It’s been a few weeks now since Aquaman released in theaters and it is no longer up for debate: Aquaman is a smash hit. After a modest (by superhero movie standards) opening weekend of $67.8 million, James Wan’s film has gone on to make over $266.4 million domestically and is racing towards $1 billion with $963.3 million. That makes Aquaman the DCEU’s most successful film to date from a total box office standpoint by a pretty sizable margin.
So why, after Justice League sank so spectacularly just a year ago, did Aquaman make such a splash? Aquaman obviously succeeded financially in large part because of its foreign box office, with international sales accounting for over 72% of the film’s haul, according to Box Office Mojo.
I’m interested not in the dollars and cents specifically, but the reasons why people were willing to pay them to see this film when the last DCEU film featuring Aquaman and a bunch of other heroes found so many wallets tightly gripped. What was so appealing about this film and this character? There probably isn’t a single answer to this question, but here are some solid reasons.
It’s difficult to know how exactly how much influence critical reviews have on a film’s box office because countless well-reviewed indies make no money and the Transformers franchise (sans Bumblebee) does well despite critical drubbings. Nevertheless, good reviews certainly can’t hurt.
Aquaman wasn’t exactly a critical darling, but its reviews were more positive overall than any DCEU film before it with the exception of Wonder Woman. The film’s solid reviews were good enough to get it to fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the only DCEU film to do so besides the aforementioned Amazonian’s tale. Good reviews may have given audiences the confidence that paying for a ticket to Aquaman would be money well spent and it wasn’t quite the risk that a film with lesser reviews would be.