Can Batman v Superman Still Be a Hit Or Is It Already Too Late?
For a film that counts two of the most iconic superheroes of all time as its leads, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is far from the hotly anticipated film it once was outside of the geek circles. Questionable casting choices, from Gal Gadot to Jesse Eisenberg to the once maligned Ben Affleck, have lead to suspicious grumbles. The risky proposition of handing the keys of the DC Universe to Zack Snyder, a director who has yet to fully prove he can bring enough substance to match his considerable style. It returns a Superman (no pun intended) who was not altogether well received in 2013s Man of Steel in Henry Cavill. It boasts a lineup that feels bloated just over a month before the film’s release that includes Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Doomsday, and potentially Darkseid, in addition to Batman and Superman. Everything indicates that DC was prepared to hit a grand slam in their first at-bat, but is it possible they struck out before even getting to the plate?
The first trailer that premiered at Comic-Con in July 2015 drew considerable buzz, and rightfully so; the action looked crisp, the tension was immediately noticeable, and the actors all looked like fantastic fits. Well, most of the actors did. The decision to cast Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, be he Jr. or Sr., drew ire upon announcement and has yet to sway many movie fans the world over. Eisenberg’s portrayal may very well prove to be a superb addition to the film, and the actor is talented enough to pull off a wide range of performances, but trailer after trailer further demonstrates that the belief that this Lex Luthor is not the one fans have come to hope and expect.
The second trailer debuted on December 2, 2015, and fans were eager to see if the highs from the first trailer continued to soar, and if the lows were mere blips on the radar. Once more, there were plenty of bright spots. The exchange between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent gave a sneak peek at the drama to ensue, intense stares were exchanged, subtle jabs tossed back at one another, and then…Eisenberg shows up to remind us that this Lex Luthor IS who we are worried he is. The eccentric personality and far too on the nose joke about picking a fight with Clark shows that the film, and Snyder, doesn’t have the proper grasp on the tone of the story or some of the characters involved to deliver a product true to its origins. From that moment, the trailer comes off the rails into a chaotic mess of action sequences with no discernible beginning, middle, or end until…Eisenberg enters once more to show us the real villain of this film is. Not a jilted Batman who has become paranoid and needs to be retired. Not a holier than thou Superman who needs to be taught a lesson on proper humanity from the resident species of this planet. No, it is the character Doomsday brought to life by Lex Luthor who will prove to be a foil to our heroes in a movie that was supposed to revolve around their ultimate battle. Not only is the battle between Batman and Superman no longer the climax, it may be resolved in the first half of the film. In theory this isn’t an issue, but in principle it is when the title of the film highlights their fight as the crux of the story.
The third, and final, trailer dropped on February 11, 2016, and to the delight of millions it is the best one yet. Is it perfect? No, the introductory sequence with Batman in a warehouse looks more like a cutscene from Arkham Asylum than an actual movie clip, but it is the most consistent offering yet. Strong moments between Alfred and Bruce, limited amounts of hysterical Luthor, and Superman in a limited, but sufficient dosage. Better yet, aside from a few highly debatable stills, the villain(s) that should not have appeared in the second trailer are notably absent, leaving only Bruce and Clark as the focus point of the trailer. Just like it should have been all along.
However, the main question that lurks is: has the damage already been done? Even further, was this movie ever as big as many thought it would be to begin with? Being fans within the movie community, specifically the geek community, often leads us to forget that the average moviegoer does not think the way they do. They do not hear about a comic book movie and instantly jump for joy. Instead a quizzical look crosses their face as they ask questions like, “Didn’t they just finish the Batman movies a few years ago?”, “Ben Affleck? He was Daredevil and NOW he’s Batman?”, and, “Man of Steel wasn’t that great, and now they are making another Superman movie? And why is he fighting Batman? They are both good guys!” Comic book fans everywhere can rush to their keyboards to try and explain, but to those who are not diehard fans it does not matter; the simple logistics of the film from an outside perspective outweighs the existing material. Geeks may be excited about Batman v Superman, but the general public is much more lukewarm than we realize. Warner Brothers has already begun to pick up on this and there are rumblings of the entire DC film universe being called into question if Batman v Superman does not cross a gigantic box office threshold that many once assumed was a sure thing. At one point Warner Brothers was hoping for upwards to $2 billion at the box office, now they have to settle for less than half of that. A box office haul nearing $1 billion is nothing to scoff at, but when your two largest characters pull that amount when they are in the same movie together, it does beg the question as to how a standalone Aquaman, Flash, or Wonder Woman would do with far smaller name actors and without the addition of a box office draw like Batman or Superman attached.
I assure you, I am hoping that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is an amazing movie. Superman is my favorite superhero of all time and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy represents some of the finest films the genre has seen. Nothing helps the comic book movies more than seeing the success of other films in the genre succeed, whether they be Marvel or DC, and a positive showing from Batman v Superman only increases the odds of more superhero films in the future.. I hope that positive word of mouth begins to spread and people are able to put away their preconceived notions of what they think the story should be and who should have been cast (I join this group), and actually see what the studio has to offer. So far, I am far from convinced, but I will continue to hope from now until March 25, 2016.
What say you? Has your faith in the film been deterred at all or are you just as excited as ever? Let us know in the comments section!
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed by Zack Snyder and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, and Laurence Fishburne,