Box Office, Editorials

Why Did Justice League Underperform At The Box Office?

Hint: It has nothing to do with critics or Rotten Tomatoes.

If you asked me three years ago, to predict how much Justice League would rake in, in its opening weekend in the US, I would’ve confidently said, Pfft, $US 180 million easy! Well, here we are, in 2017, four years after Man of Steel, and Justice League merely grossed $US 96 million. Some of y’all might be like, “You think $US 96 million is damn little is it?” I get it. 96 million bucks is more than I’ll ever make throughout my entire career as a part-time writer full-time gigolo (looks like the cat’s out of the bag now).

But let’s put things in perspective.

List of comic book movies opening weekend box office numbers in 2017.

  • Logan – $US 88.4 million ($US 97 million budget)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming – $US 117 million ($US 175 million budget)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – $US 146.5 million ($US 200 million budget)
  • Wonder Woman – $US 103.2 million ($US 149 million budget)
  • Thor: Ragnarok – $US 122.7 million ($US 180 million budget)

Still think it made a lot of money? When the movie is called Justice Mothereffing League and has BATMAN, SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, THE FLASH, CYBORG and AQUAMAN in it, and the only movie it beats is an R-rated Wolverine drama, boy you got a problem, especially when Justice League reportedly has three times the production budget of Logan.

Justice League Post-Credits Scenes

Whether you love the movie or hate it, this is not the kind of numbers THIS movie should be hitting. And if the first thing that comes to your mind is “F**k the critics! Burn in hell Rotten Tomatoes”, then you need to get your head out of your ass. We’re talking about the opening weekend numbers here. If people wanted to watch this movie, they would’ve booked tickets three weeks ago, well before reviews were out. This box office result is the general masses going, “Meh. Who cares?”

Full disclosure: Though Justice League has a boatload of problems (which will be discussed in spoiler-full detail tomorrow), I thoroughly enjoyed the shit outta the movie. You can read my certified fresh, non-spoiler review here.

So, why didn’t people rush out to see some of the most popular comic book characters kickass on the big screen? Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

Man of Steel

I’m not a big fan of the second act of Man of Steel (there is no third act. It’s just introduction and then a one-hour action scene), but the first hour of the film is excellent. It’s a Superman we’re not used to. He doesn’t smile. He isn’t full of hope. But why should he smile? He saved a bus full of his peers when he was a kid. His reward? His family being bombarded with questions from one of his peer’s mom. Why would he be hopeful, when he lived his whole life thinking his biological parents didn’t want him. A child cast away. It’s an interesting way of approaching this character.

The movie did decently at the box office, making $US 116.6 million opening weekend in the US and grossed $US 668 million at the global box office at the end of its run (Iron Man raked in $US 585 million at the global box office). But it was the most divisive movie of the year, even within the critics’ circle. The same can be said about the general masses. Many compared it to Richard Donner’s 1978 classic – Supes smiled a lot in that movie – while others were intrigued by Snyder’s new direction (and the fact that the Man of Steel learned how to put on his underwear the right way).

The franchise had potential. What we needed was a trilogy, or at least two movies, that focused on Superman eventually becoming the hopeful character he’s known to be. I truly believe that if Warner Bros committed to this, critics and fans who weren’t buying into Snyder’s modernized version of Superman, would come around once the arc plays out completely. Remember, the masses did not buy into Batman Begins either. Batman Begins only grossed $US 374 million worldwide, but the sequel, The Dark Knight grossed $US 1 billion.

We should have gotten Man of Steel 2, but instead, Warner Bros blew their load early and gave us:

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Not only did we not need this movie, this fast, Warner Bros also went on to announce 257 other upcoming DCEU movies including a two-part Justice League movie. I don’t get it. Why did they feel the need to rush? Why did they feel the need to ‘catch up to Marvel’? Were the higher ups at WB worried about the much talked about Superhero fatigue? I don’t know about Superhero fatigue, but there will never, ever be GOOD MOVIES FATIGUE. As long as the stories being told are worth investing in, people will watch it, regardless if it’s superheroes, wizards, Jedi or medieval hobbits.

Well, whatever the reason, they rushed it. The DCEU did not need to follow the MCU structure per se. A Batman solo origin movie is unnecessary. The second movie in the DCEU could have featured Batman, but it should’ve been “Batman and Superman”, instead of Batman V Superman. This was purely cash-grab decision making.

Even so, people salivated at the idea that Batman and Superman would be sharing the big screen. The movie did phenomenal numbers opening weekend. At $US 166 million, Batman V Superman became the 9th highest opening weekend, in the US, of all time. Judging by its opening weekend numbers, this movie should have grossed a billion dollars at the global box office, easily. But it didn’t. Something happened.

Despite a strong start, fans did not watch this movie again and again. Not only that, the word of mouth by those who already watched the movie was bad, and the poor critical reception did not help matters either. As a result, most non-fans did not even bother catching this movie at all. At the end of its run, Batman V Superman grossed $US 873.2 million worldwide. A strong number, but not good enough for a movie called BATMAN V SUPERMAN.

