As the holiday season approaches, movie lovers are eagerly anticipating the release of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the highly anticipated sequel to the 2018 blockbuster hit “Aquaman.” With the box office in a state of uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic and the underwhelming performance of recent superhero movies, the question arises: will “Aquaman 2” sink or swim at the Christmas box office? In this article, we will delve into the expectations, challenges, and potential success of the film, analyzing the current landscape of the superhero genre and exploring the factors that could influence its performance.
The Aquaman Phenomenon
Before diving into the prospects of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” it’s worth revisiting the success of its predecessor. Released in 2018, the first “Aquaman” movie took the world by storm, exceeding expectations and grossing over $1.15 billion globally. In North America alone, the film collected a staggering $335 million, despite a relatively modest opening weekend of $67 million. This unexpected triumph made Aquaman, portrayed by the charismatic Jason Momoa, one of the most beloved superheroes in the DC Universe.
A Challenging Year for Superhero Movies
While the first “Aquaman” film defied expectations, 2023 has been a challenging year for superhero movies. Films like “The Flash,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” and “Blue Beetle” failed to make a splash at the box office, leaving both fans and studios uncertain about the future of the genre. As “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” prepares to make its debut, it finds itself in choppy waters, facing the daunting task of rejuvenating the superhero genre after a series of disappointments.
The Final Lame Duck?
Adding to the pressure on “Aquaman 2” is the fact that it has been positioned as the final installment before DC’s new bosses, James Gunn and Peter Safran, reset the sprawling superhero universe. This positioning raises the stakes for the film, as its performance could potentially shape the direction of future DC movies. With this in mind, Warner Bros. has seemingly scaled back the marketing efforts for “Aquaman 2,” opting for a more subdued approach compared to the extravagant red carpet premieres of the past.
The Christmas Release Strategy
As a December release, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is banking on the holiday season to provide a boost at the box office. While Christmas weekends are not traditionally known for massive opening numbers, they often benefit from staying power throughout the new year. The first “Aquaman” film is a testament to this trend, starting with a relatively modest opening and eventually amassing a significant box office haul. Warner Bros. is likely hoping that lightning will strike twice, and “Aquaman 2” will enjoy a similar trajectory.
The Box Office Competition
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is not the only film vying for audience attention during the holiday season. Other movies, such as Warner Bros.’ musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” Neon’s drama “Ferrari,” and director George Clooney’s “The Boys in the Boat,” are also entering the box office race. However, none of these films are expected to be breakout hits, leaving theater owners concerned about a lackluster holiday season. The absence of potential billion-dollar blockbusters like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” further adds to the uncertainty.
Migration: A Family-Friendly Alternative
One of the films competing with “Aquaman 2” is Universal and Illumination’s animated feature, “Migration.” Positioned as a family-friendly option, “Migration” hopes to capture the attention of audiences, especially those looking for an alternative to superhero movies. With a budget of $70 million, this original animation film comes from the creators of popular franchises like “Despicable Me” and “The Grinch.” Led by a star-studded voice cast, including Kumail Nanjiani and Elizabeth Banks, “Migration” aims to make its mark in a crowded holiday season.
The Iron Claw: A Different Kind of Family Film
In contrast to the family-friendly animation of “Migration,” A24’s “The Iron Claw” offers audiences a different kind of family film. Based on the tragic true story of the Von Erich family, a dynasty of professional wrestlers plagued by a series of tragedies, this sports biopic aims to captivate audiences with its emotional depth and compelling storytelling. With a budget of $16 million, “The Iron Claw” is taking a unique approach by opting for a nationwide release, unlike the limited release strategy usually associated with A24 films.
Anyone but You: A Rom-Com for Gen Z
Catering to the Gen Z audience, Sony’s “Anyone but You” offers a refreshing take on the romantic comedy genre. Starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, this film follows two twenty-somethings who find themselves pretending to be the perfect couple at a destination wedding in Australia. Directed by Will Gluck, known for films like “Easy A,” “Anyone but You” aims to provide a dose of laughter and romance during the holiday season. As R-rated comedies have had mixed results at the box office this year, the success of “Anyone but You” remains to be seen.
The Marketing Strategy
Warner Bros. has taken a different marketing approach for “Aquaman 2” compared to its predecessor. Instead of a lavish red carpet premiere, the studio opted for a more intimate “fan screening” and “genre media and influencer” event with the presence of Jason Momoa and director James Wan. This shift in strategy could be an attempt to create buzz among die-hard fans while reducing costs. The reviews for the film remain under embargo, adding to the anticipation and speculation surrounding its quality.
As “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” prepares to make its debut at the Christmas box office, the fate of the film hangs in the balance. While the first “Aquaman” movie defied expectations and became a global sensation, the superhero genre has faced numerous challenges in recent years. With a new wave of DC movies on the horizon and a box office landscape still recovering from the pandemic, “Aquaman 2” faces a formidable task. However, with its charismatic lead, loyal fanbase, and the magic of the holiday season, there is hope that “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” will make a splash at the box office and continue the underwater adventures of Arthur Curry. Only time will tell if this sequel will sink or swim.