It’s almost unthinkable, I know, but what would it mean if BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE bombs critically and/or commercially when it is finally released later this month? At the very least it might sound the death knell for Warner Brothers producing anything superheroic not featuring Batman and no one else front-and-centre. Batman sells and Batman is critically appreciated in the hands of the right director – he’s a safe bet.
Warner Bros has put all its eggs in the film industry’s biggest basket. The budget, including marketing, is reportedly around $400 million, so the film not only has to do well at the box office but go stratospheric. If this venture doesn’t justify itself, say goodbye to JUSTICE LEAGUE for the forseeable future. SUICIDE SQUAD is in the can already, and WONDER WOMAN well on its way, so they’re safe, but everything else without bat-ears will be dead and buried.
What has got me so worried about one of the most anticipated movies ever? I’ve sort-of just answered my own question. As a fan of massive blockbusters based on comic books, and as a card-holding geek in general, I tend to get carried away by sheer anticipation. But having written film reviews for just under a decade now, I’m also conditioned for disappointment.
It was recently announced that the film would get an R-rated director’s cut released on DVD. Since DEADPOOL proved that more adult superhero fare can make money, the news that we’ll be getting a more brutal version of the film later on home media might make the more cynical audience members snort with derision. If this cut adds something worth seeing then why aren’t we seeing this cut on the big screen, especially if it would still make money? Because with the amount riding on this release Warner Bros don’t just want to make money, they want to make all the money! Someone at the studio clearly noticed that Peter Jackson has made a nice little nest egg from selling his movies to us twice for 15 years now, so there’s that as well.
The trailers we’ve seen so far (they’re still coming with three weeks to go) indicate that Warners have once again got Batman right despite what Ben Affleck’s detractors might say. It also looks like Jeremy Irons’ take on Alfred is pretty spot-on – sarcastic, supportive and far more hands-on than previous iterations. We’re finally seeing Wonder Woman’s big-screen debut with Gal Gadot and she certainly looks the part, though I still don’t get why she couldn’t get her own film out there before she had to tag along with the boys. Actually, scrap that, I know exactly why this is the case. Warners, as well as knowing Batman sells, also “know” female superheroes don’t. They cynically wanted to give WW a test drive as part of a “sure thing” before they trusted her with her own vehicle.
Everything else that I’ve seen makes me a little uneasy. It all looks mirthless, and very dark and psychoanalytical because that what worked (mostly) for Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy. Everyone seems to have realised all-of-a-sudden that Superman destroyed a city in MAN OF STEEL and maybe that was a bad thing. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor could go either way. The rest of the Justice League are supposed to get at the very least a cameo (possibly more for Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman). Genetically-engineered Superman-killer Doomsday is in it because there apparently wasn’t enough going on already.
Look, it’s probably all going to be fine. I like Zack Snyder’s work, but we’re long past the expiry date for brooding superhero epics and at some point this bubble has to burst and destroy a film studio through pure hubris. But who’s to say this will be the movie to do it? We’ve got a 2-part Justice League and ditto for AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR in a few years to complete that challenge. SSP