They say that a great box office blockbuster is often identified by the looks of its trailer. As I write this, The Aquaman trailer which premiered since in July and late November has garnered over 51 Million hits in a few weeks. This is an abnormally high number given the fact that "Justice League" motion picture trailer did not even receive 35 million views over a year of its launch and release. Does this sudden surge point to a possible shift in the comic book driven content on the big screen. (Note :Marvel is miles ahead on the Youtube views)
This post is aimed at the possibility of what "Aquaman" can do to the D.C. Entertainment's movie business which is in tatters with the exception of "Wonder Woman".
I am trying to focus on the fact that the superhero world is viewed differently by the comic book geek and others who love watching superhero content. It is here that Marvel has beaten D.C. brutally.
The D.C. Universe Fatigue:
Due to a sizeable history and lineage, both Batman and Superman have been earning revenues for decades for the DC/Warner stable. As both characters first came out since 1930's, it is imperative that dozens of authors/artists create multiple versions of both Superman and Batman to sustain interest amongst movie/tv watchers and comic book readers. The first Batman film came out in 1989 (first major motion picture), Superman's first outing was in 1978 as a big studio film. It is fair to say since then both these characters have gone through 3-4 avatars since then and not to mention dozens of animated features which they star in. For example The Joker's impression in (Batman animated features by Mark Hamill) has its own cult following, something which is largely unknown to movie fans. Similarly, not many remember the forgettable Superman outing with Brandon Routh. My moot point is that both Batman and Superman have been overexposed to audience. Also they both did not let any other character come out of their stable. In stark contrast, The Avengers have systematically given a chance to others to be released. Also Marvel has not ever released its own water hero "Namor" ever in a motion picture. This should easily give DC the much needed space it was looking for.
If anything can be blamed on the colossal failure of "Justice League" and "Dawn Of Justice: Batman Vs Superman", it has to be the 'character fatigue' of both Superman and Batman. In part that fatigue is also there as the tonality of both these films is not exactly 'positive' or 'fun'.....they just seem dark with jilted superhero egos. An overdose/ hangover following the massive success of "The Dark Knight" trilogy of Christopher Nolan.
Who is Aquaman ?
Aquaman in some ways is like a fly on the wall character of DC. He has a unique voice but he did not get that much exposure in the DC motion pictures. He might be very popular with his comic book readers but in the superhero film genre, he is largely unknown. In some comic books he has been a laughing stock of his fellow Justice League peers. Born to a lighthouse operator Thomas Curry and his 'mermaid' wife Atlanna, "Arthur Curry aka Aquaman" brings the many powers he has to connect with the submerged world to fight evil on Earth. Although he has had a limited outing for non comic book fans, Aquaman is one of the tentpole characters at DC Comics as he first appeared in 1959. He lives in a world with different rules in a different society, air bubbles, fights a killer fish army, he communicates with all underwater beings and brings a fascinating identity altogether. Sadly, in "Justice League" he was not given the chance to showcase his prowess and was overshadowed by Batman, Superman.
Why will Aquaman work ?
1. The City of Atlantis: We have seen in multiple films that be it Gotham, be it Wakanda, be it Metropolis, the city where the superhero protagonist lives plays a key role in story building. From the look of the trailer, Atlantis will showcase an extraordinary world to its audience and hence everything in it will be different. There killer fish armies, talking whales, etc which should bring in a massive kids and family audience to the film. It is my belief that kids will learn a lot about marine biology from the film. (Just saying...hahaha).
2. The Jason Momoa factor: Director James Wan's masterstroke to get "Khal Drogo" from "Game Of Thrones" is key to its future. Momoa is literally worshipped by fans from across the planet for his ruthless portrayal and commands a screen presence like no other. Just like Peter Dinklage, Momoa will reap benefits from his massive fan following of Game Of Thrones. His love interest in GOT ie Sarah Clarke is already a big star with outings in mega budget films. This will be Momoa's moment as his fans will see him for the first time as a larger than life character in a big budget film.
3. Paucity of new content in the DC/MCU universe films:- Since 2018, The Avengers and its constituents have bombarded the big screen with multiple releases leading up till "Infinity War. Now its Marvel which is feeling the "character fatigue" with over 2 dozen films/ projects unknown leading man demolished box office records by grossing over $1.3 Billion. BP had a different setting as compared to other MCU universe characters. It was based in a third world country with first world technology capability. Most of the cast was African American actors. The film did not feature any other Avengers superhero in the film like Iron Man or Hulk in it. Aquaman like Black Panther will be an out of the box idea. I just hope they don't get Superman, etc in the film and ruin the uniqueness.
4. Success of Black Panther : Black Panther as a standalone character with a relatively Ant Man, Black Panther, Thor to evolve as individual franchises in themselves. In DC , this happened very late with a bad outing of Green Lantern and a hopelessly delayed release of "Wonder Woman". WW however, saved the day for DC/WB as it grossed over $800 million and it’s my belief that "Aquaman" might do a WW performance given its unique look and content.
5. DC/ WB budgets : "Aquaman" has a budget of over $160 Million. In addition over $75 Million is expected to be spent on its marketing. With no major budget superhero movie in sight at the time, "Aquaman" should get most of the eyeballs.
Aquaman with his unique world is surely in a position to rewrite DC’s revival on the big screen.
- Rahul Gupta, Film Critic.