Movies & TV / Columns

How Successful Will Aquaman Be?

December 15, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Aquaman Arthur Mera

Looks like Entourage was more on the money about Aquaman at the box office than we would have expected. The latest superhero movie earned $19.7 million in its first two days in (non-China) overseas markets and brought $1.3 million in both Russia and Brazil while earning $1.4 million in Mexico.

Aquaman earned another $12.51 million in China in its second Friday, after making $24.5 million on opening day the week before. All together the movie has a $147.94 million worldwide run so far and it looks to be diving deep in the US. All signs point to this being a massive hit.

Is anyone else a little surprised by this?

When Warner Bros. shared a 5-minute trailer for James Wan’s Aquaman a few months back, some thought it was a bit of a gamble showing so much before the release. The extended preview gave us a strong idea of what to expect in terms of mood and feel from DC’s most famous underwater hero. DC’s track record at the theater has been, putting it nicely, uneven outside Wonder Woman, and they were looking to set the cinematic universe on a better path going forward.

Many wondered if Aquaman, who has been the butt of a number of jokes in pop culture, was up to the task?

The buzz for Aquaman started when Jason Momoa was announced to portray the superhero in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Momoa, who was excited for the role and working with director, Zack Snyder, made it clear he was committed saying, “You know, I don’t know what it’s going to be like yet. But I’m in for the long haul, and it’s an honor. Zack [Snyder], you know, he had me at hello; literally when he told me what he wanted to do with the character and what he wanted to do with the world. There’s no script written yet for certain things, but I listen to his ideas. I trust him. You just got to believe in that.”

Aquaman had a bit of stigma around him that largely stemming from the Superfriends cartoon in the 1970s. His other mainstream plug was in HBO’s Entourage but his comic book journey is much more interesting.

For a number of years it seems that Aquaman has had an identity crisis. On one hand, his primary strength is in the water, talking to fish. Then we get a writer who tweaks some things and he’s supposed to be threat, no matter where. In his early Golden Age appearances, Aquaman could breathe underwater and control fish and other underwater life for up to a minute. Initially, he was depicted as speaking to sea creatures “in their own language” rather than telepathically, and only when they were close enough to hear him.

Then came the Silver Age. Aquaman’s ability to talk with fish expanded to full-fledged telepathic communication with sea creatures even from great distances and he was also retroactively developed a specific weakness: He had to come into contact with water at least once per hour, or he would die.

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, Aquaman started sporting a deep-sea blue, costume. His own series added mystical elements to Aquaman’s mythology and in the Legend of Aquaman Special, they rewrote Aquaman’s mythos and origin, though keeping most of his Silver Age history intact.

The tweaking continued. Peter David’s Aquaman: Time and Tide further explained Aquaman’s origins as he finally learned all about the history of his people through the Atlantis Chronicles. Aquaman discovered his birth name was Orin and that he and his enemy Ocean Master shared the same father.

Then came 1994’s Aquaman #1. David was back and made some more changes. First up was giving Aquaman a new look. He now sported long hair and a full beard and liked to brood in cave. Then he lost his left hand when Charybdis stole his ability to communicate with sea life and sticks Arthur’s hand into a piranha-infested pool. Rolling with the punches, Aquaman attaches a harpoon spearhead to his left arm in place of his missing hand.

He’s been more mystical at times and more royal in others. He’s never been a consistent character and he’s had a hard time shaking the “wimpy fish guy” stigma, especially among the mainstream audience.

Also, I have to point out that while his rogues gallery isn’t as well known as Batman’s, he has overcome some heavy hitters. Black Manta, Ocean Master, Charybdis, The Thirst, King Shark, Siren, Triton…Umm, the Human Flying Fish. OK, so they need to really work on his villains.

Bringing this back around, Momoa took what was considered a B-level hero at best, who suffered pop culture identity crisis and has made him cool. The Aquaman cast is loaded with big names and the movie is coming off as fun, epic, and has people talking in a positive way.

Makes you wonder if they’ll do Aquaman v Wonder Woman: Sunset of Justice down the road.