bvsfeature

Batman V Superman Is Over-Performing!?!
Wanna Know Why?

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

Let’s face it. Everyone loves a good film fight. “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” Freddy vs. Jason” “Aliens vs. Predator.” And, with $420M worldwide, you can’t deny that “Batman V Superman” was something audiences around the world wanted to see.

But, let’s be honest, it does reek a bit of desperation. A last ditch effort to bring relevancy to characters that may have been overexposed, overstayed their welcome, or overplayed their hands. And while that may be true, it also worked.

Batman and Superman are staples of the American fabric of superheroes. The bat signal, the “S” on the chest (I know, it’s not an “S”)—these are iconic images that resonate deeply and passionately with a multitude of fans and even casual observers. In fact, these images are inescapable, tied in some way to nearly every generation still alive today.

They’re the first comic book characters that come to mind, or used to be, until Marvel tipped the pop culture scales with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest of their heavy hitters, namely, Earth’s mightiest…the Avengers.

Those scales leveled out a tad this weekend, despite the Bat-lash from critics, WB’s “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” debuted with $166M—the 7th best domestic debut in history, firmly planting DC’s flag alongside Marvel for control of the comic book box office. No small feat.

Sure, the film has been lambasted by reviewers, 29%—Holy Ho-Hum, Batman—on Rotten Tomatoes, marking it as the worst Batman aggregate since George Clooney donned the cape in “Batman & Robin.” However, in its defense—IT OPENED WITH $166M, $500M+ IN 5 DAYS!

“BvS” is also over-performing—$15M—compared to Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” which scored $11M and $13M respectively on Monday, the first weekday following their own massive openings. Again, no small feat.

Many outlets are borderline obsessed with the headline—Do Critics Still Matter?—but the issue here isn’t public taste vs. critical reception; what this is, is two heavyweights in a fight everyone wanted to see, like Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield back in the day, or Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm II.

That’s the clever disguise Warner Bros. billed “BvS” as; but what it really is, is a relaunch of their entire universe. That’s what was at stake here. That’s what they actually accomplished. So whether or not it makes a billion worldwide doesn’t really matter. It might come close, it might not quite get there…but that’s not the brass ring.

WB didn’t need to convince critics to see their superhero flicks.  Let’s be honest for a hot minute: most reviewers shouldn’t even waste their words of wisdom on super-sized sequels, it’s like spraying graffiti on the walls of Chernobyl. Ain’t nobody goin’ to see that.

That doesn’t mean film reviews are obsolete, it’s just that tentpoles, especially established franchises, are more or less bulletproof. Critics often keep mainstream films afloat in the lean times—weeks three, four and five—and often cinematically spelunk arthouse gems that may otherwise be lost. Many grass-root film crusades have been cooked up with a snappy quip or a chipper quote that awakens the senses across social media like the smell of freshly baked Cinnabons.

Whether “Batman V Superman” passed the sniff test or not wasn’t all that important, as what WB and DC did was convince audiences that this particular fight was worth the price of admission. It was.

But not just for this film, for an entire universe, as a half-dozen films are already on their release calendar including “Justice League: Part One,” “Justice League: Part Two,” “Wonder Woman,” “Aquaman,” “Cyborg,” and “The Flash.”

In my opinion, the best parts of the film were the first twenty minutes, and Wonder Woman showing up. But like a UFC build up that doesn’t even last a full round, Batman and Superman didn’t trade many blows, and Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne (other than a 24-Hour Fitness commercial) didn’t show us much behind the certain. So that part was a bit of a bust.

Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash were pretty cool snippets though, which lead me to believe much better things are on their way as these new additions will greatly expand the scope and vision of DC’s tribe of heroes.

Let’s face it, Christopher Nolan nailed Batman with his Dark Knight trilogy, and Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve already made the perfect Superman films.

That’s part of the reason comparisons are a bit unfair. That said, director Zack Snyder has proven that he and his writers are creatively blocked when coming up with action scenes that propel the film forward —adding slow-motion onslaughts of no-name henchmen and shooting at everything that moves with machine guns ad nauseam. That’s just lazy filmmaking.

There were way too many scenes like this in “Batman V Superman,” and, frankly, audiences deserve more. No doubt, the multiplex masses will take what you give them, this is Batman and Superman in the same film. It deserved a little more credence.

As my 8-year-old daughter aptly concluded: “I like cheese and bread. People like cheese and bread. People like Batman and Superman. Of course this was going to make $170M.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

“Batman V Superman” is a pure popcorn picture, first and foremost…that just needed to lighten up a bit. Nolan’s trilogy was a deep, dark exploration of human characters who happen to enjoy playing dress-up. That’s the difference here. Marvel has proven you can have depth and stay true to the core ink and blotter of the pages of the comic books. And, you know, have fun doing it.

