Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Here there be spoilers.

Now that I’ve had a night to think about it, I’m not actually sure if I liked the movie or not. And I don’t think it’s a case of really disliking it and being in denial. I really, honestly don’t know. To be fair, though, after I saw Man of Steel the first time, I was unsure about the movie.

 

Part of this, I think, is the presentation seemed to be very poor. The theater house lights never dimmed entirely. The sound mix seemed off. I think they had the aperture on the projector on incorrectly, which slightly cut off the top and bottom of the screen. (Noticeable in the scenes of news shows, where the bottom of the text was cut off.) And maybe they had the 3D grate down or something, because it seemed dim, especially compared to trailers I’d seen previously.

 

So, fighting against a sub-par movie experience. And I don’t want to hold that against the film itself.

 

Still, this was an acknowledged mess. I came away mostly thinking that they did have a pretty strong idea of what they wanted their characters to present as… but had no real clue how to get those ideas across the best. Many of the scenes felt like they were sketched out without a clear beginning and end, and we’re left with a feeling of a larger whole where we’re only seeing a few random middle bits. It’s not that the character motivations are lacking, just that the elements shown aren’t what drive those points across.

 

In a way, this is confusing, because when you strip it down, the plot of BvS is pretty great: Lex Luthor has a problem with Superman, so he sets up a Xanatos Gambit to put him in conflict with Batman. Eventually, they realize their error and team up.

 

Unfortunately, in order to get this across, you need a strong bifurcated storyline: Superman’s heroics need to progress in contrast with Batman’s investigations. The two should advance in a way that feels like they’re converging on the same point. Then you get the twist: instead of working separately against a common goal, they’re actually at odds against each other. This is how you get the fight that feels both surprising and organic. Also, this should come to head at the end of Act 2. Act 3 is the team-up.

 

The problem arises rather early. The entire Africa plotline feels needlessly busy and extraneous, especially since MoS already presented a very good reason for people to question Superman already. Then as the movie progresses, it seems to be too early when we’re seeing Lex’s gambit in action. Thus it isn’t a surprise about what happens. Thus we get a confusing selection of character actions that are clearly leading somewhere, but the film itself doesn’t seem clear on what that goal actually is.

 

So here’s what I think happened. I think David Goyer wrote a Man of Steel sequel. It was a Superman plot through and through. You can look at the throughline of Supes and Lex and see that it’s pretty clear that exists. In this context, Lex’s plan is entirely put public doubt in Superman, make him the blame of things going wrong (that are Lex’s doing), and then when that doesn’t work, bring out his ace in the hole, Doomsday, to kill Superman.

 

Then WB got nervous and decided to add Batman into the mix. And all hell broke loose. Because by adding Batman, you need to account for his motivations. And while there is a disagreement plot to be had, it wasn’t in the original script. So Goyer (and later Terrio) were doing the best they could with the plot at hand, but it was a confusing, tacked-on selection of motivations and character impetus that ultimately sets the original plot on a wobbly course.

 

In fact, if you look at the film, the interactions between the two characters is pretty sketchy prior to the final fight. They meet at Lex’s party (and in Batman’s dream), but that’s about it. It really feels like two different movies that more or less are happening at the same time. Or, perhaps more appropriately, this is a Superman movie that seems to star Batman for reasons that are not entirely clear from the film itself.

 

It’s entirely possible that the director’s cut, with ample time to explore the motivations and plots, will clear up the confusion. It’s not that they necessarily needed that extra time, but if they didn’t have a clear plan from the get-go, it could help work through all the excess they were dealing with. We’ll have to wait and see. Unfortunately, even if the DC is a vast improvement, it’s not going to help. Most of the audience will see it in the theaters, and their opinions will be pretty firm. I doubt many are going to give it a second chance, especially if it’s longer.

 

With all that, what did I like?

 

Well, I do like the cast. They’re all pretty great, especially given the weirdly limited material they have to work with. Affleck makes a great Batman. Irons a great Alfred (in fact, he had most of the best lines in the film). Eisenberg is weirdly compelling at Lex. Adams as Lois continues to give me heart eyes. And Cavill continues to sell what is a difficult role.

