Will ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ outperform its predecessor at the Box Office?

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It has been half a decade since Aquaman graced the silver screen, defying expectations of what success a film about waterlogged superheroes could achieve without the guiding hand of James Cameron. But with the anticipated release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, a pertinent question arises: Can this sequel match the financial triumph of its forerunner?

The direct answer: probably not. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is unlikely to surpass the box office earnings of its predecessor, yet that’s not an anomaly as most films wouldn’t either (we’ll delve into that shortly). Present projections from Variety suggest the sequel might rake in around $40 million during its four-day opening, positioning its box office estimates below The Marvels but above CATS. There are various reasons contributing to this projection, so let’s explore a few.

Why is Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom expected to fall short, you ask?

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Recall the factors that contributed to the success of Aquaman in 2018. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) was recovering from the turbulent aftermath of Justice League. Amidst the clamor for the Snyder Cut, many were eager to witness Jason Momoa’s focused portrayal within a fresh narrative. Early reviews lauded Aquaman as a potential revitalization for the franchise, touted as DC’s most Marvel-esque film yet.

Fast forward five years, and we’re reflecting on that pinnacle moment ⏤ where Warner Bros. made waves, only to later retreat. Jason Momoa’s appeal remains, but audiences aren’t rushing to see him embody the charismatic hero as fervently as they did before. While he is still charming, his star power might not be drawing audiences the way studios had hoped, evidenced by a recent movie’s lower-than-expected earnings. Moreover, being “more Marvel-like” isn’t necessarily a compliment nowadays; it might imply a lack of Robert Downey Jr.-esque charisma, which is pivotal for fun in movies.

Aquaman 2 confronts a substantial challenge — the looming threat of franchise demise. While Aquaman was poised as a fresh start for a potentially limitless franchise, its sequel marks an unintended conclusion. It signifies the end of the DCEU’s blockbuster era, not due to meticulous planning and cohesive storytelling, but rather as a consequence of consistent missteps. The shared universe initiated by Man of Steel in 2013 was a tangled web of conflicting aesthetics, tones, and character portrayals. While the MCU led up to Endgame like a carefully constructed series of events, the DCEU felt more like a chaotic maze of narratives bouncing off each other without consequence, gradually fading into audiences’ memories.

As the credits roll on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, there’s a distinct lack of fanfare or an enticing glimpse into the next chapter. It’s narrative entropy ─ a finale that doesn’t promise further stories, making it challenging to excite audiences.

Let’s not forget a pivotal aspect: It would be exceptional if Lost Kingdom surpassed Aquaman’s box office success. In a post-pandemic world where crowded spaces remain uncomfortable and major films swiftly transition to streaming services, Aquaman’s financial triumph is unparalleled. On a $160 million budget, it became the highest-grossing film in the DCEU’s decade-long history, crossing the $1 billion mark. In comparison, subsequent DC films like The Flash and Black Adam garnered significantly lesser numbers, highlighting the magnitude of Aquaman’s achievement.

Regrettably, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom lack the passionate fervor of Zack Snyder’s fandom or the ironic intrigue that energized the Morbius re-release. It doesn’t have a substantial audience base to rely on. Without the promise of a new narrative direction, the sequel feels like a storytelling cul-de-sac. It embodies the observation that superhero films no longer possess that elusive “special” factor. It’s a vestige of a defunct franchise, hoping to draw crowds solely based on the legacy of a character from years ago donning a new-colored rubber suit.

However, on a brighter note, Jason Momoa’s potential involvement as Lobo might be something to anticipate amidst the uncertainty.