Why ‘Batman v Superman’ Is the Donald Trump of Comic-Book Movies

Donald Trump Ben Affleck Batman Superman
Rex Shutterstock/Warner Bros.

Despite scathing reviews, “Batman v Superman” still triumphed at the box office with a record $166 million opening weekend. No amount of bad press could stop a divisive candidate from becoming a runaway success story. Does that make this movie the Donald Trump of comic-book films?

Before you roll your eyes, consider the parallels between Trump the politician and the Dark Knight. When a young boy asked Trump if he was Batman last year, the Republican frontrunner answered in the affirmative. “I am Batman,” Trump said in his trademark bravado style, as he awarded a cluster of school children with a free helicopter ride over Iowa. Like Bruce Wayne, Trump is a multi-millionaire mogul defined by the memory of his parents. He also owns tall skyscrapers with his last name emblazoned over the doors, just like the big “W” that hangs over Wayne Enterprises.

Over the weekend, many of Batman’s supporters were rooting for him to prove his out-of-touch detractors wrong, and Ben Affleck, the latest actor to don the Dark Knight’s suit, saw his movie so trampled by journalists that his reaction to poor press reports turned into an Internet meme. (Never mind that Affleck is a Democrat in real life.) Finally, Batman’s biggest foe is the nerdy Lex Luthor, who as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg comes across like a mean-spirited, Ivy League-educated talking head from MSNBC.

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Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

‘Batman v Superman’ Versus the Puny Critics? Puh-leeze

When it comes to Hollywood, very few stories are targeted to red states, a population that is underserved by the studios. That’s why when a film like “American Sniper” or “The Blind Side” succeeds, it does so because it draws more conservative populations that don’t regularly go the multiplexes. It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to call “Batman v Superman” a movie for conservatives, too — or at least a movies with themes that members of the GOP can get behind. Batman takes the law in his own hands, even when the police distrust his ability to use his unfettered weapons for good.

It’s also convenient that one of “Batman v Superman’s” central antagonists (other than Luthor) is a Democratic senator from Kentucky. Played by Holly Hunter, she represents a bureaucrat who is trying to restrict Superman — by growing big government. While director Zack Snyder may not have embedded his popcorn tentpole with far-reaching political insights, the movie beats the drums of national pride and demonizes mysterious terrorist threats. Then there’s Superman himself: a squeaky clean symbol of Americana whose feet and back are literally draped in red.

That’s not to say that “Batman v Superman” made boatloads of money solely from Republican ticket buyers. But it’s interesting to note how the harder the press attacked the movie, the better it seemed to do. Movies with scathing reviews can sometimes still survive at the box office. But that’s becoming less common in a real-time Twitter universe — where bad buzz can quickly tank a project like last summer’s “Fantastic Four.” Some critics went so far as to label “Batman v Superman” as an even bigger disappointment than 2011’s “The Green Lantern,” starring Ryan Reynolds. What’s different about “Batman v Superman” is that, like Trump voters, fanboys say that media narrative about the movie is wrong (the movie was handed a relatively average B CinemaScore).

When reviews called “Batman v Superman” trash, it only ramped up the general public’s interest in the film. Snyder’s blockbuster touched a nerve with the masses in a way that’s similar to the working class appeal of Trump. Or put another way: It was like the press had watched a different movie than the public had. Reviewers seemed to be punishing Affleck for abandoning his A-list director trajectory, so they put him in “Gigli” jail. But for the rest of America, his decision to wear the bat cape proved heroic enough.

The success of “Batman v Superman” is just the latest example of the cultural wars between the press and the public. As reporters sharpened their knives, audiences voted with their wallets, and propelled the movie to break box office records. The only missing voice in this conversation is Donald Trump himself. But you can bet that when he tweets out his review, it’ll be glowing — just to show how wrong the media was about Batman.

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  1. Martin McEvoy says:

    I saw the movie yesterday and after reading the reviews was a bit unsure as to wheather to go or not.
    My son and I thought the movie was really good, the movie plot go’s off in a different directions but overall we thought it was outstanding. Lots of action and fighting towards the end and a preamble to justice leaughe.

