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Aquaman is a 2018 American superhero film based on the DC Comics character Aquaman and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is the sixth installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It is directed by James Wan, with a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, and is based on a story by Geoff Johns, Wan and Beall. It stars Jason Momoa as the title character, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nicole Kidman in supporting roles. It is the third live-action theatrical film featuring Aquaman, following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017), and the first full-length feature film centered around the character. In this film, the titular character learns he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis and must step forward to lead his people against his half-brother, Orm, who seeks to unite the seven underwater kingdoms against the surface world.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James Wan|
|Music by||Rupert Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Kirk Morri|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$1.148 billion|
Development of an Aquaman film began in 2004, with several plans falling through over the years. In August 2014, Beall and Kurt Johnstad were hired to write two competing scripts and the film was officially announced in October 2014. Wan signed on as director in April 2015 and in July 2016 it was announced that the film would move forward with Beall's screenplay, although Wan, Johnstad, Johns and Johnson-McGoldrick all performed various rewrites. The main cast was confirmed through 2016 and early 2017. Principal photography began in Australia on May 2, 2017. Most of the film was shot at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast, Queensland (with lighthouse scenes shot at the New South Wales coastal village of Hastings Point), with production also held in Canada, Italy and Morocco. Filming ended on October 21, 2017.
Aquaman had its world premiere in London on November 26, 2018, and was released in the United States in Real D 3D, Dolby Cinema, IMAX and IMAX 3D formats on December 21, 2018. The film grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing DCEU film as well as the highest-grossing film based on a DC Comics character, surpassing The Dark Knight Rises; it was also the fifth highest-grossing film of 2018 and 21st highest of all-time. It received praise from critics for its adventurous tone and Wan's direction but received criticism for its dialogue, runtime and convoluted plot. An untitled sequel is set for release on December 16, 2022, and a spin-off, The Trench, is also in development.
In 1985 Maine, lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry rescues Atlanna, the queen of the underwater nation of Atlantis, during a storm. They eventually fall in love and have a son named Arthur, who is born with the power to communicate with marine lifeforms. Atlanna is forced to abandon her family and return to Atlantis, entrusting to her advisor, Nuidis Vulko, with the mission of training Arthur. Under Vulko's guidance, Arthur becomes a skilled warrior but rejects Atlantis upon learning that Atlanna was executed for having a half-breed son.
In the present, several months after Steppenwolf's invasion,[N 1] Arthur confronts a group of pirates attempting to hijack a Russian Naval Akula-class submarine. Their leader, Jesse Kane, dies during the confrontation while his son, David, vows revenge. Meanwhile, Orm, King of Atlantis and Arthur's half-brother, attempts to convince King Nereus of Xebel to help him unite Atlantis and attack the surface world for harming the oceans. Nereus points out that if Orm succeeds in uniting Atlantis he will receive the title of Ocean Master, commander of the most powerful force on the planet. Their meeting is interrupted when another Russian Akula submarine attacks the meeting place, apparently in retaliation for the previous submarine's sinking. Orm succeeds in destroying it and the attack convinces Nereus to join forces with Orm to defend the oceans. He swears allegiance to Orm's cause, but his daughter Mera, who has been betrothed to Orm, refuses to aid them and journeys to the surface to ask Arthur for help, earning his trust by saving Thomas from a tsunami sent by Orm. Arthur reluctantly accompanies Mera to a rendezvous with Vulko, who urges Arthur to find the Trident of Atlan, a magic artifact that once belonged to Atlantis' first ruler, in order to reclaim his rightful place as king. They are ambushed by Orm's men and Mera and Vulko escape unseen, while Arthur is captured.
Arthur is chained and presented before Orm, who blames Arthur and the surface for Atlanna's death. He offers Arthur an opportunity to leave forever, but Arthur instead challenges him to a duel in a ring of underwater lava. Orm gains the upper hand and nearly kills Arthur before Mera rescues him. Together, Arthur and Mera journey to the Sahara desert where the trident was forged and unlock a holographic message that leads them to Sicily, Italy, where they retrieve the trident's coordinates. Meanwhile, Orm meets David, revealing that the submarine that had attacked them previously was in fact the same one David hijacked and that Orm had hired him to hijack the Russian nuclear submarine so that he could stage a false flag attack from the surface, making it seem like Orm's cause for war is justified and causing King Nereus to side with him. Orm provides David with a prototype Atlantean battle suit to kill Arthur, imprisons Vulko after revealing knowledge of his betrayal, and coerces the Atlantean Kingdom of the Fishermen to pledge their allegiance to him and his campaign against the surface.