 

And, of course, Gal Gadot is glorious as Wonder Woman. Messy as the film is, it isn’t confused at all when she’s on screen. When she shows up for the final fight, everything just sort of clarifies. Even the entire tone of the music changes, as if to say, “This is what we are here for.” And it is. The criticism of the DC films is that they’re afraid of letting their heroes enjoy themselves. That’s entirely absent with Wonder Woman. She fights and has fun at it. She alone is enough reason to be excited about what the DC films will bring in the future.

 

I doubt I’ll see BvS again theatrically. That’s mostly for financial reasons, though. I really would like to give it a second shot in a presentation that isn’t marred by the theater itself. I wonder if, like Man of Steel, it’s something that I warm up to over time and begin to love. I’d also like to see the director’s cut to see if that smooths out some of the story issues. Maybe if there’s another $10 blu-ray at Best Buy.

 

Still, I honestly don’t know if I like it or not.

 

?/5

DC’s Movie Future

The big news for comic book geeks right now are the DC changes. The company is dissolving Wildstorm and presumably every other imprint besides Vertigo. All non-publishing operations are moving from New York to SoCal. There are a number of questions up in the air, but for the most part, that’s just a bunch of businessy things to think about.

The reasons for these changes make a lot of sense. DC’s had a problem for a while, lagging behind Marvel for a number of years and often playing copycat to try and catch up. The company has had a broader scope of comics printed, under a number of different imprints, but nothing’s seemed to catch on.

Step one, it seems, is to remove a lot of dead weight. I imagine that in the next few months, they’ll announce how they’ll handle the various creator-owned properties, whether it’s by moving them under the Vertigo banner or something else will remain to be seen.

What’s considerably more fascinating, to me, is a quote by DC head honcho Diane Nelson where she says that they aren’t Marvel. Obvious, of course, but upon consideration, it’s a very smart move.

Marvel’s approach to movies is well understood to be building a universe that will culminate, of sorts, with the Joss Whedon Avengers film in a couple years. I imagine that, if it’s a successful experiment, it won’t stop there, but I don’t get the sense that they’ve got a plan that extends much further until they see how it goes. This eggs in a basket strategy is probably driven by necessity. Due to a number of financial issues Marvel had over a decade ago, the company sold off the rights to a number of characters. They can’t do anything, film-wise, with the two biggest characters under the company’s publishing banner: Spider-Man and Wolverine. (Held by Sony and Fox, respectively.)

In fact, given the attempts under Avi Arad to license out the over 6000 characters in the Marvel universe, many of the more well-known characters are effectively gone for good. (It’s entirely possible that the rights could lapse, but I believe that’s only happened with Hulk. All other major properties have some sort of film in production.) This is a big issue because the money is made on the big screen (and subsequent DVD sales) rather than in the monthly issues. Marvel does the latter very well, and the former was elsewhere. (This last point is what makes the Disney purchase seem so odd.)

Enter the Avengers. Take the remaining characters, most of them second-tier, and hand them off to good directors and such to create a movie universe unlike anything that’s been done before. It’s great branding and gets the word out that this is the Next Big Thing. So long as the films are good, then everything will be hunky-dory. Luckily for Marvel, Iron Man was very good, so things are getting rolling. The Avengers seems like a dream come true: a real superhero team-up film on the big screen. Awesome, right? And not a little bit lucky that they still had Cap, Thor, and ol’ Shellhead in-house.

DC doesn’t have that problem. For the most part, any character under the DC banner has the film rights in-house under Warner Bros. While Marvel’s been all over the place, the dream of a JLA movie has been kicking around at least since the late ’90s. Nothing came of any of those, partially because DC never seemed to be able to do anything besides Batman or Superman, and partially because getting a large cast of superheroes together gets unwieldy. Seriously, when you have too many characters, it’s not good cinema. Just one of the many problems that plagued X-Men 3.

So Marvel may have found the magic formula, however: individual films for a series of characters, then bring them together for the team-up. You don’t need to worry about backstory. And DC’s got a couple of Bat-films in the current series, a Green Lantern film out next year. Just need something new for Supes, work out The Flash and Wonder Woman, and you’re there, right? Easy enough to copy Marvel’s playbook… again.

