Batman v Superman desert

Last weekend this blog gave an honest review of Batman v Superman because your friendly neighborhood writer is always in search of truth, justice and the American way. I said it was a movie that had its good parts (e.g., Ben Affleck), its excellent parts (e.g., visuals), and parts that were just plain ugly (e.g., Jesse Eisenberg). I did that for the same reason I will readily admit that Iron Man 2 was a creative mess that was barely saved by Robert Downey Junior’s awesomeness — it’s the truth.

All this is relevant because something peculiar happened when box-office numbers came in on Sunday: Hardcore DC Comics fans and those with a vested interest in the movie’s success started framing its $420 million global gross over the weekend as proof that critics were all wrong.

CBR, for example, reported Monday:

Overcoming a torrent of negative reviews that triggered social-media backlash from die-hard fans, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” stormed theaters worldwide over the weekend, exceeding most box-office predictions and breaking records left and right.

It turns out that, after all the hand-wringing by fans and Warner Bros. executives alike, “Batman v Superman” really was review-proof.

My wife asked me what the numbers meant as they started rolling in and I said we wouldn’t really know until next weekend.

I will now let Forbes explain why:

Batman v Superman has set a new record for the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero movie release in modern North American box office history. In dropping 55% from its $82 million Friday debut to its $37 million gross on Sunday, it pummeled all prior records for weakness in theatrical staying power. It even beat the nearly universally reviled and now long-forgotten Fantastic Four reboot, which dropped a comparatively modest 48% across its opening weekend in the summer of 2015. …

Superhero movies that don’t hold up well over their first weekend tend not to sustain much energy at the box office over the longer course of their theatrical runs. …

The steep decline in the Batman v Superman numbers points to the unfortunate likelihood that, apart from DC Comics fans, North American audiences don’t like the movie very much.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to see things as they are instead of how we wish them to be. The optimist sees things through rose-colored glasses and the pessimist seems things as unrealistically grim. The mind has a funny way of making any “true believer” immune to cold, hard reality, which is why the truth about BvS should be spread far and wide.

I want Warner Bros. to succeed with its long-term plans, but that is not likely to happen if executives do not come to terms with the film’s flaws. Having websites out there calling the movie “review-proof” does no-one any favors.

Filming for Justice League is scheduled to start April 11, but Warner Bros. may want to consider stepping on the breaks for a month or two if that it possible. The script of BvS was disjointed and Bruce Wayne appeared to be the only character who was not underdeveloped. Given that the same creative team is working on Justice League, it would be wise to pause, analyze what didn’t work with BvS, and then fix any problems that inadvertently carried over into the current project.

This blog may favor Marvel fare, but I have no desire to see DC properties crash and burn. The superhero genre has plenty of people who are eager for its demise, which is why Warner Bros. needs to right its ship before its too late.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

23 comments

  1. “….it pummeled all prior records for weakness in theatrical staying power….”

    Oh, ouch! Okay, I laughed. That’s pretty pathetic. I didn’t go see it because I’ve developed a real dislike for moral ambiguity. There’s enough of that in the real world, I expect my entertainment to have clear cut good guys and bad guys, and the good guys must always win because truth, justice, and the American way.

    1. There was no way that Batman v Superman wasn’t going to have a strong opening weekend. People have dreamed about this kind of movie for a long time. Guys like me were going to see that movie even if every single review out there sad it was horrible. Your average moviegoer, however, is not going to call the movie “awesome” just because Batman and Superman have a pretty cool fight for five minutes.

      Technically, there are some real flaws with the BvS script. It is glaringly obvious. I see people denying this online and I just have to laugh.

      I think that if Warner Bros. takes the complains of BvS seriously, then it should be able to easily avoid certain pitfalls going forward. The movie looked cool and it had moments that were amazing, but a legitimate blockbuster needs to be firing on all cylinders to have real staying power.

    2. Not disagreeing with your points about the flaws of the films, but could the drop be mainly due to this being was the first really big blockbuster release on Easter weekend? By Sunday, people are actually in church or doing something else?