After modifying Orm's technology, a fully armored David rechristens himself as Black Manta and ambushes Arthur and Mera in Sicily, grievously injuring Arthur before being thrown off a cliff to his apparent death. Mera nurses Arthur's wounds as they journey to the trident's whereabouts, and encourages him to embrace his destiny as a hero. Arriving at their destination, Arthur and Mera are attacked by the amphibious monsters called the Trench, but manage to fend them off and reach a wormhole that transports them to an uncharted sea located at the center of the Earth. There, they are unexpectedly reunited with Atlanna, who was sacrificed to the Trench for her crimes but managed to escape and reach the uncharted sea, where she has been stranded ever since.
Arthur faces Karathen, a mythical leviathan and keeper of the trident, and voices his determination to protect both Atlantis and the surface, proving his worth and reclaiming the trident, which grants him control over the seven seas. Orm and his allies lead an army against the crustacean forces of the Kingdom of the Brine with the intent of completing Orm's surface battle preparations. As Orm declares himself Ocean Master, Arthur and Mera, with the assistance of Karathen and the Trench, intervene and lead an army of marine creatures in a battle against him. Orm's followers renounce their obedience to him and embrace Arthur as the true king upon learning he wields the trident. Arthur defeats Orm in combat but chooses to spare his life and Orm accepts his fate after discovering Arthur has found and rescued Atlanna. Atlanna returns to the surface to reunite with Thomas while Arthur ascends to the throne with Mera by his side.
In a mid-credits scene, David is rescued by Dr. Stephen Shin, a scientist and conspiracy theorist obsessed with the Atlanteans, and agrees to lead Shin there in exchange for his help in his revenge on Arthur.
- Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman:
A half-Atlantean/half-human who is reluctant to be king of the undersea nation of Atlantis. He has the ability to manipulate the tides of the ocean, communicate with other aquatic life, and swim at supersonic speeds, and possesses superhuman strength. A younger Arthur Curry is portrayed by various actors including an uncredited infant, Tainu and Tamor Kirkwood at age 3, Kaan Guldur at age 9, Otis Dhanji at age 13, and Kekoa Kekumano at age 16.
- Amber Heard as Y'Mera Xebella "Mera" Challa:
Princess of Xebel, Arthur Curry's love interest, a warrior and daughter of King Nereus. She was raised by Queen Atlanna and groomed to become queen. Mera possesses hydrokinetic and telepathic powers that allow her to control her aquatic environment and communicate with other Atlanteans.
- Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko:
Atlantis' vizier, who was a mentor of Arthur Curry when he was young. He trained him to fight as well. Dafoe was digitally de-aged for the flashback scenes of the film.
- Patrick Wilson as Orm Marius / Ocean Master:
Arthur Curry's Atlantean half-brother and King of Atlantis, who seeks to unite the seven underwater kingdoms to declare war on the surface world for humanity's pollution of the seas.
- Dolph Lundgren as Nereus:
The king of the Atlantean tribe of Xebel and Mera's father, who allies with Orm.
- Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane / Black Manta:
A ruthless pirate and a high-seas mercenary with a flair for creating deadly technological innovations.
- Nicole Kidman as Atlanna:
The Queen of Atlantis, mother of Arthur Curry and Orm.
Additionally, Temuera Morrison portrays Thomas Curry, a lighthouse keeper who is Arthur Curry's father; Ludi Lin portrays Murk, the Captain of the Men-of-War, the frontline army of Atlantis; Randall Park portrays Dr. Stephen Shin, a marine biologist obsessed with finding the lost city of Atlantis; Graham McTavish portrays Atlan, the first king of Atlantis and the ancestor of Atlanna, Orm, and Arthur; and Michael Beach portrays Jesse Kane, a member of a group of pirates and David Kane's father.
