The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years, with an initial burst of success followed by a period of disjointed storytelling and mixed critical reception. However, in a surprising turn of events, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the final installment in the original DCEU, has shattered expectations and set a new record for its sequels at the box office.
As the DCEU underwent multiple attempts at reinvention, James Gunn and Peter Safran took the helm as the new heads of DC Studios, and the decision was made to transition towards the upcoming DC Universe, marking a soft reboot of the franchise. Before this transition, DC Studios released a final batch of films, many of which faced challenges at the box office due to the impending soft reboot. Despite this, “Aquaman 2“ managed to make a significant mark as the most financially successful sequel in the DCEU.
With a lifetime gross of $114,460,076, “Aquaman 2” not only concluded the DCEU era but also surpassed all other sequels in the franchise by a considerable margin. The second highest-grossing DCEU sequel, “The Suicide Squad,” earned a mere $55,817,425, less than half of what “Aquaman 2” achieved.
It is worth noting that each of the DCEU’s previous sequel films had seen a drop in box office performance compared to their predecessors. The only exception is “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which, while having a stronger lifetime gross than “Man of Steel,” was more of a crossover film. Factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on theaters played a role in the underwhelming performances of “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Suicide Squad.” For “Shazam! Fury of the Gods“ and “Aquaman 2,” the anticipation of the impending DC Universe soft reboot likely contributed to their box office challenges.
“Aquaman 2” managed to stand out in this landscape, possibly due to the popularity of Jason Momoa’s portrayal of Aquaman, one of the DCEU’s more beloved characters. There are also rumors suggesting Momoa’s return as the King of Atlantis in the DC Universe, although he has been linked to the role of Lobo as well.
While “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” may not have reached the box office heights of its predecessor, it certainly ended the DCEU franchise on a high note, showcasing the enduring appeal of its charismatic hero and achieving a noteworthy victory in the realm of box office performance. As the DCEU transitions into the DC Universe era, fans can look back at “Aquaman 2” as a testament to the enduring power of a beloved character and a beacon of hope for what lies ahead in the evolving DC cinematic universe.