    3. The author of the Forbes’ piece addressed that question, saying, “You might be thinking that Sunday was the Easter holiday, which could account for the big Sunday drop. But that still wouldn’t explain the Friday-to-Saturday decline of 38 percent, which was the second worst opening Friday-to-Saturday drop in the annals of superhero releases, after a 40 percent dip for The Dark Knight Rises.”

      Long story short: All the cards will be on the table after this weekend. The one good thing for BvS at the moment is that there really isn’t anything else out there worth seeing. Anything that is worth seeing (e.g., Deadpool), people already checked out weeks ago.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, kjoe. I appreciate it.

  2. No! You’re wrong and a big doodoo head! You probably smell bad too!

    . . .

    nah, I’m kidding, I haven’t even seen the movie yet (maybe because I’m finding my DC fix quite satisfied by TV – I mean that – heck Arrow vs Flash last year was probably every bit as in depth & entertaining as BvS this year). I think Midnight’s Edge was right that DC needs to get someone detached, yet passionate to over see the arc of these movies – to be like a TV show runner (only instead of episodes, we get movies) that can keep things on track without getting lost in the weeds. (not that I’m volunteering nor turning down the job…) Actually I would pick either of the Dini/Timm pair that made Batman/Superman/Justice League animated shows work SOOOO beautifully. They have the demonstrated experience AND have made some of the best batman movies ever with just animation…

    I think WB needs to really consider what they’re aiming for and what they need. Marvel has Movies well in hand and is fast sewing up the exclusive TV market (what I’m calling Netflix). DC meanwhile seems to be doing quite well in the broader, broadcast markets (certainly quality wise – Arrow/Flash is far superior to AoSHIELD/ACarter). Movies are a bubble that has to end up popping if for no reason than eventually budgets will be too high for any release to exceed (assuming even 100% of earth attending) so I think DC trying for that is not a winner. Instead maybe they can go after the flip side and an exclusive movie market. They have for awhile with a steady release of direct-to-dvd animated films (of various quality, I’ve been watching through all of them of late) so direct-to-dvd/netflix live action films would be a logical step, they just have to risk it by making them top quality. Obviously the biggest hurdle here is that theaters are pretty obvious in how to monetize them while the direct market is still be worked on for turning a profit (hollywood’s zimbabwe-esque styles of finances does not help).

    The only other option is to flip Marvel’s script. The aforementioned TV shows all seem to be doing quite well purely because of the goodwill built up from the audience (well the netflix shows it does help that they are actually good). Since right now the strongest DC material are the broad TV shows, perhaps WB needs to build up Arrow/Flash/LoT into a quality movie that draws people in. I know right now I would be far more open to watch a Justice League movie involving Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell, Victor Garber, Arthur Darvill… heck bring back Tom Welling for Supes and Michael Rosenbaum for Luthor than one involving Affleck, Cavill, or Gadot.

    1. “I would pick either of the Dini/Timm pair that made Batman/Superman/Justice League animated shows work SOOOO beautifully.”

      Good idea, which means it probably will never happen. 😉

      “Movies are a bubble that has to end up popping if for no reason than eventually budgets will be too high for any release to exceed…”

      I’m not with you on that point at all. Nate, technology keeps getting better. It’s easier all the time to make cool CGI. The only way any superhero “bubble” pops is if the writing is bad. BvS didn’t need Doomsday in it. In fact, having that super-expensive brawl in the film made things worse. That was millions upon millions of dollars that were needlessly wasted.

      At some point in time people will say, “Yep, I know that you can make an entire universe explode on film and make it look real — but call me when you have a good story.”

      Or…virtual reality will finally arrive and people will be placed within the movie…and they’ll once again be more forgiving of lackluster writing.

      “Hey, who cares about the quality of the writing. This is straight out of Star Trek: The Next Generation! Sweet!”

    2. I’m not with you on that point at all. Nate, technology keeps getting better. It’s easier all the time to make cool CGI.

