Captain America: Civil War a test of Marvel’s momentum

Captain America Civil War promotional art

Captain America Civil War promotional art

The “summer” U.S. movie season gets underway this week with Captain America: Civil War being a test whether Marvel Studios maintain its momentum.

The movie already is in release outside the U.S. In terms of reviews, it’s like the mirror image of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Cap has a 94 percent score on the Rotten Tomatoes website, based on 78 “fresh” reviews and only five “rotten” ones, with many U.S. critics yet to weigh in. Batman v Superman scored 27 percent, with 89 approving reviews and 236 pans.

A big opening weekend seems assured. But Marvel at times operates in such rarefied air at the box office, it can get criticism for not opening *big enough*.

Last year at this time, Avengers: Age of Ultron was cast as “only” having a $191.3 million opening weekend, because that was short of Marvel’s The Avengers’ $207.4 million in 2012. Then again, few are going to be sympathetic to Marvel or its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., if Civil War is seen as not meeting expectations.

Then, of course, there’s the challenge whether Marvel’s latest effort will encourage repeat viewings and generate word-of-mouth to bring more people into theaters. Batman v Superman started out huge ($166 million its opening weekend) but fell off sharply. That film’s global box office, which Warner Bros. had hoped would exceed $1 billion, may fall short of SPECTRE’s $880.7 million.

It will also be interesting to see if Captain America: Civil War will maintain the tone of its 2014 predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which evoked darker, 1970s spy movies.Directors Anthony and Joe Russo , who helmed the 2014 film, were retained for the new movie, which does pick up story threads from Winter Soldier.

The movie's logo

The movie’s logo

At the same time, Civil War is more sprawling, and is inspired by a 2006-07 story line in Marvel Comics that spanned multiple titles. That makes Civil War almost a third installment of The Avengers rather than a Cap adventure.  It’s telling that in the movie’s logo that “Civil War” appear in much larger letters than “Captain America.”

Eight years ago, Marvel Studios began its trek of producing its own films, instead of licensing characters to studios, with the release Iron Man. Marvel plans out movies for years in advance (something Warners is trying to emulate with Superman v Batman and next year’s Justice League film).

Marvel is now in “Phase III,” with Civil War being the test whether it can keep going.

UPDATE: For Marvel, the early news is more than favorable. Captain America: Civil War has generated non-U.S. box office of $200.2 million, Variety reported.

BvS unlikely to join $1B club, may not match SPECTRE

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

We’ve mostly written about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because how it illustrates the expectations game among major movies.

Anyway, the movie is in its fourth weekend of release and it’s now expected Batman v Superman won’t the $1 billion club for worldwide box office — something that had been widely predicted before its release last month. BvS may not match the global box office of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

In the U.S. and Canada, BvS is projected to finish this weekend with about $9 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie is coming in at No. 4 for the weekend.

The movie’s cumulative totals are $311.3 million for U.S.-Canada and $827.3 million worldwide.

Most studios would would kill for those kinds of worldwide numbers. But Warner Bros. had higher hopes for the first joint appearance in movies of DC Comics’ two most famous characters. To provide a little 007 context, Batman v Superman may not match match SPECTRE’s $880.6 million worldwide box office.

The editor of the BoxOfficeGuru.com website said the movie is just about done.

On Twitter, two writers for The Hollywood Reporter did a quick analysis.

Captain America: Civil War early review are postive

Captain America Civil War promotional art

Captain America Civil War promotional art

The very early reviews for Captain America: Civil War are considerably more positive than the reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The newest Marvel Studios film had its premiere this week and reviews, which had been embargoed, are starting to show up on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

On the surface, both movies involve prominent heroes coming to blows (Cap and Iron Man in Civil War, Batman and Superman in BvS). Each movie has been eagerly awaited. Indeed, BvS initially tried for Civil War’s release date (the first Friday of May in the U.S.) but retreated even before Marvel released full details of its movie.

What follows is a sampling of Civil War reviews, without spoilers.

DAVE WHITE, THE WRAP: “(S)uperhero movies, which are the current cinema’s site of obsession over anxiety-making issues of global safety, must continue to address the unthinkable if they’re to be more valuable to culture than mere moneymaking products on an assembly line, or retreats into childhood nostalgia that only pretend to be making sense of the environment that produces them.

‘Civil War’ strikes that admirable balance: serious-minded action that never forgets to indulge in serious fun.”

BRIAN TRUITT, USA TODAY: “Tear away the powers, abilities and egos, though, and the third Captain America movie (***½ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters May 6) is at its core a deep exploration of friendship and family and what sacrifices should be made to hold onto both. And while it’s not the greatest Marvel effort — that honor goes to the previous Captain America: The Winter Soldier — Civil War does pull outstanding performances from its two franchise faces, Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.”

JIM VEJVODA, IGN: “This is, as it should be, very much Cap’s movie and (Chris) Evans’ Steve Rogers once again proves he’s the heart and soul of the MCU. He’s a good man who has to make tough calls, who’s essentially alone in the world despite the company of his superhero pals. His battle of ideologies with Tony (Stark) is compelling, but it never quite evolves past the same argument being repeated throughout and both sides doing something to show why the other might be right.”

