Will 'Batman v Superman' be another 'Man of Steel' at the box office?

The 2013 Superman movie 'Man of Steel' performed well at the box office, but didn't do as well with critics and was controversial with fans. Will 'Batman v Superman' be popular enough to launch a DC Comics cinematic universe?

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
'Batman v Superman' stars Ben Affleck (l.) and Henry Cavill (r.).

The upcoming movie, “Batman v Superman,” features the Caped Crusader going up against the son of Krypton and is the first film appearance of Henry Cavill’s Superman since the 2013 box office hit, “Man of Steel.”

“Batman” stars Ben Affleck as Batman (his first time in the role), Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Actors from “Steel,” including Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Diane Lane as Martha Kent, are returning for the new film. 

The upcoming film is a cross-over movie of the sort that is often released by studio Marvel (“Batman” is released by Warner Bros.; the characters in the film were created by rival comic book publisher DC Comics). As with “The Avengers,” in which superheroes like Iron Man and Captain America teamed up, “Batman” finds the title superheroes crossing paths. 

Marvel has found success with the formula and studio Warner Bros. is no doubt hoping to do the same.

It’s been about the same length of time since both superheroes were onscreen, with Batman having last appeared in the 2012 movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” where he was played by Christian Bale and which was the final film in director Christopher Nolan’s massively successful “Dark Knight” trilogy.

Superman was last seen in “Steel,” which was also the first appearance of Cavill as Superman. 

Both movies were box office hits, but while the “Dark Knight” trilogy was critically acclaimed – it’s widely accepted that “The Dark Knight” not getting a Best Picture nomination was one of the reasons the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expanded the amount of Best Picture nominees ­– “Man of Steel” was a misfire with critics.

Monitor film critic Peter Rainer called the movie “dark and thudding and overlong … [a] gargantuan drearfest.” 

But the movie became a box office hit, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing film of the year. 

“Steel” seems to have divided fans. The ending of the film in particular, in which much of Metropolis is destroyed and Superman kills villain Zod, was controversial with moviegoers – Entertainment Weekly writer Keith Staskiewicz noted, “Some audiences critiqued the film and director Zack Snyder for the sequence,” while James Whitbrook of io9 wrote, “There are not many people fond of the ending to ‘Man of Steel’ … and there are many who eagerly await the day for [director] Zack Snyder to apologize for the wanton destruction and general not-Superman-ness of it all.” 

How will all this affect “Batman v Superman”? The mixed reception for "Steel," despite the big box office gross, may mean “Batman  v Superman” needs to win over fans.

“DC has yet to prove itself [with connected] superhero movies,” Washington Post writer David Betancourt wrote. “…’Man of Steel’ made money. People liked it. But it didn’t make as much as [the studio] would have liked, and lots of people didn’t like it, too; ‘Man of Steel’ was polarizing … I think WB and DC need to show that the core of their connected cinematic universe is in good hands with Zack Snyder. He’s a polarizing guy at times. Some people love him; some others, not so much.” 

Curiosity over the new characters in the movie and seeing Batman and Superman onscreen together will most likely still bring moviegoers to the multiplex to see “Batman v Superman,” however. 

Deadline writer Mike Fleming Jr. reported, “Latest word on advance ticket sales for Warner Bros’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice per various sources is that they’re outstripping 20th Century Fox’s ‘Deadpool’ … ‘The Avengers’ … and Universal’s ‘Furious 7’ … two weeks prior to their stateside releases,” while Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Box office prognosticators are predicting big things for Friday's epic face-off.”

As with “Man of Steel,” box office returns will probably be big. The question remains whether critics and fans will be won over.

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