Batman v Superman: Dawn of a Troubled Franchise
By John Hamann
March 27, 2016
When Furious 7 opened, its Saturday gross failed to match its "true" Friday figure, losing $46.6 million to $51.6 million. The Saturday number for Dawn of Justice came in at $50.9 million, also below its true Friday of $54.3 million. The Sunday was down at $37.2 million, and really, if your film is targeted at those over the age of 12, Easter doesn't have much effect. The weekend comes in at $170.1 million, sixth all time, behind Iron Man 3's $174.1 million, but ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at $169.2 million, as well as The Dark Knight Rises at $160.9 million, and The Dark Knight at $158.4 million. It is the biggest opener ever for March, as well as biggest opener outside of the summer or Christmas corridor, as it spanks The Hunger Games at $152 million and Furious 7 at $147.2 million.
While the opening weekend is stellar, there are many signs of weakness hidden in the result - the "true" Friday softness, the dip from the real Friday to Saturday - these are all results of weak word-of-mouth and danger for the franchise.
Reviews were really bad, but that's not the worst part for Batman v Superman. At RottenTomatoes, Dawn of Justice is currently 30% fresh, with 100 more bad reviews than good. I'm a broken record, but with this much on the line, who thought a film that is reviewing at 30% was good enough to greenlight at script or story board stage? This is a $250 million film with one of the biggest, most expensive marketing campaigns in history, and this is the opening volley on what could be worth BILLIONS more from future films? Not good enough. The rest of the top openers of all time have it figured out - they are all good films.
Audiences are agreeing with critics. The Cinemascore came in at a B, a dramatically low score due to the fact that fanboys are there opening night - those who bought their tickets in advance - and obviously, some didn't like what they saw. Like Allegiant last weekend, now you have pissed off some of the core audience you want seeing this twice and killed any momentum gained from what was a wonderful marketing campaign.
The reviews said that a good film got trapped in a dark, nightmarish place and couldn't recover. From the outset, rule number one was broken, as superhero franchises are like sex - it's way better with the lights on. Marvel has been smart. They have released their slate as if their films were seen through the eyes of a child - kind of cartoony and bright, with a real patriotic glean that serves them well (Captain America 2 was pushing it, though). Batman v Superman is the opposite of that. Yes, Zach Snyder had a great result from 300 and its darkness, but that was rated R and was rightfully embraced by adults.
If Batman v Superman is for adults, then they Snyder should have made it with a Deadpool budget and not try and serve two masters - financial and artistic. This grab bag of superheroes also ends up feeling like it's a "manufactured franchise," similar to what Lionsgate attempted with The Divergent Series. Like Twilight, these are franchises that aren't built organically from one really good (and presumably successful) film. Iron Man gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe because it was that really good film (and it seriously holds up). What does this "Universe" have? When this one finishes with less than $400 million domestic, all Warner Bros. will have is hope for the Wonder Woman film with a different director. Audiences will be much more wary of Justice League than they were 10 days ago, and I will be surprised if it opens to the amount Dawn of Justice found this weekend.