“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”, the highly anticipated sequel to 2018’s billion-dollar hit “Aquaman”, made a splash in theaters over the extended holiday weekend but failed to reach the box office heights many predicted. With mixed critical reviews and lower-than-expected earnings, the future of the Aquaman franchise and the wider DC Extended Universe now faces stormy waters.
Lukewarm Reception from Critics
Reviews from top critics painted “Aquaman 2” as an overstuffed CGI spectacle that fails to capture the fun and charm of its predecessor:
“It lacks the breezy thrills of the first. With its muddy storyline, muddy visuals and muddy everything else, ‘The Lost Kingdom’ too often feels like a lost cause.” Chicago Sun-Times
“The film lacks a level of cohesion and often feels like ‘Aquaman 2.5’ rather than a fully formed sequel.” Mashable
“The messy sequel finds Jason Momoa fighting to keep his head above water.” USA Today
The film currently sits at a rotten 52% on Rotten Tomatoes based on over 150 reviews, making it the worst-reviewed DCEU movie behind “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad”.
Disappointing Box Office Hampers Future Plans
Industry projections had “Aquaman 2” opening to over $60 million domestically and possibly topping $100 million for the extended Christmas weekend. But despite the added boost of exclusive early screenings starting on Tuesday, the sequel brought in just $13.7 million over its first two days.
Analysts now expect the movie to make around $55 million by Monday, marking one of the biggest box office disappointments in recent memory given the breakout success of “Aquaman” just five years ago.
The tepid audience response casts doubts on Warner Bros.’ future plans for the Aquaman series and their goal of launching an interconnected universe of DC characters across film and television. Momoa himself recently voiced frustration over the constant shifts in direction hampering the DCEU:
“I think with the new regime, they wanna revamp the whole fuckin’ thing…Ever since we kinda started, it was always changes here, changes there, oh now James is doing this.”
While the mid-credits scene teases future stories involving the villainous antagonists Ocean Master and Black Manta, WB executives may hesitate to greenlight costly sequels or spinoffs if customers continue staying away.
What Went Wrong?
So how did one of Hollywood’s surest box office bets turn into such an underwhelming dud? Several factors may have contributed:
Poor Timing – Sandwiched between two Marvel juggernauts in “Black Panther 2” and “Avatar 2”, the crowded holiday period left little room for “Aquaman” to make a splash. Many audiences likely chose the better-reviewed alternatives.
Overstuffed Story – Cramming multiple villains, Atlantis political drama, family tragedy and even romance left the messy plot difficult to follow. Streamlining to a simpler good vs evil narrative may have paid dividends.
Lackluster Action – Despite a lengthy 2 hour and 20 minute runtime, the underwater spectacle failed to match expectations. The CGI-heavy climax devolved into a murky, forgettable mess lacking the fist-pumping thrills superhero fans demand.
Pandemic Fatigue – With COVID still limiting audiences in some global territories like China, general moviegoer exhaustion with sequels and franchises may have dampened enthusiasm for yet another superhero saga.
What Happens Next?
The shaky reception leaves WB at a precarious crossroads for their DC Comics slate. Do executives cut their losses and let “Aquaman 2” sink quietly beneath the waves? Or do they throw star Jason Momoa a lifeline with a face-saving sequel that could revive interest?
Upcoming HBO Max spinoff series “The Trench” focusing on undersea creatures now looks destined for cancellation. But Momoa remains a valuable asset thanks to his commanding screen presence and A-list fame. Paired with a new writer and streamlined story removing distractions like Black Manta’s revenge arc, a lighter “Aquaman 3” could recapture the breezy fun that made the first film pop.
For now, the King of Atlantis faces stormy waters. But write off this franchise at your own peril. Like its water-controlling protagonist, Aquaman has a history of overcoming the odds by rising to the occasion.
Reviewer Consensus – Style Over Substance
|Peter Debruge, Variety
|“A disappointing step down from the original thrilling underwater adventure.”
|David Edelstein, Vulture
|“Less fun than sitting through a documentary about sea slugs.”
|Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail
|“The movie’s messy storyline sinks faster than a boulder.”
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