      Yes, which is why IN THEORY movie budgets should steadily be going down while what they can show increases. And… that’s not really happening as you can spot just reading through Furious D’s archives.

      http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2015/07/hollywood-babble-on-on-1238-who-is-to.html
      http://dknowsall.blogspot.ca/2012/09/the-basics-movies-money.html
      http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2014/12/hollywood-babble-on-on-1202-you-asked.html

      Heck usually with each success the stars salaries are going to go up. Which means Marvel could end up killing its own goose as with each individual movie pushing salary up of each star making the “come together blockbuster” unable to afford the come together part (might be a problem for Avengers 6 or 7).

      Time will tell…

    3. “Yes, which is why IN THEORY movie budgets should steadily be going down while what they can show increases. And … that’s not really happening as you can spot just reading through Furious D’s archives.”

      I’m sure Furious D is a nice guy, but any man who has “knowsall” in his url does not know all. I’m more interested in hearing Nate Winchester break down this stuff in his words when I know he can do in one minute what he had me do in 10 by reading multiple links…

      Regardless, your original point — “movies are a bubble that has to end up popping if for no reason than eventually budgets will be too high for any release to exceed” — still is based on some Chicken Little-ish argument about the movie industry. Mr. D’s first post makes it sound as if inflation is something that only affects the movie industry. By his own admission some studios are better run than others, and he never mentions that directors like Robert Rodriquez long ago perfected the art of making movies on a budget.

      What was that superhero movie that came out not too long ago with a $58 million budget, was rate R, and still managed to bring in almost $750 million as of this moment? Ah, yes. It was Deadpool.

      Hollywood can make cool superhero movies on a reasonable budget at any time. Sorry, Mr. D. That’s the truth.

    4. Hey I rephrased by pointing out the actors salaries alone is going to push budgets up, particularly with the way they handle it right now. (though obviously there is some leeway depending on contracts) For just 1 example, Robert Downey Jr. 50 mil for Avengers 1, 80 mil for A2. Not that I’m complaining or saying he doesn’t deserve it, just noting one factor among the many that pushes budgets upwards.

      Oh they COULD make movies on a reasonable budget and turn a tidy profit any time.

      They could also avoid insulting a large segment of the public in their films but we all know how likely that is. 😉

      But ok, I’ll edit my point to, “unless things in hollywood change…” bubble etc. But some time check out Furious D’s posts which detail how screwed up business is in Hollywood. You know why businesses are so cartoonly evil in movies? Because apparently that really is how evil they are in the movies (in other words, it ain’t only the equipment that’s projecting).

      Bonus material on the problems CGI is starting to face:
      http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/4-reasons-movie-special-fx-are-actually-getting-worse_p2/
      http://www.cracked.com/article_18486_the-5-miserable-vfx-jobs-that-make-movies-possible.html

      Heck things are getting so bad it seems like you and I could make a killing by starting a studio and pumping out movies using sane bookkeeping and ethical business practices.

    5. Most of the time the studios lock these guys into multi-film deals. Robert Downey Jr. is sort of a special case because he really helped get the whole Marvel train out of the station. Would anyone honestly care if Jeremy Renner lost the Hawkeye role tomorrow? I wouldn’t. The vast majority of these actors can be easily replaced. Ask Terrence Howard how that Rhodey role is treating him. Oops…my fault. Sorry to bring up bad memories, Terrence.

      People do not care who is in these roles as long as they deliver and the movies rock. Marvel is paying RDJ what he wants because he’s a cash cow at the moment. When it becomes economically unfeasible for them to meet his demands, then they’ll drop him.

      “Heck things are getting so bad it seems like you and I could make a killing by starting a studio and pumping out movies using sane bookkeeping and ethical business practices.”

      I have no doubt in my mind that if I were given the seed money to begin a studio with people I knew and trusted that we would do very cool (and profitable) things.

      We would make “great deals.” “Yuuuuuuge deals.” 😉 Yes, that may be a bit Trumpian, but I firmly believe it.

