With somewhat heightened security in light of this morning’s events in Brussels, Warner Bros went ahead with the European premiere of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in London tonight. Talent strolled the red carpet, though there was no press line, to the delight of fans outside the Odeon Leicester Square cinema, which screened the film to a packed house where I saw it in 2D. (The Empire was showing the 3D version next door.) After director Zack Snyder paused on the way in to offer thoughts for the victims in Brussels, the faceoff between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel commenced.
The screening was met with applause throughout — especially when Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman appears for the first time, sporting gold wristbands, shield and lasso — and as the credits began to roll. Gadot’s standalone Wonder Woman movie is due in summer 2017, followed by the DC Comics gathering Justice League in November, and this movie goes some way to setting the table for that superhero ensemble.
Batman V Superman, which starts international rollout tomorrow, kicks off with a recall of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s origins when his parents were gunned down before his young eyes. Crossing into the contemporary Batman/Superman universe, the film picks up from the final battle scene in the previous Warner/DC movie, 2013’s Man Of Steel, as Superman fights the evil General Zod and essentially destroys Metropolis in the process. This time, the battle is seen from the perspective of Wayne (a graying-at-the-temples Ben Affleck, who’s new to the Batsuit) as he watches the carnage with horror.
From there, Batman is on a crusade of his own, which involves concerns over his legacy and acquiring a stash of Kryptonite. In so doing, he comes across Lex Luthor (a Social Network-esque Jesse Eisenberg) and a mysterious woman who eyes him with purpose.
In the meantime, Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill, reprising his Man of Steel role) is concerned that Batman has become an out-of-control vigilante. The son of Jor-El recently has rescued girlfriend/crack reporter Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a sticky situation in the desert and later is blamed for several deaths there, severely tarnishing his reputation.
Dream sequences — or are they? — are used as a device to introduce some of the characters we’ll meet in later installments including Cyborg, the Flash and Aquaman. It’s when Gadot’s Wonder Woman enters the third act in full regalia that the Odeon audience really exploded. After the show, attendees buzzed about the character as the perfect feminist antidote to the more masculine narrative we’ve been treated to thus far. (There’s also a fair bit of humor here with Diane Lane’s Martha Kent getting off one of the best lines.)
The final showdown involves Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman battling a gargantuan mutant monster with enough pyrotechnics to satisfy the most ardent firebug.
BvS will be in about 62 territories worldwide this weekend, including North America and China, with an estimated global opening of $350M on 35,000 screens. That would make it the second-best pre-summer and Easter debut behind Furious 7′s $397.7M.