However, Nelson’s quote indicates that (as of right now) they have no plans to do that. For a couple of reasons, this is probably the best decision. First, there’s the creative side. DC doesn’t have the same necessity. The movie studio isn’t force to use the second tier characters because their big guns are right there, and (at least in Batman’s case), extremely profitable and visible. When the third Batman film comes out, it’s going to do just fine. And Christopher Nolan’s also at work on a Superman film, which has a lot of justifiably high expectations.

However, Nolan’s indicated that he doesn’t really want to push Batman into a bigger group. The stories he’s filming work well on a closed level and I’m going to guess that Superman is going to get a similar treatment. Given that those two are likely tied up and unavailable because of that, it would leave any potential JLA movie in one of two problematic situations: either you film it without Superman and Batman, which doesn’t really scream JLA anymore. Ever since Grant Morrison started on the title back in the mid-90s, it’s been a team that’s the biggest heroes in the DCU, as it was when the team started. Ironically, Marvel’s gone with a similar strategy of late, by pulling Spiderman and Wolverine into the Avengers. However, they can’t match the lineup in the films.

To remove Batman & Superman leaves the league feeling a bit… Justice League International in feel, which is dating back 20+ years.  And unlike the Avengers, there’s a very important tone that needs to be set here. I really doubt any casual viewer is going to know that Wolverine and Spiderman are Avengers. In fact, I’d guess that seeing them in the line-up on the screen would be very jarring. But JLA has had a few seasons of cartoons in the past decade that were very well received and built naturally from the Batman and Superman animated series. Casual audiences, even if they weren’t regular viewers, are likely to assume any similar line-up.

The other option would be to make a JLA film without any connection to the series for the single characters. WB did try this, actually, even getting to the point where they had a cast including Common as Green Lantern and they had George Miller signed onto direct. For a number of reasons, that fell through. If nothing else, it would have been confusing to any audiences. Why wasn’t Christian Bale Batman there?

Well, that brings up the business reasons for avoiding a build-up to the JLA. Ultimately, any film is all about the money. The studio wants to get the best return for the smallest outlay. When you’ve got a multi-franchise series, those costs can build up. Marvel is famous for playing hardball with actors to keep those costs down. Terrence Howard was ousted for Don Cheadle apparently over a contract dispute between the two Iron Man films. The vast majority of the other actors have signed onto multiple picture deals at a relatively low cost, in order to make sure the later films in the Avengers franchise won’t see things spike. Samuel L. Jackson signed a nine film deal after Iron Man.

However, in order to do these things, there needs to be a clear plan ahead of time. WB had no such plan for Batman when they brought Christopher Nolan on board to revamp the character. While trying to do the team thing would have caused some creative issues, it would have also meant needing to negotiate with Bale and the other actors involved after they’d already been in one or two very successful films. This raises the costs considerably. Moreso if you consider that they’d likely have to placate Nolan in some way. (Note that WB seems very strongly inclined to placate him. Even his odd, experimental fare like Inception does very well for them.)

The flipside of the business is even more important. While JLA would be a fan dream film (my friends and I had a game of dream casting it over a decade ago), much as the Avengers film is, what’s the payoff overall. Batman by himself can do half a billion in the US. Superman in a good film can probably clear the triple century mark easily. Other DC heroes are likely at a lower tier. Sure, Green Lantern might have about the same public appeal as pre-Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man, but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed for $300m US.

DC is already able to look at Marvel for a template on what may happen. As I noted in my last post, the prognosis for the Avengers is… mixed. If it looked like the Marvel properties were building interest, then I think Diane Nelson would be less inclined to defiantly say they aren’t Marvel. But that hasn’t happened with Iron Man, and while we’re a Thor and a Captain America away from getting the Avengers trifecta, what’s the real expectation for those films, regardless of quality? $200m? $250m if they take off? Superheroes aren’t a guaranteed sale anymore. Iron Man was a right-place, right-time, lighting-in-a-bottle moment of everything coming together and hitting perfectly.

Maybe Green Lantern can do that, too. Martin Campbell is a very accomplished director, and has set the tone for the James Bond series twice, now. Ryan Reynolds has a ton of talent and charisma. And even so, that can’t guarantee it’s going to be huge. Big, sure, but not huge.

If the payoff isn’t a guarantee, why would DC even want to try and pull off a JLA film? It’s going to be more difficult, more expensive, and probably more uncertain than Marvel’s current effort. More than that, it’s going to feel like a bit of a copycat. Given that the DC publishing has been playing that game for most of the past decade and losing, why would they want to do the same for the films, when the stakes are so much higher.