DC has yet to show it truly understands that there must be equilibrium between appeasing fans and putting out a product that rakes in billions. But, that said, “BvS” is a step in the right direction. When it grosses close to $1B, it becomes quite difficult to argue its virtue.

Now the problem I have with films like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World,” and now “Batman V Superman” obliterating box office records is that pedestrian stories, combined with amazing visuals and awesome sets, are now passing as Hollywood royalty.

Studios are mining the vaults to reimagine, reboot, revive everything that once walked among the box office giants. This is Frankenstein filmmaking gone amok, folks. You know who to call. “Ghostbusters.”

All I can say is that what Snyder, J.J. Abrams, and Colin Trevorrow did was successfully re-launch mega-franchises, and hopefully, with the studios riding high on the waves of cash, they’ll buckle down, dig a little deeper, and hand off future installments to filmmakers of vigilant vision and passion….and more importantly, those that have the intelligence and perseverance to cook up the very best blockbuster possible…despite all the cooks in the kitchen.

Today’s new breed of filmmaker will have to outsmart and outmaneuver armies of studio suits, middle-men and women equipped with endless rolls of red tape, and merchandising monsters that have more power than you can even imagine.   In fact, it’s probably more difficult than ever to make a unique blockbuster these days.

Bottom line is, I think we all love films…with maybe a little too much passion at times, but hopefully that can be a positive thing, as we all want the same thing: to be thrilled beyond our wildest imagination. No simple task, I know, but something all big-budget blockbusters should strive for.

There are other Spielbergs out there;  we just need to give them the time to marinate cinematically, and not shackle them with merchandising and sequel demands.

Can we please just make each film as a stand-alone? One with a satisfying beginning, middle and end—is that too much to ask for?  We know there’s going to be a sequel (or more likely a trilogy) in this day and age; you don’t spend $100M+ on a film in this town anymore and expect anything less.

In the end, WB might be the only studio in town that can honestly go toe-to-toe, cod piece to cod piece, with the mighty Mouse House and the box office empire created by Marvel.

Sure, Snyder didn’t need to create a masterpiece, he just needed to launch the Justice League, and he did that. Yes, he got grilled in the process, but this box office BBQ was all about makin’ bacon and sizzlin’ up some sequels.  Now hand off that spatula.

There are actually new films coming out this weekend, two of them in wide release; however, none from the studios.

Pure Flix offers up the sequel worthy of our savior in “God’s Not Dead 2,” which will show the light in 2,200+ theaters, and likely filleth the cup with $13M or so—making around three times its budget opening weekend. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Bring on the holy trinity!

Two years ago, the original, with a budget of just $2M, opened with $9M on its way to a leggy $60M. Is it any wonder Sony has been trying so hard to corner the faith-based market?  A lot of offerings to scoop up there.

Freestyle, which released “God’s Not Dead,” didn’t get the distribution deal on the second coming, so instead offers up “Meet the Blacks” in 1,000+ theaters, which stars Mike Epps and…Iron Mike Tyson. Uh-huh. Yup. $1.5M if they’re lucky.

Seems everyone markets their films as sequels these days, even in the spiritual sense. That’s the case for Richard Linklater’s latest, “Everybody Wants Some!!” which is his “Dazed and Confused” take on the early 80s. Whompa. Whompa. Critics are eating this one up, at 98% fresh, matching the magical score he received on his last piece of celluloid brilliance, “Boyhood.”

The R-rated, $10M flick debuts in 19 theaters this weekend, expanding wide in weeks to come.

Gotta get me some of this.

***

WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. Batman V Superman: $62M
  2. Zootopia – $16M
  3. God’s Not Dead 2 – $13M
  4. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – $12M
  5. Miracles From Heaven – $5.5M

***

Nothing says summer like s’mores and good scary campfire story. Hollywood is banking on that in 2016, as more than a half-dozen chill pills will spill into multiplexes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Here are some of the most promising.

***

WB’s “The Conjuring 2” (June 10, 2016)

The original materialized $318M worldwide on a budget of $20M. That’s seriously scary. But wanna hear something even more scary? The spin-off, “Annabelle,” made $256M with a pricetag of just $5M.

***

Sony’s “The Shallows” (June 24, 2016)

Gonna need a bigger island. Shark movies officially jumped the shark with Jaws 3D, but man, do I love/hate shark movies…I can’t look away. This seems like a cross between “Jaws” and “Open Water.”  I’m in.

Let’s hope the music supervisors got this song in there: Benji Hughes’ “Shark Attack!” It’s my new summer surfing jam.

***

WB’s “Lights Out” (July 22, 2016)

I absolutely abhor freaky ladies that move around really quick and make sounds like rattlesnakes. They are, like, the worst thing ever.

***

“Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice” Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design by WORKS ADV

***

Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.