The final trailer is out! Warner Bros. are betting $410 million on Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice being what it takes to springboard them into Justice League, but people in the know are starting to whisper that they're getting scared. Take Drew McWeeny, who's given Hitfix his candid comments...
But should they be?
What's so scary about Batman vs Superman?
The #MCU was a high-risk, high-stakes approach to superhero movies. In a sense, though, it was done quietly. We all knew Marvel were going to launch a wave of superhero movies, but we didn't really know that they'd be quite so closely connected until the end-credits scene for Iron Man.
"You've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet."
I was in an early showing of Iron Man - not early enough to have gone unspoiled, though! - and I'll never forget the adrenaline surge those words gave me. With those words, I knew I was at the beginning of a journey, one that was taking me somewhere I would love to go. It was risky; a single mis-step, I feared, could derail the whole project. But the risks peaked when we finally got to The Avengers. If that film went wrong, then the whole project would collapse like a house of cards. Of course, in reality, The Avengers was phenomenal, and Marvel found they could relax.
But imagine the tension levels as the deadline for The Avengers' release came ever-nearer. Would it land how Marvel hoped it would? Would the fans react with positivity, or would reception be mixed? In warfare, there's a phrase:
"No plan survives engagement with the enemy."
Would this plan survive engagement with viewers?
Warner Bros. and #DC have taken an even bolder route than Marvel, though. They've taken Man of Steel as the first building-block in the #DCEU. Lest we forget, that film got mixed reception, so they've embraced controversy from the get-go. Rather than do the slow-burn, they've jumped straight into a mammoth crossover fight-film, bringing their two greatest titans into head-on collision in a story loosely inspired by the classic Frank Miller series The Dark Knight Returns.
Even more incredible is the amount of money spent on this movie. $410 million is a phenomenal investment - in fact, that makes this the second most-expensive movie Hollywood have ever made, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at $410.6 million! Contrast that with, say, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which cost $200 million. Warner Bros. have liberally applied money to this project, and expectations are high. Little wonder Drew McWeeny says:
"It's gotta make a billion dollars for people to keep their jobs."
This approach is brave and bold, but it means that the stakes are high. Tension levels in the Studio must be beginning to peak. Early reports were of standing ovations to the first showing; that said, McWeeny says that more people are beginning to see the movie now, and:
"The response has not been exactly what I think they wanted."
Part of the problem, I think, is with that second trailer. It gave away the spine of the movie, dividing the film into three acts:
Act One: Setting the Scene
Act Two: Initial Conflict
Act Three: Team-up Against the Villains
There's nothing wrong with that approach. It's a trope that comics have used time and again - so much so that it's often hand-waved by more meta-aware superheroes, with characters like Spider-Man or Deadpool quipping about skipping Act Two. But the trope has been used so many times precisely because it's effective. The reality is, even The Avengers used a variation on it. Remember Thor's arrival?
"Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"
I'm just not convinced it was wise to signpost it.
That's not even all of the problem. Warner Bros. and DC both have to be aware that everything they do has been getting mixed reactions. Casting? Check. Trailer? Check. Doomsday? Check. It's as though the very act of doing this movie has put them in an unwinnable situation, where they're criticised for everything they do.
Part of the reason is because there's always been so much rivalry between DC and #Marvel - one of their rare inter-company team-ups was a grudge match between conceptually similar characters! DC fans are often overly defensive, while Marvel fans are overly critical. You get the feeling that Warner Bros. and DC are getting criticised for not doing things the Marvel way, with the slow-burn approach, but would be attacked just as much if they simply copied Marvel's approach. Personally, although I've always traditionally been closer to Marvel as a comic book reader, I'm desperately hoping that DC will pull off a cinematic triumph. The idea of seeing the Justice League on the big screen sooner rather than later is thrilling to me!
Where the Studio can take some relief, though, is in the fact that many of the critics have been silenced as time goes on. Who's honestly saying Ben Affleck won't make a great Batman after seeing the third trailer for Batman V Superman? Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor was heavily criticised after the second trailer, but among those who've seen the film, he's viewed as one of the highlights. My hope is that, again, the critics will be silenced.
Should Warner Bros. and DC be worried?
In a word, yes. Of course they should be. This film's a gamble, and we're getting close to the point where they find out if it's going to pay off. Things will go one of three ways:
The film will be a cinematic success - in this case, everybody will breathe much easier and then they'll get on with the rest of their plans!
The film will be a partial success - it does well, but not quite as well as Warner Bros. and DC hoped. Here, you'd expect to see their plans change subtly. Odds are, you'll see Justice League moved, and a new Batman movie slotted into its place. He's always been DC's highest-performing superhero, so it would be a sensible approach.
- The film will be a flop - in spite of all the controversy, I refuse to believe this will be the case. If Batman V Superman somehow flops, all bets are off, and the Studio is in big trouble.
My own opinion is that we'll see the middle-of-the-road option; that Warner Bros. and DC will watch the critical response to Batman V Superman, and swiftly adapt their plans. We may not learn exactly what those changes will look like until after Suicide Squad lands too, though - I'm expecting big things from that film, which hasn't had anywhere near the mixed responses Batman V Superman has had.
So there you have it: exciting days for DC fans, but scary at the same time. I'm wishing them the same cinematic success Marvel have had - it's time for DC's titans to stand in the spotlight!