Djimon Hounsou, Natalia Safran, and Sophia Forrest play the Fishermen King Ricou, the Fishermen Queen Rina, and the Fishermen Princess respectively, the fish-like merpeople whom Orm creates an alliance with as part of his plan to unite the seven kingdoms of the sea. Julie Andrews provides the voice of Karathen, a mythical leviathan and keeper of the Trident of Atlan that allies with Aquaman. Andrew Crawford also provides the motion-capture of the Brine King, who is voiced by John Rhys-Davies. Leigh Whannell, Wan's long time collaborator, appears in the film as a plane pilot.
In 2004, FilmJerk.com reported that Sunrise Entertainment's Alan and Peter Riche planned to bring Aquaman to the big screen for Warner Bros., with Robert Ben Garant writing the screenplay. However, the film fell through. In July 2009, it was reported that Aquaman was in development at Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way, and Warner chairman and CEO Barry Meyer said that the Aquaman film was in development. After Man of Steel's release in 2013, a source from Warner Bros. told The Wrap that they were discussing future films, with the mention of more Man of Steel movies as well as a Superman/Batman film, a Wonder Woman film, and an Aquaman film. Geoff Johns told Variety that Aquaman is a priority character for the company. It was announced on August 12, 2014, that Warner Bros. had hired screenwriters Will Beall and Kurt Johnstad to pen two separate scripts for an Aquaman film. The film was being developed on dual tracks, meaning that one script was being written by Beall and one by Johnstad, but only the better version would move forward.
On April 10, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported that James Wan was the frontrunner to direct the film. In June 2015, Wan was confirmed to direct, and overlook the screenplay by Johnstad. On November 12, 2015, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick was hired to write the script, however it was unclear whether he would be writing a separate script or working with Wan. It was then revealed that previous script plans had been scrapped and that both Wan and Johns planned to move forward with a new script written by Beall. Later, Johnson-McGoldrick was brought back to the project to work on a rewrite of Beall's script.
On March 2016, it was announced that the events of Aquaman will be set after Justice League. Wan confirmed later on Twitter that cinematographer Don Burgess, who had previously worked with Wan on The Conjuring 2, would serve as cinematographer for Aquaman. Pre-production began in Australia in late November 2016.
In October 2014, Warner Bros. announced Aquaman as a part of the DC Extended Universe, with Jason Momoa starring. On October 20, 2014, in an interview with ComicBook.com, Momoa revealed that he was preparing for a Justice League film, and that he did not know if a solo Aquaman film would come before or after Justice League. He thought it might be an origin story of where Aquaman came from. In December 2014, it was revealed that Momoa had signed a four-picture deal with the studio and DC, and he wanted Zack Snyder to direct the solo Aquaman film.
On January 13, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Amber Heard had entered negotiations to play the female lead role of Mera, Aquaman's love interest; her casting was confirmed two months later. In April 2016, Willem Dafoe was cast in an undisclosed role, later revealed to be Nuidis Vulko. On December 12, 2016 it was confirmed that Patrick Wilson would play the villainous Ocean Master, the half-brother of Aquaman. On January 31, 2017, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was added to the cast as Black Manta, Aquaman's archenemy in the comics. That same day, press reports noted that Nicole Kidman had entered talks to play Queen Atlanna. Two months later, Kidman confirmed her participation in the film.
By February 2017, New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison had entered talks to play Thomas Curry, Aquaman's human father. On April 12, Dolph Lundgren was cast to play Nereus, king of Xebel. Ludi Lin was cast in the film on May 15, 2017. Almost two weeks later, Michael Beach, who voiced Devil Ray, a character loosely based on Black Manta in Justice League Unlimited, was cast as Black Manta's father. In October 2017, Graham McTavish revealed that he has a role in the film. In April 2018, Randall Park was cast as Dr. Stephen Shin, and in July, Djimon Hounsou, Natalia Safran and Sophia Forrest were cast as the Fisherman King, Fisherman Queen and the Fisherman Princess, respectively. In November 2018, it was revealed that Julie Andrews has a voice role in the film.
Principal photography began in Australia on May 2, 2017, under the working title Ahab. A majority of the film was shot at Village Roadshow Studios in Gold Coast, Queensland, with production also held in Newfoundland, Canada, as well as in Italy (Sicily) and Morocco. Between May and August 2017, production also took place on location around a number of places on the Australian Gold Coast, including Main Beach, Coomera, Southport and Amity Point in North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, as well as Hastings Point in New South Wales. On filming underwater sequences, Wan stated that "the underwater world is super complicated" and "it's not an easy shoot."
