At this point, it has mostly become a truth universally acknowledged that the Justice League franchise, as initially conceived by Warner Brothers as a direct response to the 2012's The Avengers film, has failed. But all is not lost. Batman and Superman may find themselves back on the drawing board, or better yet, put out to pasture for a couple of years, but other members of the DC comics universe are having their day. Wonder Woman has been the big franchise hit so far. But Aquaman's ratings suggest Diana Prince may finally have some company at the top of the heap.
One reason critics have felt the Justice League films and the Superman standalone failed was due to the dour and dark tone of the series. Wonder Woman eschewed this for something more colorful and cheerful, with notes of hope and faith. Aquaman, from all accounts, is following in her footsteps, with a brightly-colored spectacle worthy of the big screen. But notably, where she brought hope and faith, he brings a nonsensical madness to the party.
It seems to have worked because currently, Aquaman stands at 75 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It's not quite Wonder Woman's 93 percent Certified Fresh rating from last year, but it's far better than Man of Steel (56 percent), Justice League (40 percent), or Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad (27 percent each).
Over at the Los Angeles Times, the review gives the film a bit of a backhanded compliment.
Notwithstanding the inevitable formulaic dialogue and a superabundance of boilerplate superhero action sequences, Aquaman turns out to be, almost despite itself, an engaging undersea extravaganza.
CNN's review compares the film favorably to what Marvel wound up doing with Thor: Ragnarok.
Aquaman is a step toward restoring equilibrium, creating a sprawling undersea world that most closely resembles the Thor franchise in terms of scope, majesty and happily, humor.
And The AVClub states the reason it all works is star Jason Momoa, who, let's face it, is the reason many will go see it.
Aquaman needs its smirking, beer-loving, roadie-looking, Chippendale-chested hero — not to save the day, but to remind us that this is stuff is about as goofy as it gets.
As for how Aquaman is expected to do at the box office, the film comes at the tail end of a slew of releases, with no less than 18 movies arriving in the span of 10 days. Aquaman will find itself opening against American Renegades, Bumblebee, Holmes and Watson, Second Act, and Welcome to Marwen, all of which go into nationwide release the same day, not to mention Mary Poppins Returns, which is viewed as offering the stiffest competition, and gets a two-day head-start with a Wednesday opening.
Currently, Deadline believes Aquaman and Poppins will most likely split the opening weekend down the middle, with Aquaman probably reaching the 100 million mark by Christmas Day.
Aquaman in its five-day run from Friday to Christmas Tuesday is expected to bring in around $100M, with $65M over the three-day. Before anyone can scream that’s lower than Justice League ($111.9M for first five days), many rival distribs expect this $160M production to leg the holiday out.
Aquaman opens nationwide on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.