All right, let’s get this out of the way first: Universal has My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 opening today. It’s been fourteen years since the original came out and stunned everyone by racking up almost $250 million in box office, and I feel fairly comfortable in saying the sequel won’t come anywhere close to that. Partly because too much time has passed and I just don’t see the demand for more Windex. But mostly because of the 800-pound gorilla opening alongside of it.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice took in $27.7 million last night, the sixth-highest ever for Thursday pre-shows. That puts it on pace for somewhere around $165 million for its opening weekend. Nothing to sneeze at, but certainly not the blockbuster bow Warner Brothers was hoping for. I know it’s weird to call an opening north of $100 million disappointing, but when you’ve got two of the most iconic super-heroes ever meeting on the big screen for the first time, you’re hoping for The Force Awakens or Jurassic World, not The Dark Knight Rises. And given the reviews and word of mouth, Warners needed a record-breaking weekend to shift the story to something positive, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
And it couldn’t happen to a nicer blockbuster.
Batman v Superman isn’t an outright awful movie. It’s just an incredibly lazy one. It somehow spends two and a half hours doing the bare minimum to bring us the titular showdown, as if simply having Batman and Superman on-screen together should be enough for us. Batman’s anger at Superman is overdone, nonsensical, and more than a little hypocritical given this Batman’s penchant for violence. Superman’s distaste for Batman’s methods seems just as arbitrary. Sure, the soaring hope of Superman and the dark justice of Batman are naturally at odds, but that doesn’t mean the two have to have instant enmity. Here though, it does, or else there’s no movie. Not that there’s much of one until they actually start duking it out.
The problems with this film go beyond its end credits though. They’re symptomatic with what’s wrong with the DC cinematic universe in general. First, they’re acting like they can still beat Marvel in the super-hero arms race when Marvel has already essentially lapped them twice. Instead of following the Marvel blueprint by slowly building to their all-star team-ups, DC rushed to theirs, and in the process fumbled not only the headlining Batman/Superman confrontation, but also the introduction of the Justice League. That should have been an Avengers-level event. Instead, here it’s reduced to someone watching video files in a scene that clearly exists for no other purpose than to usher in the team-up as quickly as possible, without making the audience give a damn about the team first. It’s a panic move that everyone smelled from a mile away, and it’s not going to do any future films any favors at all.
But worst of all, DC seems to have entrusted its franchise to people who either dislike or misunderstand what it is we want to see in our heroes. Their Superman is a brooding waffler who can’t make up his mind whether he wants to save the world or not while dumbstruck humans stare up in the sky at him. Their Batman is a psychotic killer who can be made to ignore all his detective skills by some clumsy propaganda and who can be made to abandon his angry quest for vengeance by a coincidence. It’s not that we demand flawless, perfect heroes; it’s that we want heroes we can relate to. The Marvel characters deal with things the problems of being a teenager, or finding a way to deal with the anger within them, or searching for their place in a world that they don’t seem to fit it. Who hasn’t dealt with problems like that? That they’re the problems of people who happen to be super-heroes is incidental; they’re still things we can relate to.
Meanwhile, the DC characters are dealing with what it’s like to be a god, or at least perceived as one, and what it’s like to, well, have free and easy access to mil-spec weapons and hardware. How are we supposed to relate to that?
We want heroes and role-models. Instead, DC gives us gods and monsters.