While it does, unfortunately, appear that Warner Brothers has not responded to the mediocre performance of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ with any kind of interesting panic (although Marvel is amusingly enough flaunting their confidence in ‘Civil War’ with a preview screening in twenty-five cities a full month in advance to build positive word-of-mouth), there’s certainly been a reaction among DC fans. It’s fair to say that this is probably the most divisive movie since ‘Phantom Menace’, and pretty much for the same reasons.
Basically, there seem to be four groups of fans. The first are fans that didn’t like the movie, and are arguing that it was an artistic failure so profound that they’re actually hoping it fails, so that WB will be forced to go back to the drawing board and re-envision their plans for the slate of DC movies. The second group are fans who didn’t like the movie, but see potential in the DC Expanded Universe and are hoping it succeeds even though it was bad because they want an Aquaman movie, a Wonder Woman movie, a Cyborg movie, et cetera. The third group are people who really liked the movie and want more. The fourth group just didn’t like the movie, and don’t really care about the box office one way or the other.
As with any fan schism, there’s a lot of category confusion going on. The second and third group claim that the first and fourth group don’t actually exist–anyone who says they didn’t like the movie is probably a Marvel fan who’s just shit-stirring DC fans because they’re afraid that DC will suck away money and goodwill from the viewing public, supplanting the Marvel Cinematic Universe and ending Marvel’s dominance at the box office. The first and fourth group assume that anyone in the third group is actually in the second group–to them, it’s unimaginable that anyone could like the movie, but they are willing to believe that people would lie about liking it because they’re terrified that if BvS fails, they’re looking at another eight years of the occasional, desultory Batman or Superman reboot before anyone even looks at the second or third tier characters in the DCU.
In actuality, all four groups have their points. It seems pretty clear by now that Zack Snyder is who he seems to be; if you haven’t liked ‘300’, ‘Watchmen’, ‘Sucker Punch’, ‘Man of Steel’ or ‘Batman v Superman’, you’re probably not going to be surprised by his next film. A DC movie universe guided by his vision is only going to appeal to his fans, and people who don’t like that can point to the slightly more heterogeneous style of Marvel and say that there’s another way to do this. And DC won’t do it as long as they’re making money. That doesn’t mean they’re “Marvel fanboys”, it means they’re DC fanboys who aren’t getting their needs met.
The second group is right in suggesting that a lot hinges on the success of BvS. Warner Brothers are not going to throw a ton of money at ‘Cyborg’, especially not a version of the character who isn’t recognizable to the existing fanbase of “Teen Titans Go!” fans, without some sort of assurance that the overall DC brand is going to be enough to draw audiences to the theater like the Marvel brand did for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Ant-Man’. A failure of the big tentpole movie threatens to collapse the tent, and WB already has a pretty damn shaky record of giving a fuck about fans to begin with. (*cough* Jonah Hex *cough*)
The third group is right in saying that they like the things they like and shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it. If you enjoyed ‘Batman v Superman’, you get to be happy about that. Nobody should ever have to apologize for liking a movie. Full stop.
And the fourth group is right in saying that they have just as much of a right to dislike the movie–they should not have motives imputed to them, they are still DC fans even if they don’t like it, and it should be possible to discuss the film with fans without being the subject of angry, defensive rants about how they’re ruining the franchise. (This was also common with ‘Phantom Menace’–the people who liked it would get a bit intense in their discussions sometimes, simply because they wanted more ‘Star Wars’ and didn’t like hearing negativity around it. It also happened with the ’96 Doctor Who TV movie.)
But one thing all four groups need to keep in mind is this: WB doesn’t care what they think. I don’t mean this in a mean way, but the fact of the matter is that the dedicated fanbase of Batman and Superman just isn’t enough to sway the studio’s opinions no matter how many tickets they buy. The Batman comic sells about 100,000 copies a month. Superman sells about 38,000. Even if you assume no overlap, all those fans buying one hundred tickets apiece to the movie are only going to move the needle to the tune of about $138 million. Given that we’re talking a billion dollars as the metric for success, it’s unlikely that fan opinion matters nearly as much as the opinion of the general public in terms of box office success and future films.
So please remember, before getting violently angry over ‘Batman v Superman’: Your opinions are irrelevant. No, wait, that came out wrong. Remember that it’s not a life or death matter when you try to convince someone to see or not see the movie, and try to keep this particular schism, at least, to a polite discussion.