Filming began on the Arthur Curry Lighthouse set at Hastings Point on August 11, 2017, and ended later that month. In September, during an interview with Kiss Radio, actor Ludi Lin described Wan's vision for the film as "Star Wars underwater." That same month, filming took place in Newfoundland and Labrador. Willem Dafoe finished up his part by late September. On October 13, James Wan announced that Patrick Wilson wrapped on the film. Filming on location took place in the deserts of Morocco by mid-October, which included the cities of Merzouga and Erfoud. Principal photography wrapped on October 21, 2017.
James Wan's five-time collaborator Kirk Morri served as the editor for Aquaman. Two-time Academy Award winner Charles Gibson (Babe and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), and Kelvin McIlwain (The Fast and the Furious franchise), served as overall visual effects supervisors. On November 3, 2018, Wan announced that post-production on the film was complete.
On March 7, 2018, Rupert Gregson-Williams was announced as the composer for Aquaman. Gregson-Williams previously wrote the score for Wonder Woman, the fourth film in the DC Extended Universe. The soundtrack was released by WaterTower Music on December 14, 2018. The album features an original song by American musician Skylar Grey titled "Everything I Need", written by Grey and Elliott Taylor. The second trailer featured a piece called "Sidewinder" from composer Phil Lober of Ghostwriter Music.
Altogether there are 2,300 visual effects shots in the movie completed by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Rodeo FX, Scanline VFX, DNEG, Moving Picture Company (MPC), Method Studios, Digital Domain and Weta Digital. The visual effects for the director's cut of the film were created at the same time as the theatrical cut.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)
ILM was the lead VFX vendor and worked on creating Atlantis and all its CG animals, the Karathen and the final battle of the film. Jeff White served as the VFX supervisor for ILM on Aquaman. For the underwater sequences, the actors were shot dry-for-wet on special tuning fork rigs designed by the FX team and later the bodies of the actors were replaced with digital doubles in post-production. For creating Atlantis the team relied on the designs provided by the art department. ILM's environment team created over 200 buildings, including the signature jellyfish buildings, and laid over 7000 buildings in districts covering almost 600 sq miles for the action to travel through. The underwater ships were modelled off organic creatures and designed to move that way. For the entrance to Atlantis sequence the team built over 150,000 ships to fill the traffic lanes leading into Atlantis. All the animals, including the Karathen, were built by ILM and animated using keyframe animation.
Approximately 700 shots in the film required high detail hair simulations. ILM had to significantly improve their hair simulation software due to the unique aspects of hair flowing underwater. Normally hair simulations use guide strands to define or influence the movement of groups of hair strands. This did not provide a satisfying look for underwater simulation, so ultimately ILM simulated strands individually, which resulted in heavy computations. Additionally, Wan wanted to be able to direct the hair when the physically accurate simulation resulted in undesirable results. ILM delivered 670 shots for the film.
Additionally, DNEG worked on digitally de-ageing Willem Dafoe for the scene where his character Nudris Vulko trains the young Arthur Curry.
Jay Barton served as the VFX supervisor for Digital Domain. They worked on creating the Dead King's Island environment. For the sequence, the actors were shot in a pool of water against blue screen backgrounds, with Digital Domain adding CG extensions, waterfalls, mountains and dinosaurs in post production. Most of the waterfalls that appear in the scene were created using Houdini while some were created using practical elements of things such as pouring salt and glass beads. They also built an extensive library of shot FX elements. The dinosaurs were animated using keyframe animation. Digital Domain delivered 19-20 shots for the movie.
David Nelson and Craig Wentworth served as VFX supervisors for Method Studios. Method handled the Sicily fight sequence between Arthur, Mera and Black Manta; Arthur's encounter with the Karathen in the Well of the Souls and his acquisition of Atlan's Trident. For the Sicily fight sequence the team built the main square of the Italian village and terracotta tiled roof set pieces that were backed with blue screen. A completely CG village was also created based on scans and documentation of the real village. For the Well of the Souls sequence Momoa was filmed dry-for-wet and captured on set in rigs that simulated underwater movements, but they ultimately felt restrictive so artists replaced the majority of his performance with a digital body double and added the CG environment, Karathen and Arthur's free-flowing locks. A specially designed 700fps shot was used in the scene where the camera travels through Arthur's eyes.
