Regardless of where you stand on Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ superhero team-up, Justice League, there’s no disputing that the film has been polarizing. From Ben Affleck’s will-he-or-won’t-he reprise Batman to the late addition of Joss Whedon for a few months of writing-directing re-dos, this has been a problem project since Batman v Superman set the whole thing up in 2016.
Now that we’re here, on the doorstep of worldwide release, what happens next is a big, big topic to explore?
Perhaps anticipating trouble, the studio flooded the airwaves and Interwebs with promos, trailers, and other media. WB knows that a deluge of bad reviews could be crippling — the embargo lifted overnight. You won’t, however, find any of these reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, as the aggregator is holding-off until Thursday to make its own big splash. According to Fast Company, Rotten Tomatoes — Warner Bros. controls a partial stake in its parent Fandango — will delay their score until 12:01 am EST on November 16, to help promote their new Facebook show See It/Skip It. A cynical mind could imagine WB applying pressure (or issuing a payout) to keep those reviews on simmer; smells fishy, any way you look at it.
Metacritic, however, has no such reservations about posting reviews and scores. They’re reporting a composite score of 50/100, based on 28 critic’s reviews so far (many of them rather unkind):
USA Today — Brian Truitt
“A strong if unspectacular effort full of fun character moments.”
Rolling Stone — Peter Travers
“This all-star team-up is too afraid of the dark to work its way into our dreams.”
Entertainment Weekly — Chris Nashawaty
“[Justice League] marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy heights of Wonder Woman.”
The Guardian — Peter Bradshaw
“There is something ponderous and cumbersome about Justice League.”
The Hollywood Reporter — Todd McCarthy
“Plainly put, it’s simply not fun.”
And yet, despite all the teeth-gnashing and review-suppressing, Deadline is reporting that Justice League is expected to collect a gobsmacking $325-$355 million worldwide this weekend (IGN says that Justice League‘s production budget is over $300 million, just FYI). This is a staggering sum that would put the DC film ahead of Suicide Squad ($267M), Deadpool ($267M), but just behind Iron Man 3 ($372M). By more recent comparison, Thor: Ragnarok opened internationally a week before its North American debut, and collected a tidy $427 worldwide over its first two weeks.
WB was also really smart to release this movie on November 17 — two weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, and three weeks before The Last Jedi. However, next week Pixar’s highly-anticipated animated film, CoCo, opens to holiday-film starved audiences, which will surely cut into Justice League‘s take. However, the real test for Justice League will be its performance in week two, as the impact of reviews and word-of-mouth settles in. Thor: Ragnarok dropped 53% in its second week, but this film had almost no competition, which obviously won’t be the case for Justice League (anything worse than a 50% decline is bad news for this movie).
Warner Bros. and DC have a lot riding on Justice League‘s success. If the film fails to perform it raises ugly questions about the rest of their superhero slate, and it might cause Affleck to run for the exits before his solo Batman film goes into production too. Given the incredible budget for Justice League — almost twice that of Thor: Ragnarok, and almost 10x more than Stephen King’s IT — this film needs a very strong second and third week; particularly after WB’s pricey Blade Runner 2049 tanked last month.
Plenty of fans and casual audiences will probably show up in droves this weekend regardless of reviews, if you believe Deadline — you should, they know their stuff. However, the success or failure of Justice League will be decided based on this film’s legs. Given the glut of major releases in December, WB and DC have roughly three weeks to make it happen. Bad reviews might not kill Justice League, but they sure don’t help.
Justice League hits theaters on November 17, 2017.