Hollywood is going overboard with excitement over the success of “Aquaman.”
The Warner Bros. film featuring the cheesy DC Comics character is having a fine time at the international box office, having taken in $751 million so far. But a glut of slavish stories would have you believe it’s the rarest of phenomenons; the Northern Lights of cinema. No movie has EVER been so successful!
“ ‘Aquaman’ Box Office Heads for $900M in Big Splash for Warner Bros.,” writes the Hollywood Reporter. And, “How ‘Aquaman’ Became the hit DC Films Needed and Deserved,” a Forbes headline reads.
Settle down, fellas. This isn’t “Titanic” or “Avatar.” “Aquaman” is on par with most of the DC Extended Universe films. In fact, it’s currently the third highest grossing after “Batman v Superman” and “Wonder Woman.” The movie only just edged out “Suicide Squad,” which hauled in $746 million worldwide, and that at the same point in its run had made $53 million more than “Aquaman” domestically.
Indeed, at the domestic box office, “Aquaman” looks a lot less impressive. Right now, it sits at $188 million — sixth-best in the DC Extended Universe. Forbes notes, rightly, that it had one of the franchise’s smallest drops from its first Friday to its second — just 47 percent. However, its opening weekend take of $67 million is also sixth-best in the franchise — about $100 million less than “Batman v Superman.”
So where are most of its gold doubloons coming from? China, a notoriously fickle market where foreign films must be approved by secretive regulators to play there. Those regulators report to — I kid you not — the Department of Propaganda. When comic book movies do get approval, they tend to perform well because they lack any cultural specificity, kind of like “Cats.” The bland “Venom” had a very successful run in the country this year, too.
Now, after playing in China for about a month, “Aquaman” has fallen to local movies you’ve never heard of: “Kill Mobile” and “Mojin: The Worm Valley.” Its armor is hardly impenetrable, and the Chinese income could slow from a gush to a drip.
Sure, $751 million is a lot of money. The film could, conceivably, reach $1 billion worldwide. But is that such an extraordinary feat for a superhero film anymore, with the genre’s extremely broad appeal and extra cash from IMAX screenings? Not really. “Captain America: Civil War” did it, “Black Panther” did it, “The Avengers” did it. Hell, “Avengers: Infinity War” made $2 billion. I say let the flacks do the trumpeting.