Rodeo FX worked on two key sequences for the film, with Sebastien Moreau leading as VFX Supervisor for the film. For the aquarium that young Arthur Curry visits near the beginning of the film, Rodeo FX used a large volume of simulations as well as algorithms for the fish behavior. They created hard and soft corals by developing a colonization growth system, along with procedural stem and tentacle generation tools. They also created the environments for the Atlantis ruins below the desert. Artists used a lego-type approach to layer the environment with a large amount of sand, dust and rocks, all of which would realistically give way to the characters’ interactions. From there, they sculpted ruined buildings, bridges, towers, statues and temples, which were textured and shaded to add depth to the ruined city.
Scanline VFX delivered 450 shots for the movie. Bryan Hirota served as VFX supervisor for scanline. The main sequences produced by them are: the lighthouse and it's surrounding environment, the “Aquaman” title card that follows the Boston aquarium, Aquaman pushing the submarine to the surface and rescuing the sailors inside, Orm's tidal wave that sweeps away Arthur and Tom, including the rescue and aftermath, Black Manta being paid by Orm for the submarine's delivery, and Arthur and Mera's visit to the Kingdom of the Trench. For the creation of the film's title card the team relied on Rodeo's work on the aquarium sequence and simulated up to 60,000 fish. The tidal wave sequence was realized with a large-scale simulated wave, which was integrated with a combination of day for night footage, blue screen shots for the actors in truck interiors, a truck on a rotisserie rig, an interior cabin in a water tank, and VFX simulations for debris. For creating the lighthouse a full-size house with the base of the lighthouse tower was constructed by the FX team. Additional house and dock sets were built on sound stages. A digital build-out was done to complete the lighthouse tower and extend the dock fully out into sea. For the sequence where the camera pushes into a toy snow globe with a tiny lighthouse inside, a CG transition was created from the lighthouse's living room set to a fully CG winter coastline. For creating the Trench creatures, motion capture was done on set by stunt performers.
Premiere and theatrical release
Aquaman had its world premiere at the Empire, Leicester Square in London on November 26, 2018. It was released in the United States by Warner Bros. Pictures in RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema, IMAX and IMAX 3D on December 21, 2018. It had previously been set for July 27, 2018, and was then moved to October 5, 2018, before settling on its December release date. On November 19, 2018, Atom Tickets announced that Amazon Prime members in the United States would have early access to tickets for a December 15 screening of the film at select Regal, National Amusements, ArcLight Cinemas, and AMC theaters.
Internationally, the film was released in China on December 7, 2018, in the United Kingdom on December 12, 2018, in Argentina, Brazil and Russia on December 13, 2018, and in India on December 14, 2018.
In March 2017, prior to filming, a first look at Aquaman was shown during the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, with Momoa introducing a video of director James Wan displaying a concept art sizzle reel for the film. Later, on July 22, the film's first footage made its debut at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) 2017 with a teaser presented by Momoa during the Warner Bros. panel at Hall H; director Wan presented the footage, stating that "in a lot of ways, this is an origin story," referring to the film. In April 2018, another teaser, with new rough footage, was shown by Wan and Momoa at CinemaCon, joined by Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II on stage. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly during the event, Wan teased the conflict between Arthur Curry and his half-brother and main antagonist in the film, Orm / Ocean Master, stating that "it's almost a very classic Shakespearean story about brother from another world vs. brother from another world. And it really is a classic story of sibling rivalry."
On June 11, 2018, the film's first trailer was previewed at the European exhibitors' conference CineEurope in Barcelona, Spain. On July 21, 2018, the first trailer was released at the SDCC 2018, being considered the best received trailer during the international convention; it was later attached to theatrical showings of Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Meg, The Predator, and Venom. The cast also appeared as guests on the late-night talk show Conan with Conan O'Brien during SDCC, on Sunday, July 22. By late August of the same year, the studio held early test screenings, with mixed to positive reactions shared in social media, describing the film as good but not great. On October 5, 2018, a 5-minute Extended Video was released by Warner Bros. It received positive reactions from audiences, with praise directed towards the special effects, action, cinematography, and faithfulness to the comic book. The first official TV spot for the film was released by the studio on October 16, 2018, followed by a second on November 1, 2018. The same month, character posters were released for Aquaman, Mera, Black Manta, Ocean Master, King Nereus, Queen Atlanna and Nuidis Vulko.
