There is a question on a lot of lips given this past weekend’s box office performance of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Do film critics matter when it comes to box office dollars?
Comparing the millions “Batman v. Superman” raked in with the grumblings of critics who sat through it, the immediate answer would be no.
But I would argue that some movies – namely big blockbusters from certain studios – are mostly immune to what critics say, at least to an extent.
Plenty of film critics and bloggers who released a review of “Batman v. Superman” last week knew before the weekend came what was going to happen. They posted columns and blogs and tweeted out lines from some of the hate mail/email they received from hardcore fans who would not let anyone badmouth their superheroes – even though those same people had yet to actually see the movie.
It was clear that the fans were going to show up at theaters regardless.
It’s also important to note that most reviews – that some didn’t read past the star rating or first line – were mostly middling about the film’s grim overtone. There weren’t many critics who hated all of it, though the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate Tomatometer might appear otherwise.
In other words, this isn’t the best example of showing a time where critics completely panned a film, only for it to make tons of money.
A better example would be the “Transformers” series. The first film got an even, though maybe not quite respectable, 57 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and its three sequels didn’t come anywhere close to matching even that rating.
Those critical reviews didn’t stop any of the films from making millions of dollars.
The issue here is, filmgoers know what they’re going to get. Audiences are going to see major CGI robot battles with plenty of explosions and American flags, all in an overly convoluted plot that takes almost 2 ½ hours to tell.
So maybe the last one isn’t as important as the rest is to fans, but critical influence doesn’t matter here. As long as the series keeps being up to standard with what audiences want to see, they’ll keep showing up for the sequel.
It’s the reason why “The Hunger Games” went strong through its four-movie run, and likely why “Divergent” is falling by the wayside. The first two “Hunger Games” were enough for fans and other audiences to attend both parts one and two of “Mockingjay” despite it also being a grim two-part finale. Meanwhile, the lackluster “Divergent” and “Insurgent” likely aided in most people dropping any interest in “Allegiant” two weekends ago and the budget being cut in half for the last installment, “Ascendant.”
And when it comes to reviving a series, critical favor can be, well, critical.
No one can tell me otherwise that the thorough panning of “Fantastic Four” broke that reboot completely. After the first two ho-hum movies with audiences, the reboot needed something to get it back into the spotlight. The utter revulsion critics showed for it had to have played a part in it bombing at the box office.
Positive reviews also likely helped “Deadpool” become the film that it did. There’s no doubt that there was plenty of fan interest, but to have critics backing a film about a foul-mouthed mercenary in an intensely violent film must have helped it reach levels where it beat box office records, including the Valentine’s Day record, as well as beating films like “Iron Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Like “Fantastic Four,” “Batman Begins” needed that interest from critics to get the superhero out of the “Batman & Robin” gutter and back into a favorable position with audiences. A combination of stellar reviews and a good marketing campaign got Batman back on the map.
It also means that after three successful Christopher Nolan movies, someone will have to mess up the character a lot before audiences start ignoring the superhero. And given “Batman v. Superman” is the latest silver screen version (aside from “The LEGO Movie”) after “The Dark Knight Rises,” there is still plenty of interest in seeing Batman on screen – regardless of what a critic or a friend says about it.
“Batman v. Superman” was never going to fail because at least one of those heroes still has a pull on audiences. After “Man of Steel,” it’s arguable that the next Superman movie could have pulled a “Superman Returns” and ended (again) interest in Superman, but adding Batman was a sure-fire way to prevent that.
The real test of the movie’s success with audiences is how well it does after the opening weekend.
“Deadpool” stayed on top for weeks because fans and critics alike loved it. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” opened with a modest $95 million (compared to other Marvel films), but both stayed in theaters, and “Winter Soldier” made almost $100 million more than its predecessor, “The First Avenger.”
Alternately, there’s also a reason why “Avengers: Age of Ultron” came well under “The Avengers” in total box office gross despite opening with more than $190 million.
Some of these may seem like rather small changes in the overall gross of a movie, but this is also only taking into consideration what happens with big budget blockbusters. Critical favor can bump any movie into the spotlight for audiences, though it may never have expected to receive much. There is that Oscar bump for independent movies that get a Best Picture nomination, and sometimes critics will write about something they love often enough that audiences will pick up on it and decide to actually sit down and watch it.
I think it’s unfair to point to “Batman v. Superman” and discuss the merits of a film critic. Some powerhouses are never going to tank – no matter how much some people wish they would to end the trend of superhero sequels and reboots.
Film critics have a lot more influence than maybe audiences realize, even if situations like these tend to skew our attention away from them for a bit.