Though it doesn’t release domestically until Friday, Aquaman is already a sizable hit overseas. It’s currently sitting on a $260 million international haul, much of which is from Chinese audiences who seem to adore its distinctive high-saturated underwater action. But it could still all fall apart when it hits the States.
After all, it’s coming hot on the heels of the universally derided theatrical cut of Justice League, it’s facing unexpectedly stiff competition in the form of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and, quite simply, it’s difficult to get worked up about an Aquaman movie in the same way you’d get hyped up for Batman.
Director James Wan knows all that but seems confident that audiences are going to respond to the pic regardless. Speaking in an interview with The New York Times, Wan explained that if Aquaman does end up beached, it’s all on him.
“It’s pretty crazy. For as big a movie as “Aquaman” is, I could not have had more freedom. I had all the big tools and the budget to paint on a really big canvas, but with the freedom I had on, let’s say, “Saw” or “Insidious.” So if the movie works, or doesn’t work, I have no one to blame but myself.”
If it really is the case that Warner Bros. executives didn’t interfere with his vision, then perhaps they learned something after they royally screwed up Justice League. After all, thinking you can take a film apart, reshoot much of it with a different director and then turn out the Frankensteinian whole onto the public and expect us to hoover it up takes guts. Sometime it might work (Rogue One comes to mind), but most of the time you’re going to end up with a Justice League.
If Aquaman does prove to be a smash, it should also provide a warning to Warner Bros. executives to keep their meddling hands away from what the directors are doing, and hopefully instill in them a bit of trust that these professionals should be left to pursue their ambitions for the movie.
I guess we’ll find out on December 21st, when we’ll know if Aquaman sinks or swims.