This past weekend, the movie going public showed up in droves to witness Warner Bros. latest instalment in their long-gestating Justice League franchise. The studio had made every effort to market the superhero epic as a cage match, of sorts, between Henry Cavill’s Superman and JLo’s ex-boyfriend’s Dark Knight.
As I always do before heading to the theatre, I checked RottenTomatoes to see what audiences and critics alike thought about the blockbuster. With a mere 29% of critics approving the film, a score only marginally better than 2011’s Green Lantern (26%) and far worse than director Zack Snyder’s prequel to BVS, 2013’s Man of Steel (56%), it was obvious the film was missing something.
So, I put on my 3D glasses and went looking for it.
2 hours and 33 minutes later, I deposited the gimmicky spectacles into the recycling bin and made my way toward the theatre’s exit, contemplating what I’d just witnessed.
To my surprise—and my friends, who know me as a ruthless film critic (I thought Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier were average films)—my opinion on the superhero showdown went against the grain.
In short: I loved it.
I was a huge fan of Snyder’s 2009 film adaptation of Watchmen, a graphic novel that—like Dawn of Justice—dealt with mankind’s encounter with “The Superman.” While Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel is set in the modern day, Billy Crudup’s Doctor Manhattan encounters his own God Complex in an alternate Cold War era timeline—one in which the United States wins the Vietnamese war.
Much like how JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot served as an audition tape for Star War VII, Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation was used to convince Warner Bros. execs the 300 director could capture the dark and ominous tone of the DC universe on-screen.
Enter Batman V Superman, a film that’s being ripped apart by critics and fans alike. Granted, the film suffers from pacing issues and the jury is out on whethe Jesse Eisenberg’s take on super-villain Lex Luthor can endure for the series’ duration, but there’s something to be said about the uniform hatred among critics that goes beyond what Snyder and co. put on the screen.
Now, I’m not saying BVS is a perfect film, BY ANY MEANS, but I’m convinced the flick’s poor critical reception is the fault of several key factors, which I’ve outlined below.
1) The Film’s Marketing Team Needs to be Fired.
I’m only kidding, I’d never wish unemployment on anyone, but the constant barrage of YouTube trailers that began in summer 2015 GAVE THE ENTIRE FILM AWAY.
Instead of surprising audiences with the news that series’ baddy Doomsday would appear on-screen for the first time ever, Warner Bros. had to ruin the fun in featuring the character in a 2-minute spot.
This decision let audiences know a few things:
- The studio wasn’t confident in the film, and felt the need to give away MAJOR PLOT POINTS to print ticket stubs.
- The Batman/Superman showdown isn’t the film’s focus. Warner Bros. showed their hand here, letting everyone know the Batman V Superman title was chosen SPECIFICALLY for financial reasons.
- It indicated the film was trying to accomplish too much. From serving as a Man of Steel sequel, to launching a new Batman, to setting up the Justice League, to introducing Eisenberg’s Luthor—fans quickly realized the studio was forcing Snyder to bite off more than he could chew.
The bottom line: THE FILM IS CALLED BATMAN V SUPERMAN, AUDIENCES DON’T NEED TO BE SHOWN WHAT THEY’RE IN FOR.
Since this film has been pegged as the springboard for Warner Bros. DC cinematic universe, the negative response among both critics and fans will potentially cost the company billions down the road.
Granted, the film broke box office records over the Easter weekend, but it will be hard-pressed to sustain such glowing numbers with the negative critical response. This will hurt their revenue down the road, when origin films featuring Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Cyborg are released.
2) People hate change.
When describing Ben Affleck’s Batman to a friend that hadn’t seen the film (largely because of the garbage reviews), he shuttered when I revealed this Bruce Wayne is a murderer.
“But…Batman doesn’t kill.”
Personally, I couldn’t care less is Batman kills or not. Christopher Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader let the law choose who lives and dies, while Snyder’s older, more seasoned vigilante kills without mercy.
In my opinion, the universe DC is setting up is MUCH, MUCH DARKER than anything Marvel or Nolan approached, which warrants Bruce’s violent behaviour.
I welcome the change, considering this Bruce Wayne lives in a world where humanity is constantly on the brink of extinction. ‘Bats’ is dealing with more than thugs and henchmen here, he’s tasked with defending his world from forces beyond our understanding.
3) Moviegoers want DC to copy Marvel.
This one bothers me. I love me some Marvel. Iron Man and the Hulk are two of my favourite on-screen characters of all time, and Disney deserves all the credit in the world for achieving what they have. Their colourful, hopeful take on the Marvel Universe has worked wonders for them at the box office, spelling nothing but gold.
But…that’s not DC. The world of Gotham and Metropolis are historically dark, and consistently deal with narratives heavy on drama. Dawn of Justice captures that tone, which heavily contrasts the comedy fuelled hijinks of February’s biggest success, Deadpool. While that franchise is owned by FOX, the direction they took in the Ryan Reynolds vehicle was undoubtedly influenced by the folks at Disney.
I get it, people go to the theatre to forget about their problems, but Warner Bros. would be facing a much worse (hard to imagine, I know) critical hell storm if they copied Disney’s fool-proof superhero patent.
Personally, I couldn’t care less about Warner Bros. bottom line. If the movie loses money, my life doesn’t change. I’m not telling you to see this film to support Ben Affleck’s alimony payments, or Henry Cavill’s protein addiction.
All I’m saying: NEVER let anyone else form your opinion. Do that yourself.