No, carving out their own path is much smarter. While at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be anything really innovative at play than a typical franchise, that could change.

Consider the Green Lanterns. They’re already a super team of sorts built into the mythology. More than that, there’s a chance that they could go for something really unique and have a space-faring superhero adventure. Imagine some world building on the level of Avatar as a backdrop of warring Lanterns? Not saying it will happen, but it’s something that Marvel couldn’t easily replicate unless they decide to try and film the Annihilation saga.

And there’s no way they’re going to try and introduce the characters to do that. In that area, at least, DC’s got a head start. Go cosmic. But don’t go superteam. It’s not the smart play.

The Future of Marvel Moviedom

It was supposed to be better than this.

The promise that we were shown in 2008, which saw the rise of a new movie superstar (after a long and troubled career) and the beginning of the first major comic book universe was supposed to skip merrily along.

Marvel had given into that promise, with a series of films that created a franchise without quite being a series. We’d gotten Iron Man and it was brilliant (not perfect, no, but few films are, especially at this level). The sequence of films through 2012 was announced, and it read like a hit list of all the major players of the Marvel U remaining big guns that Marvel hadn’t signed off to Fox or Sony. We’d get Thor and Cap and then the whole Avengers team.

Awesome, right?

They’d lined up some great talent in there, starting with Kenneth Branagh directing Thor (really! Not a joke!) and culminating in the nerdgasm decision to let Joss Whedon helm The Avengers.

All they needed to do was get through the Iron Man sequel. All the same major talent is back, so they just needed to let Downey do his thing and set a few seeds for the future.

Well, now we’ve gotten the better part of two months to look at Iron Man 2. And I’m left to wonder what the hell happened.

Iron Man was a big surprise. It came out of nowhere, turned into a $300m film, and showed that superhero films could work without a top tier character. (True, it got blown out of the water by The Dark Knight, but take away Heath Ledger’s death and the distance between the two films would probably have been cut in half.)

Clearly, if Marvel wanted to get the ball rolling on their own movie production studio, they couldn’t have done it any better way. Following up the film should have been a breeze. Improving on it, business-wise, should have been the simplest thing in the world.

The number of sequels that outperform the well-received originals is immense. In fact, if you’ve got a film that audiences like, you can chuck out a sequel that is regarded as CRAP by everyone and still do better. Look at Transformers 2, which was made WITHOUT A SCRIPT and managed to earn $80m more than the first.

Iron Man 2 isn’t a bad film. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say it’s as good as the first, but it’s entertaining and has some great action sequences along with good funny bits. Downey is again perfectly spot-on for the role, and I don’t think anyone can legitimately complain about him as Tony Stark.

It opened very well, a good 30% more than the first. That’s the (current) fifth largest opening in history. It’s a nice improvement on the already strong opening for the original and while it did have some degree of audience rush (sequels tend to get that more than first films), it should have been an indication that it would outearn the original, and probably was expected to hit somewhere between Spidermans 2 and 3.

The weak slate of films that followed it up in May should have encouraged that. Just about every film released between Iron Man and The Karate Kid underperformed to massive degree. Robin Hood might be the quietest $100m earning film in history. Shrek 4 earned $50m LESS than its predecessor in the opening, and will end up as the lowest grossing film of the entire series by a wide margin. Prince of Persia and Sex and the City were both disappointments. And the best thing that can be said about the five films released post-Memorial Day is that Get Him to the Greek is going to do about as well as expected.

Against such a weak line-up, where should Iron Man 2 ended up? $350m? $400m?

After seven weekends in release, it’s crossed the triple century mark, but just barely. It’s going to pass $305m today. The good news is that Iron Man 1 didn’t get to $300m as quickly. In fact, it didn’t get there until its 48th day in release. (That would be this Friday, had it been released on the same date as IM2.)

The bad news is that at this point in its run, IM1 was earning twice as much per day as IM2.

In its 7th weekend, IM2 earned just shy of $2.9m. IM1 earned over $5.6m. IM1 didn’t drop below $3m a weekend until its 9th.

IM2 fell below half a million in daily takes for the first time last Thursday, its 42nd day in release. IM1 didn’t have that happen until its 60th day.