  2. gy says:

    Ive heard this guys an irresponsible reportet

  3. Madhu Thangavelu says:

    Incredible movie, must see, despite all the negative publicity heaped on it. Both Affleck and Cavill really work as heros and even Gal is good in her supporting side role. Luther, maybe needed some more work. In any case, this fast paced action and swift moving scenestne CG quality, monsters and all are incredible, and the story moves like a whirlwind, at rhe speed of light.This movie got a bad rap from conventional wisdom (or wicked marketing ?)from critics and pundits in their ivory towers, time for them to move on and out, methinks.
    We seem to have found a new formula for sheer electric action from Marvel. Hats off to them !

  4. abraham fuerte says:

    Sssssiiiittt Dddoooowwwwnnnnn….No one called on you

  5. as a person who has seen the film I agree with much of what critics have had to say; its a mess of a film.

  6. Daniela says:

    This is the most horrible analogy I have ever read in my life. Do not put the word “Trump” & Batman into the some context. Unbelievable. You guys at variety have nothing better to write about than this? Pathetic.

  7. yogi says:

    REALLY?! Of all the things I have read, comparing BvS to Donald Trump is the most insulting. Yup, VERY PERSONALLY INSULTING!! :/

  8. jimmy says:

    BvS was a great movie. No need to insult people who liked the movie and lump them into Trump supporters. This continued attack of Ben Affleck after he won multiple oscars and gave a great performance in Gone Girl is just as juvenile as this article. He won me over with the best portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne hands down.

  9. Gog says:

    Disney shills posing as film critics or journalists are so angry about the success of BvS that they compare it to Donald Trump now?! Stay classy.

  10. EricJ says:

    I know the columnist was trying to be funny, but as a matter of fact, every time I read the fanboys rallying to the rescue, I actually DO start to see Trump parallels:
    I’ve been acquainted with the good Marvel movies and the good DC Animation, and I’ve grown up with a healthy Coke vs. Pepsi-style fan rivalry, but I have NEVER seen it turned into so much of a full-blown culture war against Marvel for the “soul” of comic-book movies as rabid fan-defense of this movie has made it:
    “Those fans who say the movie is too depressing, they can’t handle good solid mature subject matter! They’re just like the critics, who want jokes, and Saturday-morning plots, and old 80’s tunes on the soundtrack!” “Marvel fans are just little kids, and Marvel heroes are violent psychopaths, DC movies are taken from today’s challenging issues!”

    Now, I’m acquainted with both, and I’d like to say that I like both DC and Marvel movies, but there’s a problem: I haven’t seen a fun Warner DC movie I’ve liked since 1997. (Okay, don’t laugh, but hey, Batman Forever was a relief compared to the threat of more Tim Burton after Returns.) And that may be the problem.
    Like the Republican-betrayed Trump supporters, there’s this similar belief that the loudest fans seem to feel their “political party” is being destroyed from both the outside and the inside, with no solution in sight–That they’re bailing a sinking ship that struck its own iceberg, that attention-getting split their own unity, and that fierce shows of blind loyalty will make up for it. They would like DC to get a bit of the same never-fail box office magic that Disney’s been having with the Marvels, and there’s just one problem, Warner keeps screwing it up. It didn’t happen with Man of Steel, it didn’t happen with Dark Knight Rises, and all the promise that Dark Knight was going to change the superhero-movie landscape now feels like it was eight long years ago.
    So, they believe the solution is to move the goalposts and say “Real comic fans LIKE it dark!”, when the reality of the situation often turns out to be that nobody else does.

    Guys…it’s not an election–We’ve become used to Warner screwing up franchises, that’s what they do. We Bugs Bunny fans didn’t want Space Jam, we Harry Potter fans didn’t want Fantastic Beasts, and those of us who liked the Justice League didn’t want Warner to keep beating their dead Zack Snyder horse.
    Don’t blame the Marvel fans and don’t blame the critics; if you have to blame somebody, blame Warner for still trying to relive their 2008 glory days and pretend eight years haven’t passed since the Critically Depressing Ultra-Relevant Batman Movie. Or, you can argue with each other and watch Captain America take all the audience away.