The biggest problem with Batman V Superman (besides Martha), is the fact that the theatrical version of the movie did not make an ounce of sense. Martha will always be shit. Lois throwing the kryptonite spear away, only to try and get it back, only to almost die, only for Superman to save her, will always be SHIT. But at the very least, the Batman V Superman Ultimate Edition tells a cohesive story. And if you have not watched the Ultimate Edition, believe me when I say, it makes a HUGE difference. The Lord of the Rings movies have extended editions too. But you don’t NEED to watch the extended editions to fully comprehend and love that trilogy. You NEED to watch the extended edition of “Batman V Superman” to prevent your scalp from bleeding due to excessive head scratching.

Minor changes that would have made the world of difference (without removing the Martha scene).

  • Naming it Batman and Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • Keeping the FULL version of the film. So what if it’s three hours? Titanic is longer than three hours and it’s ROMANCE.
  • Including a scene where Superman and Batman have a conversation with each other after the Martha shit, with Batman unmasking.
  • Not killing off Superman. He sacrifices himself and ALMOST dies (something like Iron Man at the end of The Avengers).
  • Metropolis celebrates and embraces Superman.

Bigger ideas like calling a movie Batman V Superman or the death of Superman will work best if it happens later on in the franchise, once audiences are completely emotionally invested in these characters. Instead, we got the shorter version of a movie with 200 different ideas thrown in.

Batman V Superman needed to get the fans who were unsure about Man of Steel on board the train, but instead it made fans who enjoyed Man of Steel jump off the train and bid sayonara.

Then something worse happened… Much, much worse.

Suicide Squad is nothing but reactionary filmmaking

I remember enjoying Suicide Squad the first time watching. The performances are great across the board. Then I watched it the second time and a third time and Jesus Christ this movie is shit. How is this even a movie? Suicide Squad is nothing but 2 hours of Warner Bros executives taking turns to shit, while David Ayer records them shitting. Not sure what I expected, to be honest, considering the fact that Warner Bros took David Ayer’s raw footage and sent it to a trailer company to edit it and make it more “fun”.

Fun is the keyword here. A powerful virus that has infected the minds of the higher-ups at Warner Bros and is dragging our favourite DC characters through the mud. You see, the higher-ups at Warner Bros were (and still are) under the impression that the reason why “Batman V Superman” isn’t critically acclaimed and didn’t do well at the box office is because the movie isn’t fun.

As a result, they took David Ayer’s could-have-been-a-masterpiece-we’ll-never-know unfinished product and made it into a 90s hits music video. I’m giving Ayer the benefit of the doubt because he wrote and directed “End of Watch” and “Fury”. The man is talented. But whether it’s Ayer’s fault or WB’s fault, this movie is messier than a clogged toilet of a nightclub on a Friday night.

Why did Amanda Waller tell Task Force X to rescue ‘someone’ only for that ‘someone’ to be her? Why is Joker even in the movie? Why is Enchantress the villain? Why is Enchantress’ CGI worse than “Jaws 3D”? Why does Enchantress have a brother? OMG, why is Enchantress dancing?? Why are there awkward random jokes being thrown in? Why are there random hit songs playing?

WB was so desperate to make this movie ‘fun’ that they forgot that it’s more important to make this movie good.

Well news flash Warner Bros, people did not dislike “Batman V Superman” because the movie is dark. “The Dark Knight” is bloody dark and people love it. Heath Ledger even won an Oscar for his performance in it. “Logan” is dark and people love it. People dislike “Batman V Superman” because the theatrical version of the movie that most people actually watched, is an incoherent mess. And when a movie is a mess, having it dark and joyless makes it even more difficult to digest.

Think of it this way: It’s easier to get through a shitty fart joke comedy than a shitty somber drama. But it doesn’t change the fact that both are shit and people would much rather watch good movies, regardless of tone/genre. WB completely missed the point.

Justice League is also reactionary filmmaking.

YouTube video

With Justice League, Warner Bros missed the point once again by tampering with it and making reactionary changes. The CEO of WB mandated a runtime under two hours. Seriously? WB looked at “Batman V Superman” and assumed people don’t like it because it’s long. Sure, critics did mention that the movie is long, but again it points back to storytelling. Cause remember, “Gone with the Wind” is four hours long and it’s still the highest grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation).

With both Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad being plagued by behind the scenes interference by studio executives, ruining the movies in the process, “Justice League” needed to be smooth sailing. It wasn’t. And it wasn’t exactly kept a secret either. Every day people read reports after reports that did nothing to boost our confidence in the product. From Ben Affleck wanting to leave, to Zack Snyder’s personal tragedy (unavoidable), to Zack Snyder’s original cut deemed unwatchable to Joss Whedon coming on board last minute for rewrites and reshoots. Hardcore comic book fans were going to rush out and see this movie anyway. But to the rest of the world, it wreaked of same old shit.

Hopefully, with the underperforming Justice League box office numbers, WB will finally realize that the problem with most DCEU movies isn’t FUN vs NOT FUN. It’s not about Snyder’s colour palette. It’s not about how long the movies are. It’s about telling good stories. It’s about giving us well rounded, well-explored characters. Funny thing is, WB does not have to look far to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just look at Wonder Woman for crying out loud. That movie is a near-masterpiece.

Note: Justice League did do pretty well outside of the US, grossing $US 185 million. That is no small feat. We’ll just have to wait and see how the movie does overall, in the coming weeks.

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