Warner Bros and DC Comics may be preparing to rethink their superhero film release strategy after the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was met with a muted reception in internal screenings, reports say.
The film sees Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent go toe to toe in a grand clash of heroic ideologies. It also features Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash to pave the way for further superhero capers from the DC universe.
However, according to Drew McWeeny at HitFix, early viewings haven’t been received as positively as the studio hoped. If the film does not turn out to be a smash, it could affect Warner Bros superhero release schedule, with next year’s planned Justice League: Part One being hit in favour of a solo Batman film.
“My guess is what’s going to happen based on what I’m hearing… is Justice League is going to get moved back and that Ben Affleck Batman movie, that’s what’s going to end up in that spot,” McWeeny said.
He continued: “My guess is they’re going to throw whatever money it takes at Ben Affleck to make that Batman film happen sooner rather than later. They’re going to need to rebuild again, they’re going to need to win people over, [and] they’re going to need to lay some different groundwork. I don’t think this is going to be the springboard into the Justice League that they wanted it to be.”
According to those who have seen Dawn of Justice, the two standouts of the film are Affleck as Batman and Jesse Eisenberg, who is “great” as Lex Luthor, McWeeny says.
If Warner does change its plans like this, it would represent “a titanic shift in DC’s release strategy”, CinemaBlend‘s Brent McKnight says.
“There aren’t any specifics revealed,” he adds, “but it sounds like the studio may not be entirely happy with what’s on film.”
The main problem, according to Sean O’Connell, also from Cinemablend, appears to be that the producers of the film have been so intent on setting up the next few movies that they have forgotten to make this film work first.
“The subtitle alone, Dawn of Justice, indicates the significance of this movie to the future of the DC Extended Universe,” O’Connell says.
There are already numerous sequels in the pipeline, “but what if Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t please fans?” he asks. “What if it’s the DC equivalent of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and its big ideas and attempts at world building fall flat?”
McWeeny’s suggestion that Warner may look to move up Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film in favour of the planned Justice League movie “could be an option that the studio explores, if need be,” O’Connell says. “But it’s a reactionary move, not a move being made because it’s the smart decision, or the right decision.”
Batman v Superman: why super-battle is ‘destined to peter out into nothing’
The mega-heroes’ battle that comic-book lovers have waited decades to see is destined to be a damp squib, says The Independent‘s Ben Child.
The contest between Batman and Superman represents a clash of fundamental ideologies – and the early trailers for Dawn of Justice appeared to set up the battle well, pitting Clark Kent’s all-American goodness against Bruce Wayne’s vengeance-fuelled vigilantism.
More recently, though, the clash has been “hamstrung” by “a confusing trailer that shows the two superheroes eventually making up to take on a greater threat – possibly a Lex Luthor-controlled Doomsday”, says Child.
Even if the film’s director, Zac Snyder, has held some plot details back, the very existence of two planned Justice League films in 2017 and 2019 makes it “fairly apparent that the greatest battle in superhero history – the reason everyone is going to see the movie in the first place, for freak’s sake – is destined to peter out into nothing”.
It’s worse than that, says The Guardian‘s Nicholas Barber. The new crop of superhero films and Star Wars spin-offs has killed off happy-ever-afters once and for all.
“Have we reached the end of endings?” he asks. “In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne turned his back on both Batman and Gotham City so he could swan around Florence with Selina Kyle. But in this year’s Batman v Superman, the poor chap is having to squeeze into his rubber suit once again.”
He adds: “Popular culture has been geekified to the point where fans can take to the internet in their thousands to demand more content about their favourite characters, and where corporations are only too glad to monetise those demands.”
Batman v Superman is out on 25 March and will be followed by Wonder Woman in June 2017, The Justice League Part One the following November and then The Flash and Aquaman in 2018.