If you look at the day to day matchups between the two films, there’s a clear pattern. IM2 is ahead, thanks to the extra $30m it got for its opening, but the gap between the two is closing rapidly. The numbers it pulls in are about two weeks behind those for IM1.

Two months ago, the future of IM2 was very bright. It was going to be big, but nobody knew how big. Now, that future has dimmed a little. It’s still a big film (because any film that crosses $300m is big), but it has a best case scenario of matching the total of the first film. That’s BEST case. The easy path it had in May is gone. Now it’s almost two months into a box office run with a number of films that are going to take away business.

Now, I doubt anyone at Marvel, Paramount, or Disney is complaining. The international receipts are up from the first film, albeit not by a great amount (superheroes don’t tend to play nearly as well overseas), so they are looking at an overall improvement.

Next year they’ve got Thor hitting in early May and Captain America in July. The Avengers hits in May of 2012. And all of these are ushered in by a pair of $300m earners that have gotten high marks from audiences and critics.

But mightn’t they be a little worried? Thor and Cap don’t have the exceptionally high profile figure of Robert Downey Jr. to lead the film. So what sort of numbers are they looking at? They can’t bank on a break-out like IM1, so are they thinking that these are $250m films? $200m?

And what about The Avengers? That’s a huge wild card. On one hand, it’s going to play like a second sequel to Iron Man. But second sequels don’t tend to do as well as the first. This is especially the case if the first sequel is seen as a step down from the original. Look at the Matrix, Pirates, or Shrek films. All had a very well received original, huge explosion of business for the sequel, and then rather large drop-off for the third. Iron Man might be in the same boat, except it hasn’t seen the explosion of business.

That could be another point of concern: Perhaps the first film saturated the market. Anyone who was interested in any superhero besides Batman or Spider-Man saw it so there’s no room to grow. There’s only room to shrink.

There’s another possible problem. One criticism levied against IM2 is that it spent too much time building the universe at the expense of the story of the film itself. There were seeds planted for Thor and the Avengers that didn’t feel quite necessary to tell the story at hand. What if non-comic fan audiences don’t care about that stuff? What if it’s actually a detriment?

Next year the two films released are sure to play into those Marvel Universe elements. Hell, Captain America even has the Avengers connection right in the title. If those elements aren’t going to play well, this could be a well-intentioned but unfortunately doomed experiment.

And Joss Whedon’s Avengers film will probably be yet another in his long string of disappointments.

You can be sure that on the other side of the business, DC/WB is keeping a close eye to see what happens while they’re gearing up to produce Flash, Wonder Woman, and new Superman films. If the universe element doesn’t play, you won’t be seeing a JLA movie any time soon, no matter how well Green Lantern does.

And if The Avengers bombs, no worries. Batman 3 is going to hit a couple months later.

Rarified Air

I’m going to break a bit from my monthly previews and recaps to talk about some box office specifics. A lot of numbers follow, but we’re looking at some awesome numbers.

If you’ve been following entertainment news at all over the past few days, you probably know that The Dark Knight is huge. It’s historically huge, earning $18.5 million in Friday midnight shows, over $67 million over the entire Friday, and a massive $158 million for its opening weekend.

These are all record breaking numbers. Bigger than Revenge of the Sith for the midnight shows and bigger than Spidey 3 for the opening day and weekend totals. Batman’s also gotten the record for biggest Sunday, widest release (in terms of theaters, not screens), and highest per-screen average for an ultra-wide release. (For wide releases, the record still belongs to the greatest musical talent of all time, Hannah Montana. But her film only hit 600 screens, not 4,366.)

With this performance, The Dark Night has blown away just about every weekend prediction. The stock for the film has rose steadily over time. My early summer prediction of $85 million seemed a bit bullish at the time, but was laughable by the beginning of July. The excellent ad campaign, curiosity due to Heath Ledger’s Death, and stellar performance from heroic rival Iron Man (which gives a good barometer for expectated response) were coming together to create a perfect storm of audience excitement. As such, the predictions rose from the $90s to the low $100s to the $130s up until about a week before the performance.

Despite this (which was putting Batman in the running with Jack Sparrow for the second biggest opening of all time) there were two strong undercurrents of thought. The first was that Spidey’s record was safe: Batman’s considerably darker, DC heroes don’t open as big, the competition is much more fierce in July than early May. At the same time, Warner Bros. was publically stating that they expected ONLY about $90-100m.