    • I really want to marry your post and have its babies now. This article is stupid. The movie sounds stupid. But a ton of people are going to it, anyway, so…yay for them, I guess. Some people want to pay money to see cinematic car crashes. Still doesn’t make me want to go see it.

  11. kylevpirate says:

    Nope. Stupidest thing i have read

  12. ian says:

    *ROLLS F*CKING EYES* LOL

  13. zaws! says:

    “[…]Before you roll your eyes, ”

    TOO LATE FOR THAT, VARIETY. FAR TOO LATE.

  14. jonski22 says:

    really??? this writer and this article is stupid.

  15. Are the pro SvB people on here part of the DC marketing team, or are they retarded? This movie was one of the laziest excuses for a movie in a long, long time.

  16. Clearly somebody at Marvel is paying Variety bloggers for negative reviews. BvS is like a misogynist racist blowhard that wants to torture muslim families? Get a grip guys, your bias is showing. $425 million in a weekend goes strictly in the win column.

  17. Melissa says:

    BATMAN V SUPERMAN is now GIGLI? You’re looking really stupid now.You guys are total morons. The movie is terrific. You’re wrong. Disgraceful.

    • J says:

      Exactly! The comparison is outrageous! I’m glad to see people are actually recognizing the extreme media bias! I must have terrible taste in movie then because it was FANTASTIC! I agree…it definitely could be confusing for some with the dream states – but this movie was VERY well done and filmed beautifully! It doesn’t have to be Marvel to be a good movie. And no…you don’t have to like Synder or his films…but I would suggest seeing something first before making a mis-guided and Twitter influenced comment.

  18. George says:

    Another stupid article attacking BvS and you even sink to a new low trying to bring Trump and this ridiculous election cycle into it. Shut up already!! Reviews are opinions not facts. Can you accept that not everyone cares about reviews or, despite them, they may want to make up their own minds. Is that just too much for reviewers to understand?Art is still subjective isn’t it? Even the worst film can serve a purpose. The movie did well despite criticism because folks wanted to see it. The experience of seeing it mattered more to people then stupid reviews (they likely never read). The experience of seeing a movie is bigger then the movie. It might be the franchise matters to you or you just like train wrecks. It can be nostalgia or just an excuse to get out over a weekend. People wanted to see how it went, be part of the moment, experience it. There are narratives people just want to be part of. The arrogance required to think reviews control the public interest is mesmerizing. You call them reviews many call them spoilers. People will make up their own minds. Reality check: audiences are going to do what they want. You aren’t in charge.

    • lucky day says:

      Guess you didn’t see the Friday-to-Sunday decline. We all knew BvS would be frontloaded to the 9’s, and with positive word-of-mouth could have broken 200 opening weekend. But the decline proved that those who were going to see it no matter what did and the rest of us are gonna hold off, due in no small part to critics whose opinion we highly respect throwing up the red flags.

      • J says:

        Another perfect response. The issue is the media no longer reports based on facts…it’s all emotion based now and drives more divisiveness than actually reporting the facts. I’ve watched actual news as well as reviews where they’ve purposely left out facts to drive the narrative of what they specifically want people to believe. Reporting used to be about obtaining the facts and providing an independent view so the public could decide their opinion. This doesn’t exist any longer. And Lucky Days…you’re correct…but all blockbusters are typically front-loaded. It actually only saw a decline of 33% from Saturday to Sunday which is by no means terrible. And I believe only 36% from Friday to Saturday (I read this on Box Office Mojo so not sure if it’s 100% accurate but they are a pretty good source) – which is by no means terrible. Critics are completely biased and if you can’t see it then you are one yourself…didn’t see the film and therefore you’re simply obtaining your information from reviews only which begs the question if you have the ability to form your own opinion. I hope this didn’t come off too aggressive as it was not the intention but see something first and then make your judgement call on liking or dis-liking. B- Cinema Score overall…not terrible…and A- for those under 18 so their word of mouth will help. And by their very nature professional critics very rarely enjoy blockbusters. These aren’t meant to be Oscar winners…they’re meant to entertain and this movie delivered BIG TIME!!

      • Spellbinder says:

        Rubbish. You’re another critic trying to justify your job. The critics are idiots.