On November 7, 2018, the studio announced the schedule for the worldwide promotion tour, taking place during the months of November and December, with fan events, screenings and premieres in major cities around the globe, including Beijing, London, New York City, Manila, Los Angeles, Miami, Gold Coast, Sydney, and Hawaii. Additionally, it was announced that the film would be screened on December 7, 2018, during Brazil Comic Con (CCXP) in São Paulo. The following week, an official behind the scenes featurette was released, which included footage not seen before in the mainstream trailers. Two days later, the film's two main posters were released, with Aquaman and Mera showing off their comic-accurate suits. On November 19, 2018, the final trailer for the film was released, alongside the announcement of the beginning of ticket sales. The same day, 30 minutes of footage was shown in China during the first stop of the film's promotion tour, generating rave reactions among attendees.
The financial success of the film has been attributed to the studio's marketing plan, attracting a wide range of demographics (particularly women) through advertising, social media and promotional partners worldwide.
Aquaman grossed $335.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $812.6 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $1.148 billion. Worldwide, it became the highest-grossing installment in the DCEU, as well as film based on any characters from the DC comics. Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit of the film to be $260.5 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues, making it the fifth most profitable release of 2018.
The day after announcing the early Amazon screenings, Aquaman's first 24-hour pre-sale totals became the highest in the history of Atom Tickets, beating out Avengers: Infinity War, as well as outpacing Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, another film Amazon Prime offered early to subscribers, the previous December. The film made $2.9 million from the Amazon preview screenings at 1,225 theaters, higher than the $1.86 million made by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. In the United States and Canada, Aquaman was released alongside Bumblebee, Second Act, and Welcome to Marwen, and was projected to gross $65–70 million in its opening weekend, and $120 million over its first five days (with some tracking figures going as high as $150 million). The film made $28 million on its first day, including $9 million from Thursday night previews (a total of $13.7 million including the Amazon screenings and a Wednesday preview). It went on to debut to $67.9 million ($73.2 million including all early showings), topping the box office but marking the lowest opening of the DCEU. It then made $11 million on Monday and $22.1 million on Christmas Day, one of six films to ever gross over $20 million on the holiday; its five-day total opening was $105.7 million. The film made $52.1 million in its second weekend, a drop of 23%, as well as $10.1 million on New Year's Eve and $16.8 million on New Year's Day. The film then remained in first for a third consecutive weekend, grossing $31 million. The film made $17.4 million in its fourth weekend of release but was upset by The Upside, which exceeded expectations to debut to $20.4 million and dethrone Aquaman atop the box office.
In China, where the film was released two weeks prior to its US debut, the film made $24.6 million (¥169.5 million) on its first day, representing 86% of the market share and setting a Warner Bros. opening day record in the country. It went on to debut to $93.6 million (¥644.8 million), marking the best-ever opening for the DCEU, Warner Bros. and a December release in the country. It also overtook the entire lifetime gross of Wonder Woman there in just three days. The film grossed $12.99 million on Monday, thus crossing $100 million ($107.7 million). By Thursday, its fifth day of release, the film had made $135.3 million, surpassing the lifetime totals of every solo Marvel Cinematic Universe film. As of April 4, 2019[update], the film has grossed $298.33 million in China. In the Philippines, Aquaman is the biggest Warner Bros. and DC film of all-time, with a cumulative gross of Php 536.4-million, surpassing Justice League and becoming the 6th-most successful film of all-time in the country. The film became the highest-grossing film of the decade in Romania.
On review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 65% based on 364 reviews, with an average rating of 6.02/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Aquaman swims with its entertainingly ludicrous tide, offering up CGI superhero spectacle that delivers energetic action with an emphasis on good old-fashioned fun." Metacritic surveyed 50 critics' reviews and assessed 22 as positive, 21 as mixed and 7 as negative; the website assigned an aggregate score of 55 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an 82% overall positive score and a 69% "definite recommend".
