‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’: Boom or Bust?

Hard to believe, but we’re just a mere month away from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. The anticipation for Zack Snyder’s superhero showdown has been building since three Comic-Cons ago, and fans will surely appear in droves. But what about the general public? Does your Average Joe really care that much that Batman and Superman will fight each other onscreen for the first time? The marketing for this film has been problematic, with a clear struggle to find the right tone, while revealing too much footage at the same time. There’s reason to believe that Warner Brothers’ attempt at another Marvel Cinematic Universe may blow up in their face.

At the helm for his third superhero movie with Warner Brothers is Zack Snyder. His fans are passionate and his visual style is indisputably cool, but believe it or not, Snyder hasn’t had a hit in nine years. In fact, he’s only had one unqualified success: 300. It puzzles me that Warner Brothers puts so much faith in a director this polarizing, especially when he isn’t exactly keeping the hits coming. Early rumors suggest that Dawn of Justice will be equally divisive, which isn’t what you want for a mega-budget franchise-starter.  It seems like a given that Batman V Superman will take a critical drubbing, which could dent box office. For every superhero film that gets boosted by favorable critics (Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool), there’s one that is clearly effected by negative reactions (never forget Fantastic Four). If Dawn of Justice can’t win over critics, it will almost certainly fall like a rock after its opening weekend.

Batman V Superman is also going to have to combat some ugly buzz heading into its opening. At this stage in the game, the conversation around a film should be much more positive. Right now, reports note budget concerns, Snyder potentially being fired from Justice League, and the film itself being a mess. It doesn’t matter if these rumors are false, the point is they exist, and the conversation around the film is more defensive and intense than it should be. Hell, I think when The Force Awakens came out, our country was the most united it’s been since before Donald Trump was born. The buzz around Batman V Superman isn’t nearly as jolly, and that could translate into low attendance.

The question I’ve been asking myself since 2013 is how much exactly does Batman help things? We all know how huge Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was, but this is not that film. Did so many people watch Nolan’s trilogy because they like Batman, or because the movies were just so damn good? I think the latter. The fanbases of Superman and Batman more or less overlap, so there’s reason to believe this effectively plays like a Man of Steel sequel. Having Batman and Superman will obviously boost box office, but Warner Brothers isn’t getting a pass solely on the basis that those two fight each other. The movie has to be good.

Now, all these concerns could wind up taking the backseat thirty days from now, and Dawn of Justice becomes the next Avengers. Warner Brothers has been marketing this thing at full force, and the supposed to death of superheroes has yet to be proven a reality. But with a budget ballooning this high, and Warner Brothers blockbuster slate for the next decade on the line, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will have to perform a lot better than just okay.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theaters on March 25, 2016.

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