SHERI LINDEN, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Posing serious questions about violence and vigilantism while reveling in both, Captain America: Civil War is overlong but surprisingly light on its feet. It builds upon the plotlines of previous Avengers outings, bringing together known marquee quantities and introducing the Black Panther and a new Spidey in winning fashion.”

MIKE RYAN, UPROXX: “(I)t’s incredible how watchable Captain America: Civil War is and how dull Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice turned out to be when you consider that both movies have pretty similar core plots: Superheroes fighting against each other…Yet Marvel has this down. Marvel knows how to move the story along and keep us entertained. Marvel knows how to trick us into liking these characters and caring about what happens to them.”

 

Thoughts about MGM’s potential Bond 25 studio partners

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Before much can happen with Bond 25, somebody has to be able to release it to theaters.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 007’s home studio, can’t. After it exited bankruptcy it emerged with no distribution arm. MGM cuts deals with other studios for co-financing movies and to release them.

So, in the absence of any actual Bond 25 news, here are some thoughts about some of MGM’s potential partners.

Sony (the incumbent): Sony Pictures, via its Columbia Pictures brand, has released the last four Bond films. Its most recent two-film contract expired with 2015’s SPECTRE.

That contract, for Skyfall and SPECTRE, wasn’t a good one for Sony — half of the financing (and risk) but only 25 percent of the profits.

Amy Pascal, who negotiated that deal for Sony, is gone. But Bond is dependable, even if the profits are relatively small (Sony’s profit was $57 million for Skyfall, which generated $1.11 billion in worldwide box office, while MGM got $175 million).

The main questions: Can Sony’s new regime negotiate a better deal from MGM? If not, is Sony willing to walk away from 007?

Warner Bros.: MGM chief Gary Barber reportedly is a friend with Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara. And MGM and Warners have done business in the past, being partners on the recent Hobbit series of movies.

But that only goes so far in business.

Warner Bros. had had issues lately. Its 2015 slate (including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie) had a lot of flops. Also, its Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice appears it won’t be the $1 billion blockbuster the studio may have hoped. (CLICK HERE for a blog that says this alone may prevent Warners from cutting a 007 deal.)

Warners is soldiering on, however, with a Justice League movie going into production, with plans for a new Batman solo film. Does 007 fit in with the studio given all what’s going on?

Paramount: Again, here’s a case where MGM has a relationship with another studio. MGM and Paramount are partners on a remake of Ben Hur being released later this year.

Meanwhile, Paramount’s parent company, Viacom, is in a lot of turmoil, according to Vanity Fair. Viacom said in February it was considering selling a minority stake in Paramount. However, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Viacom controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, 92, opposes such a move.

For now, Viacom/Paramount sounds like a cross between Peyton Place and Dallas. Is Paramount in a position to do a 007 deal?

20th Century Fox: Again, another studio with which MGM does business. Fox handles home video for 007 movies.

At the moment, Fox doesn’t have the issues that Warner Bros. and Paramount are dealing with. In fact, Fox had a recent big financial success with Deadpool, an X-Men-related property it leases from Marvel. As with the other possibilities, the question is how much 007 is worth to Fox for a co-financing/distribution deal.

Walt Disney Co.: Disney doesn’t seem interested in co-financing/releasing deals, like the now-expired MGM-Sony agreement for 007 films. Disney devours franchises whole (Marvel and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars, for example) and turns them into profit genrators for the Mouse.

Nobody has reported, or even suggested, anything like that is happening related to 007. But some Bond fans are keeping an eye  on Disney anyway.

 

Batman v Superman: When being No. 1 isn’t enough

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice shows that these days being No. 1 isn’t enough — it’s by how big a margin and how you compare against expectations.

The Warner Bros. superhero movie was No. 1 at the U.S.-Canadian box office for the second weekend in a row. But its box office performance for the April 1-3 weekend plunged 68 percent to $52.4 million, VARIETY REPORTED.

Typically, movies fall off about 50 percent or so from their first weekend to the second. It should also be noted that Batman v Superman’s $166 million first weekend was fattened up with $27.7 million in Thursday night showings.

Still, a decline of almost 70 percent isn’t good news anytime it occurs. Pamela McClintock, senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter, added more perspective in a tweet on Saturday:

So, yes, in its second weekend, Batman v Superman ($250 million production budget) didn’t do as well as the R-rated, much more modestly budgeted Deadpool ($58 million) did during the Feb. 19-21 weekend.

Variety’s Brent Lang explained why this is bad news for Warner Bros.

“The major problem facing the studio is it doesn’t just need “Batman v Superman” to be a hit, it needs it to be so fervently embraced that fans will show up to see sequels and spin-offs for years to come,” Lang wrote. “The film is intended to kick off an interconnected cinematic universe of DC Comics characters that Warner Bros. hopes will rival what Marvel has achieved with the Avengers films.”

BvS brushes off bad reviews, has $166M opening

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

UPDATE III (March 28): Actual U.S.-Canada weekend figures came in on Monday, March 28 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The haul was a few million less but still large, at $166 million, according to Exhibitor Relations.

