NOTE: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Justice League
The world of DCEU speculation was hotly anticipating a Green Lantern reveal, but got more Aquaman than they ever hoped to expect. Footage of a digitally-amplified Jason Momoa swimming underwater (in what looks to be Atlantis itself) came without warning as a gift to fans from director Zack Snyder. Considering how impressive the brief visual effects shot is, it’s not hard to see why the Justice League director decided to share it.
Putting excitement aside, since it’s only a few seconds of Aquaman’s undersea action in Justice League, and little more than an appetizer for his own solo movie, fans might be surprised to learn how much the clip may have revealed. Combining our previous theories, what we know and suspect about Justice League as a whole, and a few noticable nods to the current DC Comics Universe, we’ve come to some promising conclusions.
Those who wish to be completely surprised by the movie’s plot can whet their appetite with the seconds-long clip of underwater Aquaman and look no deeper. But for those starved for any and all details of what Snyder is up to, join us as we break down What Justice League‘s Underwater Aquaman Video Reveals.
Where It Fits in the Film
The first look at Aquaman in the Comic-Con preview of Justice League was almost the exact opposite of what was expected with Jason Momoa’s casting. With his Polynesian tattoos and heritage, seeing him clothed in large fur coats and delivering aid to a frozen seaside village in Iceland was more than a little counter-intuitive. But now that we’ve gotten this tiny glimpse, some possible answers surface. For starters, it’s no coincidence that as Aquaman lives his life in secret, hiding from his duties as the successor to Atlantis’s throne, he’s physically as far away from it as seems possible.
Examining the wardrobe he’s been seen wearing in Justice League footage, promotional photos and behind the scenes sneak peeks, a chronology can be presumed. The most memorable scene involving Arthur Curry on land has to be the image of him strutting to the end of a pier, emptying a bottle of alcohol along the way, before removing his shirt as the waves rise to envelope him. Apparently, he leaves his boots behind too, since this new clip shows him in the same black pants, barefoot, and swimming up to the very same armor he’s wearing in all the action-focused sequences of the film.
In a single viewing, one could assume he’s swimming into some sort of actual throne room, with the large, armored, scepter-wielding figure before him, and guards placed around them. But those guards are statues, implying this location – and the figure seated on the throne in the king’s armor – is a ceremonial one at rpesent. Perhaps because Atlantis currently sits without a king…? We would wager that Arthur has arrived to at least partially accept that he can no longer hide from the Apokoliptian threat that his ancestors once stopped. He takes the trident, and the armor… but leaves the ornate crown behind. He’s ready to fight, but not to rule.
The Dead King
As an added note of comic book trivia that could prove to be either a knowing nod to the comic fans (Zack Snyder has made such bits of fan service his trademark), or a major clue to the story Aquaman will be thrust into in his solo movie series, that motionless, armored king he swims toward has a name. Or, he does in the comics, where he’s not a statue at all: Atlan, the first monarch to rule Atlantis, and now known to Atlantean history as ‘The Dead King.’ Considering what else we know about Justice League‘s opening scenes, his presence here makes a great deal of sense.
For those who are unaware, Snyder and DC have been open about the prologue of the film, beginning thousands of years in the past when Apokolips first tried to invade and dominate Earth. The planet was defended, at the time, by an alliance of humans, Amazons led by Queen Hippolyta, and the Atlanteans led by – you guessed it – King Atlan. In the comics, he was also the king who saw his family murdered by his traitorous brother, and sunk the entirety of Atlantis in retaliation and grief (those who survived beneath the surface became the diminished Atlantean race).
It’s hard to know how much of that mythology will be worked into the film, but Arthur simply recognizing King Atlan’s statue wearing the traditional royal armor would be enough to drive home the significance. The audience sees Atlantis at its heights in the prologue, and it’s rough, gruff, alcohol-swilling, vacant successor in the present. A scene of Arthur not just taking the armor, but looking upon the face that both he and the audience know is a reminder of his people’s past greatness would carry serious thematic weight. Here’s hoping.
How Aquaman Will Move Underwater
Few DC fans were actually expecting to see Aquaman make an appearance in Batman V Superman by the time the movie hit theaters, and the same went for The Flash and Cyborg. And as thrilling as it was to see Jason Momoa emerge from the black depths of a sunken ship and use his trident to take out a remote operated underwater drone, the small cameo raised some questions. Sending Momoa underwater to hold his breath, and move like someone… well, underwater was clearly a temporary fix. But what would Aquaman’s movements underwater actually look like in their finished form?
Now that we’ve seen Aquaman swimming underwater as Zack Snyder intends in Justice League, the answer is a simple and elegant one. In short, he seems to move through water as Superman moves through the air – albeit a bit more smoothly. The brief scene in BvS showed Aquaman was obviously not propelled by physically swimming, but erupting forward with increasingly fast bursts of speed. It was reminiscent of the way Superman moved from a standstill into flight, and even at slow speeds, the same thinking seems to be applied here.
There may be some added physical movements, like Aquaman arching his back to rise, pulling his feet forward to slow to a balanced stop. It’s the kind of straightforward, logical approach that, once you see it, wonder how it could be any other way. The physics and fluidity are what sells it even in these few moments, and the slight adjustment to make the water seem a bit thinner than the real thing may be all that’s needed to improve over the slower, laggy BvS look. Seeing these character physically speak underwater is its own challenge, but if you dial up the Atlanteans’ ability to move within water, being able to articulate their jaws at a similar speed may solve most of the problem.
What To Expect From Atlantis
It’s impossible to tell just where or in what location this footage is set. But given his reluctance to head there, and the presence of what appears to be royal armor and the trident of Atlantis’s king, it seems a safe bet that it’s the underwater city itself. A few stone columns covered in coral reef and vegetation are to be expected, but the implied design may hint at Zack Snyder’s take on Atlantis – potentially as modern as his version of Aquaman himself. Gone are the classical buildings plopped onto the bottom of the ocean floor of yesterday: this new Atlantis is as one with the sea as its hero.
Snyder is making the right call, since Wonder Woman will be bringing to life the same kind of classically inspired architecture of the Greek and Roman style (with a twist), so it only makes sense for Aquaman’s dominion to embrace the tropical, brightly-colored, but more sparsely constructed layout. We assume that based on the open water visible throughout the frame, even surrounding this presumably important site. In our world, a city at the bottom of the ocean would be set in almost permanent twilight from the sun’s inability to pierce so deep. So why does this scene look so brightly lit?
From the overexposed top of the frame (obviously hindered by the quality of the video here) you would almost think Atlantis sits among a tropical coral reef just a few dozen meters below the surface of the ocean. We don’t yet know where it will be located, or how it has been kept secret from the rest of the world. But match this setting with the new Aquaman inspired by Pacific Islanders, and it seems to fit. Let speculation now begin on not only where Atlantis is located in the DCEU… but how deep.
Those are the biggest points we took away from this first official glimpse of Aquaman’s underwater world, and the biggest steps forward and question raised for us to consider in the coming months. What do you think of our breakdown? Do you have any questions, answers, or theories of your own to add? Let us know in the commnets.
Header Image by Mau Loa