Aquaman 2 is a box office failure and many are blaming the controversies surrounding Mera actress Amber Heard, but is that fair?
Depp v. Heard quickly became one of the most popular celebrity court cases of the 21st century. Following a 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post by his ex-wife Amber Heard revealing allegations of domestic abuse, actor Johnny Depp asserted that the piece harmed his reputation and professional career.
Following a long trial, which included Heard revealing spoilers for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, word quickly spread that her character Mera was being removed from the superhero flick.
While many scenes appear edited around Heard’s character and her role was seemingly reduced, Mera is still a prominent character in the movie, giving Depp’s supporters a reason not to watch the film.
Is Amber Heard to Blame for Aquaman 2 Bomb?
Between the financial disasters of Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, and Blue Beetle, 2023 was a forgettable year for DC films at the box office. Aquaman 2‘s performance has been no different thus far, opening to an underwhelming $27.7 million opening weekend ($38.3 million 4-day Christmas weekend).
A narrative for its failings is that potential audience members didn’t support the film due to Amber Heard’s presence in the sequel and the controversy surrounding her. While for some this may be true, this does not tell the entire story of the film underperforming at the box office.
Amber Heard is relatively low on the list of reasons why Aquaman 2 isn’t a commercial success. While her presence does somewhat take away from the marketing of the film, The Flash (which starred Ezra Miller) opened to a much better number, even though that eventually bombed as well.
Every DC project this year has had promotional issues: Zachary Levi posted anti-vaccination comments leading up to Shazam: Fury of the Gods, Miller was shut out following several disturbing arrests before The Flash, and the actors were on strike during Blue Beetle.
In comparison, Heard simply has a low approval rating following her exposing trial, but ultimately that wasn’t the deciding factor in Aquaman 2‘s financial issues.
Why Aquaman 2 Failed at the Box Office
Despite being anticipated as a holiday blockbuster, Aquaman 2 is struggling at the box office, trailing well behind its billion-dollar-grossing 2018 predecessor and marking WB and DC’s fourth consecutive superhero movie flop in 2023.
The film’s second-weekend earnings of $19.5 million have contributed to a disappointing domestic total so far of $84 million and a global gross of $258 million, placing it in line with other underperforming comic book adaptations like The Flash, The Marvels, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
There are so many reasons why Aquaman 2 was doomed to fail from the very beginning. To start, the film was tirelessly delayed and re-tooled. Need proof? Here’s every Aquaman 2 release date before sticking to December 22, 2023:
- December 16, 2022
- March 17, 2023
- December 25, 2023
- December 20, 2023
- December 22, 2023
The other overarching problem with DC’s 2023 slate was the “lame duck” effect following James Gunn’s announcement of an upcoming rebooted DCU slate.
This gave fans little incentive to head out to theaters to see the latest DCEU projects as none of them were building towards a greater story, which is a key factor since the MCU’s historically successful Infinity Saga during the 2010s.
In 2023, superhero films took a major hit, with many of them not only failing at the box office but being received poorly by audiences. In 2018, when Aquaman capped off the year, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Deadpool 2 led an incredibly strong year for the genre.
Honing in on the movie itself, audience members didn’t like the sequel as much, earning a B CinemaScore as compared to an A- for the original.
Regardless, there was so much more working against Aquaman 2 and the Amber Heard situation was just one of many factors, probably hurting the quality of the film more than its performance in theaters.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is now playing in theaters.