That means the movie was the seventh-best opening weekend of all time and No. 2 Warner Bros. opening, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II retaining the crown at $169.2 million.

ORIGINAL POST (March 27): For Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, all the bad reviews were like bullets bouncing off Superman’s chest. The superhero movie had an estimated opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada of $170.1 million.

It was the sixth-best opening weekend of all time, unadjusted for inflation, entertainment research and data company Exhibitor Relations said in a post on Twitter.  It was also the biggest Warner Bros. opening ever, Exhibitor Relations said.

The development was a welcome piece of good news for Warner Bros. The studio had a terrible 2015 at the box office, so having any hit would be a relief. However, Batman v Superman also represents the studio’s attempt to catch up to rival Marvel Studios and its extended fictional universe of superhero films.

Batman v Superman specifically sets up a Justice League movie scheduled to go into production next month for a November 2017 release.

The Justice League of America is DC Comics equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers super hero group. (The JLA was first and was a revamp of an even earlier group, the Justice Society of America.) Marvel has produced its own movies since 2008, including Avengers films in 2012 and 2015.

Batman v Superman, besides its title characters, includes Wonder Woman as well as cameo appearances by other characters who’ll be part of the Justice League.

The movie had some setbacks. It originally was set to come out in July 2015. Warners pushed it back to May 2016 but retreated after Marvel announced it was going to have the third Captain America movie in the same date.

That film ended up being Captain America: Civil War, which is almost like another Avengers film and will bring Spider-Man into Marvel’s film universe for the first time.

Then, came the reviews. Batman v Superman received so many pans, it has a 29 percent rating (as of this morning) on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Variety has estimated Batman v Superman will need worldwide ticket sales of $800 million to break even. Given all the hype, it probably needs a $1 billion box office to be seen as a success. People likely be watching carefully how much next weekend’s box office falls off for BvS.

Regardless, after all the setbacks, Warner Bros. executives presumably are breathing easier about the expensive movie.

UPDATE: Batman v Superman’s estimated worldwide box office currently is $424.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

UPDATE II (7:50 p.m., New York time): Warner Bros. executives took a victory lap later Sunday, including a quote about there’s “a disconnect between critics and audiences,” according to ComicBookMovie.com.

BvS: Dark and somber, but what’d you expect?

Henry Cavill after reading the latest Batman v Superman reviews

Henry Cavill after reading the latest Batman v Superman reviews

One vague spoiler awaits. There will be a warning.

Well, nobody should have been surprised.

Throughout the production of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the makers talked about how their story was real. Very real. And very serious. If you ever wanted to know what the real world would be like with superheroes, this movie would let you know.

Director Zack Snyder, a disciple of Christopher Nolan and his somber style of film making, even did some trashing talking of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man, an escapist superhero film that was a decent hit in the summer of 2015.

After two changes in its release date, Batman v Superman is out. This time, movie critics were doing the trash talking, causing Snyder’s film to have a “fresh” rating of only 30 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. You have to have a lot of pans to get a score that low.

A recurring criticism is the movie is dour and dark. The San Francisco Examiner’s reviewer says “everything is shrouded in a kind of black sludge.”

Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Snyder directed 2013’s Man of Steel (with Nolan co-producing and co-plotting) where the costume of Superman (Henry Cavill) has such dark shades of blue, red and yellow it looks as if the uniform actually is dirty.

Vague spoiler follows.

To give Man of Steel more intellectual heft, there is some religious imagery. (Filmmakers often look to the Bible and Shakespeare to add gravitas to their efforts.)

Snyder continues that in Batman v Superman to the point it seems like opening on Easter weekend was planned all along, even though it wasn’t.

The thing is, the movie isn’t as bad as some of the reviews suggest. Not the biggest endorsement, admittedly but it’s the best we can do.

Ben Affleck is good as Batman, even if this version shows signs of finally going off his rocker for good. Ditto for Jeremy Irons as Alfred. The blog’s favorite moment is when Alfred reminds his employer that it was Bruce Wayne, acting almost like a spy, who got a key piece of information rather than Batman punching out a lot of guys.

Cavill is fine in what’s an almost thankless role because this seems more like a Batman film with Superman as a supporting player rather than co-leading character.

The filmmakers did experiment with Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), making him much younger than previous incarnations. Think an evil Mark Zuckerberg (played by Eisenberg in The Social Network). The results are uneven but it was an attempt on a different take. I thought the Gal Godot version of Wonder Woman was a plus, but again it’s definitely a supporting character. Overall, at 151 minutes, it’s too long but better superhero movies have the same fault.

Warner Bros. has a lot riding on the movie as it tries to get competitive with Marvel in superhero films. Despite the reviews, Batman v Superman generated $27.7 million in Thursday night showings in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website.

Batman v Superman needs a $1 billion global box office to be seen as a success, so Warner executives had to be pleased with the results despite the baby seal treatment by the critics.

UPDATE: It turns out Snyder did, well, pee on one key part of the Superman mythos. The Spy Commander missed it, but New York magazine’s Vulture website caught it. If you want to see what, or who, it was click on the link.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 237 other followers