Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reached box office earnings of just north of $870 million dollars which. While certainly a lot of money, this was significantly less than DC was hoping for. While it earned more than $100 million of that in its opening week, marking one of the strongest openings of any movie ever, few were surprised when the numbers dropped off at a precipitous rate.
The film earned more than three times its budget, so even with ad costs taken into consideration no one could call the film a total failure. With movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens hitting box office revenues of more than $2 billion dollars, expectations were high for Dawn of Justice. The results were less than impressive.
The movie probably earned more than it should have, since it was, by most accounts, very bad. The question though is why it was so bad, and why does it seem so hard for DC to release a good movie based on one of their properties. The Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman movies aside, you’d be hard pressed to find a movie DC has put out that was actually well received.
The answer to the first question isn’t actually that complicated; Director Zach Snyder and the writers on the film clearly just didn’t quite understand what it was people wanted. The film’s plot is long and overblown, slow in places that it should have moved through quickly. It spent an inexcusable amount of time on Superman being sad, and the titular fight lasts all of eight minutes. The true weakness of the film is pacing, though there’s certainly an abundance of other flaws.
Not the least of which is the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. It can be a common trope in films to have a major problem, or even the core problem, hinge on the fact that two principle characters simply refuse to stop for a moment and talk to each other.
Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film.
The whole “not talking” thing is a graver sin here than in most other movies, given the characters involved. Batman and Superman are two of the most iconic characters with regards to seeking peace, pursuing truth, and, generally making justice dawn. Yes, Ben Affleck’s Batman is significantly grumpier and more than willing to kill (we’ll get back to that in a moment), but even shouldn’t have been so angry that he’d refuse to have an intelligent conversation.
Which, frankly, he should have been made to do, because there is simply no way he could take on Superman. The Superman presented in the movies is a significant downgrade from the one presented in the comics, but he still possesses the attributes necessary to kill Batman in a hundred different ways without giving it much thought. The scene where the two characters actually fight is almost painful to watch because of how not-super Superman is acting, for apparently no reason at all.
True, Batman did hit Superman with kryptonite gas (a plot device I’m incredibly disappointed in them for relying on) but Superman shouldn’t have been hit by it to begin with. He certainly shouldn’t have been hit by it twice.
A weakness both Batman and Superman movies have consistently had is that neither character is ever supposed to kill people. It’s a core part of their personalities that they don’t do that. Obviously each will on some special occasion, but as a rule they won’t. It’s part of what makes the Joker such an effective villain for Batman. He’s constantly trying to antagonize Batman in the worst way possible, all while knowing that either Batman won’t kill him and he’ll get to do it all again, or Batman will kill him and the Joker will have succeeded in corrupting Batman.
Past movies, for some reason, have always played it casual with these two killing people anyway. They never go out of their way to, but if Batman wrestles someone off of a building or Superman punches a human through a wall, it always gets shrugged off even though those people would absolutely be dead.
Snyder apparently decided the best way to resolve this is to not beat around the bush anymore and just let the two characters kill people indiscriminately. Which they do. Batman alone racks up several dozen dead bodies in this film, and Superman kills someone in front of Lois in the first ten minutes. If you don’t remember, it’s when he tackles a man through multiple concrete walls. In real life, that would absolutely kill someone, and since that man isn’t shown again, the audience can only assume he’s dead.
The plot, as previously stated, is bad an unexciting. The final fight scene is a computer-generated mess. Jessie Eisenberg, while a good actor who does a solid job with the role he was given, was an awful choice to play Lex Luthor. The character of Lex Luthor, who is a supremely brilliant man who is able to manipulate the world to his whim on several occasions. Here, the movie reduces him to an inexplicable madman who tries to destroy the world for no reason at all.
The real disappointment in all of this is that none of these things had to be true. This movie, despite everything I’ve said, isn’t really bad. It’s just not at all good. The opening seen, showing the Metropolis fight from Man of Steel from the point of view of Bruce Wayne, was a home run, and Affleck’s performance as Batman was probably the best to date. All of the fight scenes were enjoyable, with some very good shots scattered throughout. A particular favorite is when Batman is punching Superman and the kryptonite starts to wear off, leaving each of Batman’s punches less effective until Superman isn’t even moving at all.
With a few relatively tweaks the film could have been a grand slam hit, which makes it all the more curious that these changes weren’t made. The people involved in the film aren’t stupid, but they failed to identify what it was the audience cared about. The studio has already expressed a commitment to moving forward with their DCEU and several more Justice League tie-ins are already on their way. Still, it remains to be seen if they’ll ever be able to match the momentum already generated by the MCU.
Also, props should be given to them for having the courage to kill Superman. Those props should also be taken away for the boring way they did and for resurrecting him in the same movie.