SDCC 2018: New DCEU Trailers Show that Horror Directors Can Have Fun Too

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s no secret that I’ve been a vocal critic of the DCEU, the movies put out by WB and DC from 2013 to now, and I’ve made my sentiments on the current state of it clear on the podcast.  However, the rebranding of their movies to the Worlds of DC seems to be opening a new chapter in a franchise that has stalled out. Naturally, my expectations were low for the trailers coming out of SDCC 2018. For Shazam!, the stills hadn’t done anything for me and after Chuck, my interest in Zachary Levi has waned. For Aquaman, I was excited after the poster dropped but ultimately didn’t expect much after Justice League gave no real context to Jason Momoa‘s character. But when I watched the trailers for the next two movies in the DC film line-up, I saw the are different from anything they’ve given us before.  I’m excited.  One of the interesting things about these next two films is that they seem to be a departure from the gritty and sepia-toned worlds from before them.  They have brighter color palettes and more humorous lines coming from two horror directors no less: James Wan (Aquaman) and David Sandberg (Shazam!).

Aquaman – Releases December 22, 2018

We can almost single-handedly credit James Wan for getting horror back into big theatre releases and the majority of horror movies that have come out since his conjuring universe began are based on his aesthetic. In fact, the horror podcast Fightday described his work and those that use his look and jump scare structures “wan-re film.” From the man who brought us Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013), I didn’t expect such a hyper-color world, but that’s what this trailer brought, and I’m here for it. As much as Wan’s work has been dark, he’s always had an eye for visuals. Whether it’s the red-faced demon or the nun, Wan knows how to create an image that sticks with you. With this trailer, I can name at least three or four shots that stick with me, particularly the ones with young Arthur in front of an aquarium, the Atlantis highways, and a Black Manta here to ruin some Atlantean days. Wan’s visual expertise and this brighter color palette are set to change everything we’ve seen from DC adaptations before now.

In the trailer, Arthur seems to be taking the throne from his brother Orm (Patrick Wilsonwith the help of Mera (Amber Heard), and we see glimpses of big battles and we get the urgency of needing to stop Atlantis from warring with the surface world. Seemingly based on the New 52 “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, from 2012-2013, and the animated movie of the same name, the trailer seems to be nailing all the important pieces of that story. The only differences between these existing stories and the trailer are that the former has heavy involvement from the Justice League and the latter seems to predate the live-action Justice League which was released last year.

With shots of Arthur in a classic costume and Atlanteans speaking without making air bubbles to talk in, I’m looking forward to this movie. As someone who has hated almost every film from the DCEU, this trailer gives me an excitement I didn’t think I would have. I’m excited for December and I’m looking forward to all of the extra TV spots and hopefully see some more examples of Mera in action. The Mera of the comics and the animated universe is formidable and I can’t wait to see her warrior queen spirit on-screen.

Shazam – Releases April 5, 2019

Directed by David Sandberg (Lights Out (2016), Anabelle: Creation (2017)), Shazam! follows an orphan boy, named Billy Batson (Asher Angel), given the ability to become an adult superhero in times of need with a single magic word: “Shazam!” The trailer highlights his friendship with Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the story of a boy trying to come into and control his new-found power. A departure from the doom and gloom of other DCEU movies, this one seems to focus on the micro and not the macro of saving the world. However, with Dwayne Johnson cast as Shazam’s nemesis Black Adam, I’m sure the coming months will show us a story with more at stake.

At this point, the trailer captures everything I love about the character of Shazam and it gives us a look at heroes from the view of a child. With newspaper clippings about Superman and a batarang on display, we’re entering the world of DC and heroes through the eyes of a character closer to us and it’s exciting. The costume for  Levi as Shazam still doesn’t sit well with me, it’s too puffy and the padding distracts when I see it in scenes. That being said, the character interactions and dialogue are very well done, and I hope the whole film is at the same level next year. The trailer is fun, bright, and all that I needed from this movie. As a horror director, Sandberg surprises me with the amount of youth and brightness that this trailer exudes.

It seems as if the shuffling of those in charge, and the success of Wonder Woman, has finally gotten DC to get their stuff together. Each trailer exudes the heart of the characters featured. The dialogue fits the heroes and the fun these movies showcase is unreal. Even with Aquaman, the balance between brightness and the threat of war puts together a look and feel we haven’t experienced yet. Given the trailer we received for the new Teen Titans live-action adaptation, Titans, these trailers provide a giant relief and highlight how the people in charge have heard critiques and have addressed them. I want nothing but the best for the Worlds of DC film universe, and with the trailers that were dropped today, I’m sure they’re going to be closer to get the best from this time forward. With horror directors at the helm, we’re about to go on a fun adventure in both of these films and it’s where we need to be moving forward. Now, I know these are just the trailers and I’m singing their praises, but it’s apparent that things are changing in the right direction so I’m putting faith in them. We’ll see what happens when the movies come out, but for now, I’m pleasantly surprised and hyped.