  19. EricJ says:

    And even the BvS fans have now become like Trump-billy supporters, going on some massive campaign to demonize critics who DARE say bad things about the movie they invested two years of their hopes and identities inL
    Those critics are all part of a conspiracy of pseudo-intellectual liberal Marvie supporters sent in by Disney, they’ve been trying to ruin this movie since before it came out; get ’em out of the room and sucker punch ’em! (NPI) ….ZACK!ZACK!ZACK!!

    • J says:

      Amen! Oh wait…can I still say that? And just because you’re a critic doesn’t mean intellectual. I remember rave reviews for an entire movie filmed backwards?!?!?

  20. Leon says:

    what gives? I never buy into the theory that critics have agendas and all that, but it’s getting harder and harder to give some credence to that theory given articles like this.

  21. Just for the record and remember @Variety who is a friend of Donald Trump: Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter Blasted for $1M Donation to Trump Vet Fundraiser, Salon Calls for Boycott.

  22. Seriously? says:

    Are you f’ing kidding me? Donald Trump is what he is today BECAUSE of the media. If they stopped covering him like a serious candidate the minute the clown put his hat in the ring then he would’ve been forced out of the race ages ago but because he was the perfect click-bait, the media doubled down and now it’s trying to pretend that they always had a moral stand when it’s obvious that aiming for the lowest common denominator would do just fine for them.

    The movie made bank because of the popularity of the two central characters which had a huge built-in audience from the get go, because of curiosity, because a Wonder Woman movie should’ve been made decades ago, because of timing, and because a lot of people genuinely liked it and have already gone back two or three times. Stop trying to justify the critics’ irrelevancy by coming up with stupid theories for something that is pretty simple to understand. No one cares that it’s not the movie that critics or rigid fanboys wanted from DCU and those who do can vote with their dollars and stay home.

    BvS laid out a pretty solid foundation for the introduction of JLA and while it had its missteps like any other superhero movie it’s hardly worthy of the vitriol that it’s received leading up to the opening, and which continues the Monday after smashing the box office. It only goes to show that DCU is always subject to different and higher standards for whatever BS reason. Get out of the damn echo chamber and just accept that WB’s marketing and the audience’s love for these DC properties worked, yes, even at $4 million less than what was initially projected. Be prepared for high numbers in home video sales as well.

  23. This site has definitely fallen very low, ethics and lack of respect is more than evident. Compare a racist madman with a film is simply incoherent. If you love Marvel movies it is fine, but it is not valid denosten and make fun of work and effort of many people involved in this film. you are the Donald Trump of the media…

  24. Sylvia says:

    How low is Variety going to sink on this topic? This only shows why the general public despises the media. You guys blew it and you can’t admit it. You look like fools. Move on.

  25. JR says:

    I think the movie was over-the-heads of most reviewers…who are probably ready to praise the next quip-laden bit of Marvel froth.

  26. Ryan says:

    What a dumb article.

  27. MrScreenAddict says:

    Just for the record, a B Cinemascore is definitely not “relatively average.” Cinemascores are always ridiculously inflated. The first Avengers got an A+; Age Of Ultron got a solid A, as did all three of Nolan’s Dark Knight films. Even divisive films like Spider-Man 3, Superman Returns, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still managed a B+. A B grade puts Batman V Superman in the unenviable company of the following flops: Catwoman, Daredevil, Elektra, Fantastic Four (2005), and FF: Rise Of The Silver Surfer.

  28. t s says:

    The movie was fine. DCU is usually very very dark. Critics expected a dose of Marvel and didnt get one. As Amy Adams said “none of us are making the movies for the critics”.. By hating this movie with so much vehemence, critics themselves are acting like Trump… And please dont compare DCU with a lowlife like Trump!

  29. Your mom says:

    I dunno but this “writer” and I find Variety the Donald Trump of movie criticism.

  30. Shaun Broyls says:

    Batman’s biggest foe isn’t Lex Luthor, it’s The Joker. Superman’s biggest foe is Lex Luthor.

  31. Spike says:

    leave your political posturing to the shower, you putz. and join Trump Haters Anonymous. it’s a personal problem.

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