It’s a superhero movie that not even Wonder Woman can save. That is if you have brains, and are not easily fooled by video game visuals and pretentious melodrama. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was touted as the kickoff for a whole new DC Comics franchise, and while the opening weekend grosses are impressive, it is week two and thereafter that will decide whether BvS is a charmer or a clunker. Truth be told, when Wonder Woman is the best thing in the film, we have a problem Hollywood.
The film itself suggests it’s trafficking in topical notions of politics, religion, and moral ambiguity, but its main currency is our contemporary penchant for hip and affected pessimism. Our heroes must be reduced to fallible human beings, and stripped of their god-like stature so that we may wallow in bloviated pessimism. Henry Cavill’s Superman spends a lot of time wrestling with his definition of good vs. evil, while Ben Affleck’s Batman has grown older, and less appealing without his sidekick Robin by his side. But it is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor who seems totally lost, without motivation, or common sense to guide him.
It is a surprise, given how little screen time she gets, that only Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman manages to pull off the DC archetype correctly, a strong, effective woman in the midst of the doubting superheroes in her midst. She could easily give them a class on consistency and what it means to be a superhero. But in the end even WW can’t save this unholy mess of a film.
Zack Snyder’s BvS is more likely to put you to sleep than knock you out. Still its opening weekend seems set to break some records. The film posted the biggest pre-summer opening day ($82M, beating Furious 7‘s $67.4M) and weekend ($170M, outstripping The Hunger Games’ $152.5M). Heck, BvS is poised to be Warner Bros. best opening of all-time, beating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($169.2M), and even The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9M) and The Dark Knight ($158.4M). In 4,242 theaters, BvS is the widest pre-May release and new record-holder for top March and Easter debuts.
Whether the film recoups its reported $410 million cost remains to be seen. Many factors added to the cost including the extended principal photography, which lasted from May 2014 to December 2014 and saw various location shoots around the United States. The visual effects work took over a year to complete, so even if the $410 million figure isn’t accurate, it wouldn’t be surprising if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice still ranks near the top of the list of most expensive movies.
But given the sour critical response, the mostly tepid viewer reviews and the extensive pre-hype, the second week will surely show a plunge in revenues. One reason – never cited – for its immense first week grosses is that everyone is talking about the film. Even those who have little interest in its artistic lineage are rushing out to see if it is as bad as so many claim. And for that accomplishment, we have the marketing geniuses to thank. At the same time, we wonder if the producers listened to the writers, or the public in putting this polished turd together. It appears that in an effort to please everyone, they have pleased no one and have possibly killed off Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill’s future prospects for repeating their roles in future sequals.