So, here's the thing. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice didn't flop at the box office. Sure, the critical response was borderline catastrophic (it's currently at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes), and the massive drop off in box office receipts from the second week of release on suggests that many fans felt the same way, but the movie is still on its way to making around $900 million worldwide, and a profit somewhere in the region of $100–200 million.
The only problem, of course, being that in the greater scheme of (superheroic) things, that's neither an especially big box office haul, nor a particularly spectacular amount of profit. Last year's Avengers: Age of Ultron, for instance, made over $1.4 billion worldwide, and a profit of close to $400 million — with 2012's The Avengers making even more. What's more, both (even the comparatively unloved Age of Ultron) received strong support from critics and fans alike.
The big question now, then, from a Marvel perspective?
What Would Have Happened Had 'The Avengers' Performed Similarly To 'Batman V Superman' Back In 2012?
After all, The Avengers was the culmination of four years (and five movies) of lead-up, and about as close to putting all of Marvel's eggs in one basket as it's possible to imagine (short of Avengers: Infinity War). Had it received a similar critical skewering, accompanied by solid but relatively unspectacular box office receipts (in particular a parent company-concerning second weekend drop-off), it's not out of the realm of possibility that we'd be seeing a very different Marvel Cinematic Universe right now.
Which makes it all the more intriguing that io9 recently asked Marvel Studios' head honcho Kevin Feige exactly what difference he thinks a similarly mixed reception would have had on the MCU. His response?
"Realistically, I don’t know. I think [Warner Bros.] is in a very different position than we were, when we were doing those early movies. We were just trying something, and now there’s a golden ring to try to grab...But I’ve always believed, since Iron Man 1, that things have got to work. Things have got to work, or people won’t let us make another one. I don’t think that’s the case for [DC]."
In other words?
A 'Batman V Superman'-Like Critical And Box Office Reception Could Have Fundamentally Altered The MCU As We Know It
After all, there's a pretty solid argument that it was the near-unprecedented success of The Avengers that gave Marvel — and Feige in particular — the freedom to push ahead with the more experimental likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, arguably Marvel's two most widely-appreciated movies thus far.
A comparative failure on the other hand (for the sake of argument let's say less than $1 billion worldwide, with a pinch of salt attached to remind us that a billion dollars is still a whole lot of money) could well have scuppered both movies in favor of more conventional alternatives. Captain America, for instance, would have been less likely to be allowed to battle governmental corruption rather than an actual supervillain, and Guardians of the Galaxy may have been shelved altogether (it wasn't confirmed to be in active development until after the release of The Avengers).
Meanwhile, the likes of Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron could well have found themselves retooled to be more conventional (and in the latter's case, lower budgeted), while we could have seen the likes of Doctor Strange and Black Panther brought forward, replacing the relatively underperforming Thor franchise.
The biggest likely change, though?
We Probably Wouldn't Be Seeing Spider-Man In The MCU
Spidey's move to the MCU was, after all, a direct response by Sony to Marvel Studios' apparent ability to make more money from superhero movies than they could — something it's unsurprising they would want to be a part of. Had The Avengers stuttered at the box office (and, crucially, critically, as Batman v Superman did), however, then Sony would have had far less incentive to cross over with a similarly performing franchise.
With DC (and, crucially, its parent company Warner Bros.) seemingly determined to persist with the rapidly expanding DCEU, though, it seems that Feige may well be right when he points out that many of the pressures he felt at Marvel won't apply to Batman v Superman and its successors. Things "have got to work," but perhaps not quite yet, or to quite the same extent.
If Justice League performs similarly, though? Well, then things sure could change.
What do you think, though?
Would the MCU be very different had 'The Avengers' performed similarly to 'Batman v Superman'?