Peter Debruge of Variety criticized the dialogue but praised Wan's direction, the production design, and the final act, writing, "The biggest surprise here is how, after the running time of a standard-length film has elapsed, Aquaman suddenly kicks the movie up a level for the finale. At just the moment this critic's eyes tend to glaze over in superhero movies—typically, as the villain goes nuclear and a portal to another dimension opens, threatening to destroy the planet—Wan unleashes a massive deep-sea battle on par with The Lord of the Rings." Germain Lussier of io9 wrote "Aquaman is all about spectacle. It's filled with ambition. It's always about trying to put the coolest, most imaginative sequence on screen at every single turn of the story, no matter what the cost." Writing for TheWrap, William Bibbiani called the film "a weird and wonderful superhero adventure that strives—and almost succeeds—to be the most epic superhero movie ever made."
Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 2 1⁄2 out of 5 stars, praising Wan's ambition and Momoa's performance but criticizing the plot and dialogue, writing: "Aquaman is a mess of clashing tones and shameless silliness, but a relief after all the franchise's recent superhero gloom." Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly graded the film a C−, writing, "It can't decide if it wants to be silly or serious—a superhero movie or a parody of one...Unfortunately, the bloated, waterlogged film is loaded with crummy CGI, cheesy costumes, and groaner dialogue delivered by actors who are too good to traffic in such nonsense". For the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips gave the film 1.5 stars out of 4, criticizing the film's script and Wan's direction, saying, "Watching this movie is like spending two hours and 27 minutes staring at a gigantic aquarium full of digital sea creatures and actors on wires, pretending to swim."
Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave Aquaman three-and-a-half out of four stars, positively comparing the film to SpongeBob SquarePants in its lack of concern for scientific accuracy, along with praising the treatment of characters crying as "a normal byproduct of pain or joy" instead of "a shameful loss of dignity". Seitz stated that "It takes skill to be as ridiculous as this movie.... [Aquaman]... feels simultaneously like a spoof and an operatic melodrama. Any film that can combine those modes is a force to be reckoned with."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||January 10, 2019||Outstanding Achievement by A Woman in The Film Industry||Nicole Kidman for a banner year of performances in Destroyer, Boy Erased and Aquaman, and for opening opportunity for women in production.||Nominated|||
|Gold Derby Awards||January 30, 2019||Best Visual Effects||Aquaman||Nominated|||
|Costume Designers Guild Awards||February 19, 2019||Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film||Kym Barrett||Nominated|||
|Dorian Awards||January 12, 2019||Campy Film of the Year||Aquaman||Nominated|||
|MTV Movie & TV Awards||June 17, 2019||Best Kiss||Jason Momoa and Amber Heard||Pending|||
|Kids' Choice Awards||March 23, 2019||Favorite Movie||Aquaman||Nominated|||
|Favorite Movie Actor||Jason Momoa||Nominated|
|Golden Reel Awards||February 17, 2019||Feature Film – Music Underscore||Aquaman||Nominated|||
|Golden Trailer Awards||May 29, 2019||Best Home Ent Fantasy Adventure||Aquaman, Target Wall “I Am”, Warner Bros., Aspect||Pending|||
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards||February 16, 2019||Best Special Make-Up Effects||Justin Raleigh, Ozzy Alvarez, Sean Genders||Nominated|||
|Visual Effects Society Awards||February 5, 2019||Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature||Quentin Marmier, Aaron Barr, Jeffrey De Guzman, Ziad Shureih for "Atlantis"||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project||Claus Pedersen, Mohammad Rastkar, Cedric Lo, Ryan McCoy for "Third Act Battle"||Nominated|
In December 2018, it was reported that Warner Bros. Pictures chairman Toby Emmerich had the studio start developing a sequel. Discussions of a followup film had began during post-production, when director James Wan stated to TotalFilm that the first film purposefully left room for further stories. Jason Momoa told SyfyWire that he had the beginning for a sequel written, and that after he pitched it to the studio through Emmerich and Safran, they were receptive and enthusiastic about his ideas. In January 2019, the sequel was officially confirmed to be in development, with the studio already courting Wan to return for it. The following month, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, co-writer of the first film, signed on as the screenwriter for the sequel. Warner Bros. confirmed via The Hollywood Reporter that the studio has set a release date of December 16, 2022.
In February 2019, Warner Bros. announced that a "horror-tinged" spin-off called The Trench was in development. Wan will produce while Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald were asked to pen the script. The movie will focus on the amphibious monsters that Arthur and Mera faced in the previous film.
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