I believe the high water prediction was somewhere in the mid $140s, within spitting distance of Spiderman 3, but still shy.

When Friday’s numbers hit, all bets were off. The $67 million was a good $8m beyond Spidey’s Friday, and even a large drop on Saturday would keep it in the running. For large opening films, especially sequels, a poor weekend multiplier (ratio of Friday to the whole weekend) is somewhat expected. There’s a lot of demand to get there and see the film opening day, and as such the ratio will be very low because after the Friday, demand decreases a big way. Even so, Spidey 3 had a large drop and with the extra $8m, Batman could take a bigger drop and still come out ahead.

As it happened, there was a large drop on Saturday, to $47 million. That $20m drop is huge, almost 30%, and it led to some speculation that, despite the big Friday, Batman wouldn’t even stick around enough to even take the weekend total. That would be very bad news for Warner Bros. They played it conservatively, and gave an early weekend estimate of $151-1533m, just barely ahead of Spidey 3. A bit later, they estimated $155m, but rival studios were suspicious. WB had only estimated a drop of about 20% on Sunday, which seemed small, especially in light of the 30% on Saturday.

However, on Monday, the weekend figures hit the final numbers, and the weekend haul came in at $158m, a clear jump up from Spidey. Sunday’s figure was $43m, a mere 8% drop from Saturday.

So what happened here? Why the big drop from Friday to Saturday, but the small one from Sunday? Well first is that unlike many huge sequels, the critical response from both the media and audiences has been overwhelmingly positive. While it’s probably a close toss-up in the end, The Dark Knight is at least on par with Iron Man in terms of percieved quality. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is consistently cited as a standout point and has already garnered some Oscar buzz.

Second is that, counter-intuitively, it seems the market wasn’t saturated. So many people wanted to see this film, that even with 4300 screens they couldn’t find a place to sit. If they’re stuck trying to find a place on Friday or Saturday, they wait until Sunday.

But wait, wasn’t Friday still 20m bigger than Saturday? Why wasn’t Saturday huge and Sunday small if there was that much extra money in the making.

Consider the Midnight shows. Theaters did a massive number of showings early on Friday which accounted for over $18 million of that day’s business. A number also scheduled 3am (and 6am and 9am) shows to try and meet demand that first day. While a number probably did shows for Midnight Saturday and Midnight Sunday, they would be less inclined to keep things running 24 hours a day for three straight days. Hence, there were less showings, and less chances for people to get in. While it’s not a perfect fit, remove the midnight haul from Friday’s take and you’ve got about $49m. Now the drop to Saturday is miniscule and the small drop to Sunday doesn’t seem so strange.

After $158 million in three days, it sat a mere $42m from the vaunted $200m barrier. The big question was how much it would drop in the weekdays and thus how long it would take to cross that point. For mid-summer films, a drop of about 50% from Sunday to Monday is about normal, especially if the Sunday is large. But the subsequent weekdays will probably see consistent drops of about 10% or so. Demand is high for the weekend and tails off somewhat rapidly from there. It’s for this reason that almost all huge-opening films see extremely large drops in the second weekend, even if they’re well-received. There’s a bit of a limit to how much business these things can retain when you’re opening over the century mark.

Speculation follows: If Monday was $21m, it would sit at $179m after four days and probably in the upper $190s after day five. It would fairly easily pass $200m in six. Over the course of the week, we could get a good idea of what it would haul in weekend two. If it dropped, say, to $14m on Thursday, it would probably be close to $225-$230m for the first week, and absolutely astounding haul, but it probably wouldn’t be looking at much more than $60m for the second weekend. Still spectacular, but probably indicative that it’s going to drop fairly fast, so after weekend three it would be below $30m and around half that for weekend 4. A track record like that would see The Dark Knight cruising past $400m, but probably petering out somewhere in the realm of Pirates 2 ($423m).

However, we’ve got an actual number for Monday, and it’s amazing: almost $24.5m. This puts the total haul in four days at almost $183m, and it’s just $17m shy of $200m. It needs a drop of 30% on Tuesday to FAIL to get to the double century in five days. This is almost impossible. Its drop on Sunday and Monday are the lowest in the top ten. Given how much distance is between it and the number 2 film (Mamma Mia! which, to be perfectly fair, is doing wonderfully) this is amazing.