      I have a few long-term plans that involve graphic novels, but nothing along the lines of film at the moment. We shall see…

  3. Yeah, it’s becoming real apparent why WB didn’t want to open this movie against the next Captain America movie. If that movie is as good as the trailers suggest, I suspect a lot of reviewers saying, “This is what Dawn of Justice should’ve been and here’s why.”

    I notice a lot of people dancing around an important subject here: the budget. This movie’s opening would’ve been a lot more impressive if WB hadn’t spent such a fortune making and promoting it. These movies have to break records just to break even. I mean, I get that special effects are pricey, but it seems like they could’ve saved money here and there (e.g. Doomsday). The reason why superhero movies are a thing is because the earliest installments (Spider-Man, X-Men, etc.) had comparatively smaller budgets and grossed a lot domestically. I doubt Spielberg’s right about superhero movies going the way of the western, but y’know, producers need to be more careful with their money. CW’s DC shows and Marvel’s Netflix shows accomplish a lot more for less than movies like “Dawn of Justice.”

    ‘Course, that’s just a symptom of a larger problem. DC needs a person like Kevin Feige at the helm, and I don’t just mean “creative guy with big ideas.” Feige is largely free of executive meddling; I mean, that was even a point of Disney restructuring things a while back so that Feige didn’t have to answer to Marvel comic people. One wonders where Marvel’s movie projects would be today if Disney had bought the company before the first Iron Man movie came out. Probably like with “Dawn of Justice”: a lot of different voices insisting on what needs to be done, leading to a mishmash of ideas that don’t all fit very well.

    And, y’know, the Fantastic Four comparison requires another look. Remember the Ioan Gruffudd/Jessica Alba version? That first movie got rough reviews but surprised people at the box-office. I recall the most optimistic people saying, “Well, they’ll learn from this and do better next time.” Well, “Rise of the Silver Surfer” said otherwise; it suggested that the people that made it thought they were on the right path. That could be what happens with DC.

    1. “These movies have to break records just to break even. I mean, I get that special effects are pricey, but it seems like they could’ve saved money here and there (e.g. Doomsday)”

      The writers could have easily left Doomsday out of the script and focused more on Superman or Luthor. It would have greatly helped the movie. The thing that makes me laugh is that Doomsday really doesn’t look all that much better than Abomination from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Talk about embarrassing.

      “DC needs a person like Kevin Feige at the helm, and I don’t just mean ‘creative guy with big ideas.’ Feige is largely free of executive meddling.”

      Whatever Mr. Feige is doing, it’s working. I’m not sure why Warner Bros. isn’t taking notes.

    1. BvS had the largest pre-summer opening in North American history. Its $254 million haul overseas was also the largest international opening for a superhero movie.

  4. Anecdote: a high school teen girl told me tonight that she had just seen the movie. Affleck was great, Cahill was not, the story jumped around so much it confused her, and Luthor was a stupid rip-off of the Joker. How’s that for a simple, distilled reaction from the heartland?

    1. “Anecdote: a high school teen girl told me tonight that she had just seen the movie. Affleck was great … and Luthor was a stupid rip-off of the Joker. How’s that for a simple, distilled reaction from the heartland?”

      I love the Joker comment. Haha! It’s astounding that Snyder let Eisenberg get away with that.

