If Warner Bros. believed Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice would have a full month to shine before having to worry about being eclipsed by Captain America: Civil War, the studio was very much mistaken. Despite its record-breaking box office debut, Batman V Superman only lasted at the No. 1 spot for two weeks. Box Office Mojo reports it was knocked to second place by the Melissa McCarthy-led comedy The Boss during its third week in theaters.
Within the same time frame, Marvel Studios has started to enthusiastically ramp up promotion of its own upcoming “superhero vs. superhero” project. The Disney-owned studio is so confident that critics and fans will love the third Captain America film that it green-lit early social media and full reviews weeks before the movie’s release on May 9.
By comparison, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice kept a roughly tight lid on film critic response until the last possible minute. Although early fan reviews were very positive, the reception of the Warner Bros. film shifted sharply ahead of its worldwide release. Even more bizarrely, the film was eclipsed by the conflict between fans and critics, with members of the former group even declaring that Marvel “bribed” movie reviewers just so Batman V Superman would look bad.
Forbes has Batman V Superman on the verge of earning $800 million worldwide, though some feel the movie will struggle to break even. Batman V Superman is officially said to have cost $250 million to make, but CinemaBlend puts the number closer to $410 million.
It seems incredible to say that a movie that performed as well as Batman V Superman underperformed. However, as a “tentpole film” and the first DC movie to feature Batman and Superman together (along with being the first to include Wonder Woman), some feel a comic book movie of this scale this should have easily crossed the billion-dollar mark.
Making things a bit more complicated is the fact that the spotlight on the Warner Bros. property has shifted away to rival Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Two new clips were released for the upcoming summer blockbuster this week.
Also, there’s been a social media blitz with personalized messages being sent out to persons who declare themselves #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan.
The good news for Warner Bros. is it can re-establish focus on the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) and its cinematic universe-building efforts when Suicide Squad hits theaters in August. There’s been a positive reception to Suicide Squad trailers, and excitement was not affected by the poor reception of Batman V Superman. It’s possible that this movie and Wonder Woman could get enthusiasm for the DCEU back on track.
The downside is that anticipation for the “tentpole” film Justice League: Part 1 may not be as high as it should be. With Batman V Superman failing to cross the billion-dollar mark, some wonder how the first Justice League film ever will perform.
Rumors are that Warner Bros. executives are waiting to see how Justice League: Part 1 is received before stepping in to make creative changes, such as removing Zack Snyder. It’s possible that the success of Captain America: Civil War might play a role from a purely reactionary standpoint — and Warner Bros. has been accused in the past of making “panicky” decisions.
Unfortunately for the studio, by rushing its DCEU creation (in an effort to catch Marvel), it created a throwaway film in Batman V Superman; it’s difficult to begin confidently universe-building with such a poorly-reviewed film. If Civil War is seen as better able to tell DC’s stories than DC (as was the claim when the Snyder film was compared to the Netflix series Daredevil’s second season), then Warner Bros. could find itself settling into the role of a less engaging version of the Marvel Universe, but with inadequate storylines.
Fans can only hope that Warner Bros. learns from this disappointing outcome and avoids making the same mistakes going forward.
[Image via Warner Bros./Marvel Entertainment/YouTube]