'Aquaman' makes waves at box office in China

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A scene from Aquaman, whose box-office earning has made it the highest-grossing superhero film adapted from American comic giant DC's books on the mainland. The film stars Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Amber Heard as Princess Mera.

With earnings of 850 million yuan ($123.4 million) in just six days in China, Aquaman has become the most successful superhero film adapted from American comic giant DC's books on the mainland.

The $160-million epic starring Hawaii-born actor Jason Momoa as the lead is running on around 85 percent of the country's screens-including nearly 600 Imax screens-since Dec 7.

The release of Aquaman in China also makes it the first Hollywood big-budget film to be shown in China two weeks ahead of its North American release.

Typically, films in mainland theaters run for one month. So, considering that the film has just been released, Aquaman is estimated to earn 1.76 billion yuan, according to the box-office tracking and analyzing site Maoyan.

To gauge how successful this film is, you have to consider that the box-office performance of the previous record holder for films based on DC's heroes.

Warner Brothers and DC Film's ensemble epic, Justice League, featuring Superman and Batman, earned just 691 million yuan in 2017.

For nearly a decade, DC's superheroes had been outperformed by its longtime rival Marvel in China, the world's second-largest movie market. Avengers: Infinity War earned 2.39 billion yuan earlier this year to top all Marvel's superhero films in China.

This time, however, DC is striking back.

Aquaman has achieved other records too.

It's now the top-grossing film in a single day and for the first weekend of December in China.

With scores up to 9.5 points on Maoyan, 9.3 on Taopiaopiao and 8.1 on Douban-all seen as barometers of popularity-most netizens say the film is a visual feast, which offers unprecedented spectacles of underwater kingdoms.

Most fans attribute the latest DC spectacle to James Wan, the Malaysia-born Australian director of Chinese heritage.

Earlier during his Beijing promotional tour, Wan said that one of his favorite Chinese novels was the 16th-century Journey to the West, in which a chapter depicts the Monkey King getting into a dragon's underwater palace to seek a powerful weapon

Some Chinese fans say they can identify with the film as the sequences about Aquaman retrieving the Trident remind them of the Monkey King story.

Before directing Aquaman-his first superhero film-Wan was best known for his horror movies such as Saw and Dead Silence, as well as the car-racing blockbusters Furious 7, the second highest-grossing imported film in China.

A question-about what they felt was Wan's main contribution to Aquaman-drew responses from 114,120 netizens on Douban, the country's most popular entertainment review site.

And one of the responses was: "It's amazing to see Wan demonstrate his talent in action sequences, where he combines various elements from various genres-including sci-fi, adventure, epic and horror-to shoot a deep-sea version of Star Wars."

The film explains the origins of Arthur Curry, also known as Aquaman-the 77-year-old superhero who first appeared in a 1941 DC comic book-and recounts the adventures of the hero to unite the seven seas.

In the 143-minute movie, you can see many special effects-studded scenes.

For instance, underwater armies on giant seahorse-shaped creatures and sharks fight a sea battle; numerous monsters chase Aquaman and Mera, a princess from one of the underwater kingdoms who later becomes Aquaman's wife.

But there are also some dissenting voices from diehard fans of DC superhero films who compare the latest work to Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy and Zack Snyder' Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League (2017).

One critic Zhang Qi says for those who have read the stories of Aquaman and other major characters in the original comic books, the movie is a bit of a letdown.

"But now superhero films probably don't need to have a serious plot. Mere entertainment will do," he adds.

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