  5. Spider-Man may be my favorite superhero, but I greatly prefer DC over Marvel and it’s actually because I’m a huge DC fan that I’m refusing to see this movie.
    I really haven’t been on board with the DC Cinematic Universe idea since it began. What the Hollywood studio heads apparently don’t realize is that while DC and Marvel are similar, they have different strengths and weaknesses.
    One of Marvel’s great strengths is in the cohesiveness of their universe and that translated well onto the big screen via a carefully planned, years-long build-up. That also happens to be (in my opinion) one of Marvel’s greatest weaknesses. Often times I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to imagine that New York City in the Marvel Universe isn’t the worst place to live that ever existed. The NYPD are keystone cops, the city is crawling with unchecked, often-times ego driven superheroes and every month half the city is destroyed by rampaging supervillains, alien invasions, Hulk tantrums or poorly-written, overly dramatic line-wide cross-over events.
    DCs greatest strength, by contrast, lies in their fictional cities. Gotham, Metropolis, Keystone/Central, Coast City etc. are all fictional places that have acquired a history and identity of their own, but more importantly, serve as a useful tool for cutting off the rest of the larger DC Universe when a writer is trying to concentrate on telling a good story about one hero. Each of those cities are essentially their own “sub-universe” within the DC Universe. Part of the reason that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is so great is because I never had to wonder why Superman didn’t just fly in and mop up Bane’s revolution. In those movies, which took place only in the “Gothamverse”, Superman wasn’t mentioned and theoretically didn’t exist, therefore he wasn’t a factor. That’s something DC has over Marvel, because there is no way you can convince me Mephisto was Spider-Man’s only option when he has as many powerful contacts living right there in the same city.
    WB tried too hard and too fast to emulate Disney/Marvel’s success rather than looking to their own MASSIVE success (Nolan Trilogy) and as I predicted, they’ve failed. While Marvel built a massive, interconnected universe DC should have concentrated on focused, character driven trilogies that were aesthetically tailored to fit the story at hand. While Batman should be grim realism and noir-detective style stories, Superman should be larger-than-life Sci-Fi and hopeful optimism. While Aquaman might be a Shakespearean political-drama involving treacheries in the royal family of Atlantis, Green Lantern should be a massive space opera closer to Star Wars or even GotG (and not Ryan Reynolds building CG racetracks and fighting turd-clouds from space).
    Anyway…there’s 2 cents from a DC fan.

    1. I agree. If Marvel ever treated the police force and U.S. military semi-realistically, most of Marvel’s NYC super-villains should be dead, shot to smithereens by the NYPD and their S.W.A.T. teams. Not to mention all the New Yorkers who are secretly packing heat, in defiance of the city’s anti-2nd-amendment ordinances, including all the gangsters. The CIA and FBI would also have cooked up tailor-made countermeasures for the non-shootable baddies — solvent guns, vibration cannons, anti-force-field EMP emitters, and so on. But DC is just as bad in this way. Just imagine if the Joker ever strayed into Texas. He would be dead within weeks, maybe days, at the hands of some 17-year-old Houston cowgirl with a rifle.

  6. I saw the movie yesterday. Twice. Its a masterpiece. Like all great art it is both allegorical and of its time. I am working it all out slowly, but I was just overwhelmed.

    1. “I saw the movie yesterday. Twice. Its a masterpiece.”

      That’s some high praise for BvS, Martinho! 🙂

      Visually, I was very impressed with the movie. That is definitely Snyder’s strength.

  7. I saw BvS on Monday night and despite it’s weaknesses I still enjoyed it for what it was. The serious dramatic tone worked for me, the deep psychological elements could’ve been fleshed out better. I also like some of the artistic montages. But a little more character development and a bit more humor would’ve made it better.

    Now if the Russo brothers had directed it instead, it would’ve been a great movie. “The Winter Soldier” remains my favorite Marvel film to date.

    Maybe it’s time for WB & Zack Snyder to pass the mantle onto some (A) list Directors. I would personally love to see Doug Liman or Ridley Scott tackle a Marvel project someday. Directors of that caliber are who I believe WB should be hiring to really give the DCCU blockbuster momentum. They can certainly afford them.

    1. “Now if the Russo brothers had directed it instead, it would’ve been a great movie. ‘The Winter Soldier’ remains my favorite Marvel film to date.”

      True. Marvel knows it, which is why I bet they’re on contractual lock down in terms of working on D.C. properties anytime soon. 🙂

      “I would personally love to see Doug Liman or Ridley Scott tackle a Marvel project someday.”

      Perhaps Doug Liman on a “Black Widow” movie? I’d like to see that or maybe “Deathlok.”

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