After barely four weeks in cinemas worldwide, Aquaman has exceeded all expectations and is now officially the highest grossing entry in the DCEU. Starring Jason Momoa as the titular hero, Aquaman has generated more than $940 million and will be the first DCEU release to make it into the $1 Billion Club by the time it has finished its theatrical run.
Thanks in no small part to a whopping $261 million from its early launch in China, James Wan's gloriously bright superhero movie confirms that Wonder Woman wasn't a one-off. DC can make jokes now, and audiences are loving the change of direction from dark and moody, to psychedelic levels of color and innovation. Based on the critical and commercial failure of last year's Justice League, I don't think anybody was expecting Aquaman to do this well.
Up until the last few years, the cornerstone of DC on the big screen has been Batman and Superman. Once Christopher Nolan had completed his Dark Knight trilogy, the plan was to launch a more grounded Superman franchise in the same mold. Nolan and frequent Batman writer David S. Goyer developed the script for the Zack Snyder directed Man of Steel. Making a respectable $688 million worldwide, Henry Cavill's first outing as Superman was off to a modest start. Then, Warner Bros has the bright idea that they could catch up with Marvel and its years of worldbuilding with a single movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Their ambitious plan didn't pan out as hoped, but it's Wonder Woman and Aquaman that have emerged as the new cornerstones for Warner Bros to build a better-shared universe.
Aquaman, Wonder Woman, its 1984 set sequel, and Shazam! are all primarily unburdened with setting up another two or three films, or directly connecting to other characters with their own franchise. A shared cinematic world is only an enticing prospect when audiences are invested in the individual characters, thankfully, Warner Bros has finally learned that there are no shortcuts, and focusing on making better singular movies is having a positive effect on both the quality of their offerings and the box office.
Aquaman is out now in cinemas everywhere.