If it keeps with the trend of films of this size, it could see drops of 10-15% for each of the next few days, which means it could earn about $22m or more on Tuesday. Doing that could put it in shooting distance of meeting the entire run of Batman Begins… in five days. That was a spectacularly received film that did very, very good business, and The Dark Knight is making it look like a joke.

In fact, it’s making all of its Batman compatriots look like jokes. It surged passed the entire gross of Batman and Robin in two days. It passed Batman Returns in on Monday and ended up within 2 million of Batman Forever. Both of those films at one time had the opening weekend record. And at its current pace, it should pass Batman, the current highest grossing film in the franchise, sometime next weekend.

The speed that The Dark Knight is accomplishing these records cannot be understated. The current speediest grossing film is Pirates 2, which reached $200m in 8 days and $300m in 16. The Dark Knight will hit the first mark in 5 days and the second in 10 or 11. The current record holder for $400m is Shrek 2, which accomplished that feat in a stunning 43 days (Pirates 2 took 45.) With the way things currently look, a bullish prediction would have Batman crossing the quadruple century in under a month. It’s all but assured of knocking Star Wars Episode 1 and its $431m gross out of the top 5 of all time.

But the big question, which is starting to float, is the big T. Does Batman have what it takes to beat Titanic? Or, more realistically, does it even have a chance?

To answer this, we really need to understand how big that $600m gross really is. It is huge. The second place film of all time is Star Wars, which has just $460m. That $140m gap means you could add the grosses for any of the following films to Star Wars and not equal Titanic: Click, Anger Management, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the first one), Live Free or Die Hard, Superman, The Rock, The Departed, Minority Report, and so on. All of these films were regarded as strong box office contenders, which did some spectacular business. In the case of TMNT, it was the highest grossing film from its studio (New Line) until the release of Fellowship of the Ring. The Departed is far and away the highest grossing film of Martin Scorscese’s career. And Adam Sandler is one of the most consistently successful actors in history. Yet none of these films can make Star Wars match Titanic.

Here’s a story. In 2001, when Harry Potter shattered the opening weekend record with its $90m opening, it led to speculation that it might beat Titanic. In a conversation about this possibility, someone said it was all but guaranteed. After all, Harry Potter had this huge synergy across all demographics and was a huge cultural phenomenon. Plus it had an extremely strong holiday for its follow-up weekend (Thanksgiving) and was a really good movie. (The last was alleged by many fans of the series.)

Ultimately, Harry Potter was an extremely strong film, becoming the highest grossing of the year, but its final tally of $317m was barely more than half of Titanic’s final tally.

Of course, Harry Potter isn’t alone in that. Subsequent record weekend holders Spiderman and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest have also had such talk abound, as have Shrek 2, Star Wars Episode III and (before Harry Potter) Star Wars Episode I. All of these films have done stellar business, earning the most of their release year, but none have gotten even 75% of the total business that Titanic has.

If it isn’t clear, $600m is huge. And as big as the response for The Dark Knight has been, it probably doesn’t have the ability to top Titanic. But it’s not impossible to assume. If it earns $70m in weekend 2, $40m in weekend 3 and $25m in weekend 4, it will probably finish up at least on par with Star Wars’ $460m and could go somewhat more. But to get to $600m, it would need a historically strong hold. Better than Shrek 2 had in its second weekend ($72m, with the whole Memorial Day Holiday pulling in over $90m). It would probably need to see at least $90m for the three days to have a shot. And even then, it would need similarly strong holds in future weeks.

And as strong as it is right now, eventually audiences are likely to tire and look to other films. The third Mummy film will take some business. There’s another Star Wars film next month. And for people who aren’t strongly interested in the dark and brooding nature of The Dark Knight, they will be sidetracked by numerous comedies.

Still, when looking at the question of where The Dark Knight could end up (and Titanic isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but it’s rather unlikely) it is probably more important to consider where it is likely to end up.

Above $400m, certainly, and even $450m isn’t even three times its immense opening weekend. I would give it 2-1 odds of crossing the $500m mark. It would be just the second film in history to do that. Whatever the case, it’s certainly a run worth acclaim.