How far would a movie studio go to make a movie a success? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens Friday, and one thing’s for sure: It will make a lot of money. But will it make enough money? As in, will the movie live up to expectations as “the single greatest underexploited I.P. asset in the entertainment business”? That, friends, is the question that harried Warner Bros. executives have been BlackBerry messaging each other for months now. The fate of the studio’s fictional universe hangs in the balance, as do the legacies of director Zack Snyder and, to a lesser extent, star Ben Affleck. Affleck, whose upcoming Warner Bros. films The Accountant and Live by Night were “not any kind of quid pro quo” for his agreeing to star as Batman, recently had to deny reports that he would rewrite the script while dressed in the Batsuit. (Which is unfortunate, since the mental image of Ben Affleck one-finger typing in bat-gloves while sweating his ass off inside a molded rubber sarcophagus is a joyous light in a darkening world.) Snyder, meanwhile, is hoping to use BvS’s box office success as a springboard to his true calling as the world’s foremost auteur of shirtless historical reenactments.
Ominously for everyone involved, each bit of new information about the film — including early reviews — has been met by a near-constant stream of negative buzz. (The film is too dark; Henry Cavill and Affleck appear to spend the entire film clenching their jaws; Deadpool proves that audiences want a movie that pokes fun at the genre, and BvS features Bruce Wayne running into a 9/11 dust cloud; etc.) The lone bright spot in the film’s press coverage: a 2015 Reddit post in r/DC_Cinematic that purports to leak firsthand information about the film’s plot. The anonymous poster, going by the handle “ViolatingNDA,” included such takes as, “BvS is the greatest comic book movie since The Dark Knight,” and, “The third act was mindblowing.” Hmmm. The timing of the post — a little more than a month before the release of the final trailer — was equally suspicious. Devin Faraci at Birth Movies Death, who claims to have seen an early version of the BvS shooting script, debunked the post — but not before numerous web outlets had reported on it. To date, ViolatingNDA’s Reddit post has 1,879 comments. A thread discussing BMD’s refutation of the post has 50.
So: An anonymous post that ultimately (allegedly) contains no spoilers but generates much-needed positive Internet chatter? UNFOUNDED BUT WELL-TIMED CONSPIRACY THEORY: Hey, maybe Warner Bros. was behind this Reddit leak?
This piece originally appeared in the March 23, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.