answer, maybe for the first time, was "Yes."
A still from Justice Leauge. All Images: Warner Bros.
At the Las Vegas convention, Warner Bros. presented new footage from Wonder Woman and Justice League -- and the first footage anywhere of Aquaman, which hasn't even begun shooting yet. And with each, it really looked like the DC Films may be on the right track.
They showed this last, but I'm going to talk about it first. Basically, we saw the trailer you've all watched by now but with three new, very quick scenes.
The first scene was Bruce Wayne working in a huge new warehouse he bought near the harbour. In it, we see what they called on-set "The Flying Fox". However, it seems this may be the first time we see it in the movie. Bruce is working on the huge plane when Diana walks in. Bruce says that he spent a lot of money on security for this place and she replies that it was worth it, because it took her almost a minute to disable it. She asks what he's working on and he says a prototype jet used to carry troops. He got it because he thinks there's a battle coming. "Not coming, Bruce," she says. "It's already here."
Then the trailer, which you've seen, followed by a slow motion shot of Wonder Woman falling down a shaft. She's trying to catch a sword that is falling. The Flash sees this, runs up the wall and ever-so-slightly touches the tip of the sword, bouncing it back to her so she can grab it. Very cool stuff.
Next, Barry, Diana and Bruce are standing outside in street clothes and the Batsignal comes into the sky. Barry freaks out. I don't remember the exact phrasing but it was basically something like, "Oh awesome, the Batsignal, that's you!" He says it loudly though and realises they are in public. "Oh shit, sorry, that means we have to go now, right?" "Yes, that's what it means," Bruce says.
The wonder and attitude that Diana and Barry show in these scenes is everything missing from the previous films. Admittedly, these are only three short pieces, but they were great.
The DC section of the CinemaCon panel began with Aquaman, a film that Jason Momoa revealed he was literally getting on a plane that night to go shoot in Australia. So, obviously, there isn't any footage but they put together a little reel of concept images to explain what Aquaman is going to be like.
It started with what looked like a bunch of ships flying against a dark blue sky. Very dark, metallic, looking ships. Think the Kryptonian tech in Man of Steel, but not exactly that. Anyway, director James Wan explains in voiceover behind these images that he wanted to create a dogfight in outer space. However, as you are watching it and the camera moves closer and closer you realise these aren't ships. They are humans riding sharks and octopuses. And we saw images of exactly that. The entire fight is underwater.
Wan described Aquaman as an origin story, so the first time we see Atlantis should be the same time Aquaman sees Atlantis. The concept art was epic. A huge, almost Gondor-like city, lots of detail, and hangers with ships going in and out which are flanked by massive statues. However, there are also shots of a lighthouse on a hill, and a few more serene spaces. The whole movie is not going to be underwater.
He described Aquaman's world as a very different one, and they showed a few characters such as an almost robot character with a single, large, red eye and another that was almost like a walking man with a shark head (quite possibly Black Manta and King Shark but I can't be sure). There's also an image of Aquaman putting his hand on a huge whale.
Aquaman couldn't have been made five years ago, says Wan, because everyone in this world is basically their own superhero. They fly and slide everywhere because they are in water, and each has special abilities. As Wan talks about this, we see lots of concept art of characters played by Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard and others. We also saw Aquaman fighting a huge creature.
The film is described as a fun adventure with romance, and as we hear that, there's a drawing of Aquaman and a woman sitting on a boat under a sunset. A quick burst of images showed underwater ruins, killer hammerheads, and, finally, a battle between two people with tridents.
I was stunned by the epic vision Wan presented in this footage. Unfortunately, we have well over a year until we see it.
Last but certainly not least was Wonder Woman, the film we've seen the most from because it's out in June. The presentation started, basically, with an alternate version of the most recent trailer. However, it then went into a scene of Steve Trevor and Diana Prince on a rundown old boat.
"How long until we reach the war?" Diana asks. Steve explains the war is a big place but Diana persists. "Where the fighting is most intense," she says. She believes it's there that she will find Ares, the God of War, and defeat him with her sword. She believes she's the only person who can do it and, once she does, the Germans will be free of his influence and go back to being good people.
It's late, however, so Steve asks if she wants to go to sleep. She says yes but when he goes to sleep somewhere else, she's confused. There's plenty of room, she says, do you not sleep with women? This leads to Steve trying to be a gentleman but also not wanting to insult her, and it's a very cute, believable interaction between these two polar opposite characters.
Steve asks her who her father was if she's never met a man before. Diana responds that she never had one. Her mother sculpted her out of clay and she was brought to life by Zeus. "That's neat," Steve says.
The scene then changes to the morning. They are pulling into London and Diana says that this place is hideous. And it is. It looks very much like a DC Films city, with smoke, ruins and plenty of grey and blue.
On the streets of London now, they're walking somewhere and Steve begins to get suspicious. He believes they are being followed. So he ducks into an alleyway and he's right. Someone puts a gun to his head. Just as another man is about to shoot him, Diana blocks the bullet with her bracelet. This leads to a fun action scene with Diana beating up five or six men quite easily. Steve asks if she has any other tricks and, just then, she lassos a man who was further away.
The final new Wonder Woman scene has her in the full armour. She's with a group of soldiers in a blown apart city. She tells them to wait because she's going ahead and she starts running. Using her shield to block incoming gunfire, she launches off a wall and into another apartment. The rest of this scene you've seen in various trailers, where Wonder Woman dismantles several guys peppered with tiny instances of slow motion. And it's very cool, but the way it ends is better. She kicks the final man out of a window and, from the side, we see her kick him, him go through the window, she follows as the glass explodes and the camera moves across the wall following them both outside. She then starts running on rooftops and that's where the new scenes ended, right into a montage of footage.
What I liked best about Wonder Woman was the way it played with reality and mythology. Diana and Steve are people from two different worlds and ways of life. Their differences are truly used in a smart, entertaining way to give the film some energy. I hope it works that way throughout.
All in all, an impressive showing for the DC films at CinemaCon yesterday.