Aquaman surpassed $1 billion at the weekend, and that’s significant for a number of reasons. The James Wan-directed film has grossed a current worldwide total of $1.036 billion, and while it’s starting to wind down in most territories, it will still likely to do big business when it opens in Japan next month. Whereas no fewer than six films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have hit the coveted $1 billion milestone, Aquaman is the first film in the DC Extended universe to have done so, and the first DC film overall to have grossed over $1 billion since The Dark Knight Rises, which was released all the way back in 2012. So DC fans should absolutely be celebrating right now, but it is also important to note that Aquaman’s incredible success could have major implications for the DCEU franchise going forward.
Firstly, the Christmas release period clearly played a role in Aquaman’s strong performance. However, it could be argued that it was bound to be a hit for the simple reason that it was the only film released over Christmas which targeted the teen demographic. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was predominantly marketing towards a younger crowd, Mary Poppins Returns was clearly targeted at families, and Bumblebee, despite the previous Transformers movies being summer blockbusters, was marketed more as a children’s film than as something which would please fans of the brainless action of the Michael Bay films. In other words, many would argue that Aquaman had no real completion, and while they may have a point, but whichever way you look at it, we can expect Warner Bros. to release future DCEU films over the Festive Season.
It’s also worth mentioning that Aquaman was marketed more as a fantasy adventure than a traditional superhero film, and a shirtless Jason Momoa being prominently displayed in the trailers and posters obviously helped to draw in a female crowd. Could this mean that future DCEU films could be marketed more as specific genre pieces? For instance, we see Wonder Woman 1984 being promoted as an ‘80s style action flick with fantasy elements as opposed to something trying to appeal to people who rush out to see comic book adaptations? At this point, it seems very likely.
Aquaman was released over a year after Justice League, which was a major financial failure for Warner Bros. The lesson to take away from this is that instead of over saturating the market by releasing shared universe films only a few months apart, it helps to leave a long gap in-between to stop audience fatigue from setting in. This is something Disney learned the hard way by releasing Solo: A Star Wars Story just five months after The Last Jedi, with the latter film also proving to be a money loser. Aquaman received significantly more positive reviews than Justice League, which could also have been a contributing factor, it was still a wise move to keep both films over a year apart.
It’s probably too early to tell at this point, but the combined success of Aquaman and Wonder Woman along with the disappointing performance of Batman v Superman (which only just grossed enough to be a success) and the failure of Justice League may indicate that Warner Bros. may ditch ensembles when it comes to the DCEU and focus on solo films instead. Because let’s face it, the idea of putting all your characters in one film and hoping for the best may work for Marvel, but it sure as hell hasn’t worked for DC. It’s just speculation at this point, but it does seem unlikely that we’ll be seeing another film crammed with DC heroes anytime soon. So if you were looking forward to a sequel Justice League, you might not want to hold your breath.
However, had Warner Bros. decided to follow the Marvel formula by releasing Aquaman before the character went on to appear in Justice League, there is a strong possibility that the solo film would not have surpassed $1 billion, but it would have helped Justice League to have been more successful by familiarizing audiences with the character. But they rushed Justice League out the door without first taking the time to set up each character with their own solo film, something which they probably came to regret.
Having said that, we’ll never know for sure what would have happened had Warner Bros. done things differently, but either way, a sequel to Aquaman is now almost guaranteed. Rest assured, a topless Jason Momoa will soon be returning to our screens.