Can even superheroes survive bad reviews?

The movie poster for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
Source: D.C. Comics
The movie poster for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

It's no spoiler to assume that Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent will get over their beef and eventually team up in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

The question is whether the World's Finest can conquer the superhero box office and a slew of pre-release bad press.

Early indications are that fans are shrugging off reviews. The movie broke the record for Thursday night sales over an Easter weekend, earning $27.7 million at the box office, "Variety" reported, with some analysts expecting total opening weekend receipts to break $150 million.The appeal of the long-awaited cinematic slugfest will surely be enough to pack U.S. theaters with hardcore fans this weekend, analysts told CNBC.

Whether the movie will have staying power beyond the opening, however, may largely depend on word of mouth. And thus far, reviews have not been what a studio would hope for a $250 million tent pole intended to kick off a slew of future films.

With mediocre reviews pouring in, "Batman v Superman" had a 31 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that serves as a barometer of movie reviewer and fan sentiment, as of Thursday afternoon. The general opinion is the movie is good enough, but far from great.

Meanwhile, there is little doubt fans are buzzing about it. Four days before its release, "Batman v Superman" was generating nearly 2.9 million mentions on social media, up from 2.1 million mentions six weeks ago, according to data provided by comScore.

"That's huge," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. "There's no question this is a movie that's on everyone's mind."

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. said the studio views the comScore data as a "conservative" estimate of social mentions.

Still, will that chatter translate into ticket sales? Analysis from social media intelligence firm Spredfast found that "Batman v Superman" trailed recent superhero films "Deadpool" and "Ant-Man." The firm matched the movie titles with key words that indicate positive sentiment or intent to see the movie.

Meanwhile, real-time audience reaction to "Batman v. Superman" trailers on Twitter had gotten gradually better — until the latest preview debuted last month, according to analysis by marketing technology firm Amobee. While negative Twitter sentiment remained steady and relatively low at 14 percent between the release of the third and fourth trailers, the positive reactions eased from 30 percent to 15 percent.

This does not necessarily mean fans soured on the film. The second and third trailers introduced more new information than the fourth — namely the introduction of Wonder Woman — so it's understandable that the earlier trailers would elicit stronger reactions, said Jonathan Cohen, principal brand analyst at Amobee. Warner Bros. also did an excellent job of raising awareness of the film by the time the fourth trailer debuted, so the reaction to it was likely muted by comparison, Cohen said.

Overall, social media commentary has reflected "cautious optimism," said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at Despite middling reviews and skepticism on social media, strong presales on movie ticket site and the sheer volume of online chatter are hard to ignore, he added., which factors social media activity into its opening weekend estimates, currently projects the film will bow to a $172 million opening in North America, a haul that would vault it to the top of Warner Bros. and DC's superhero rankings. Still, "Batman v Superman" may be one of the most difficult superhero movies to predict in years, Robbins said.

"I think there is significant caution with this film because, despite the excitement of the marquee match-up, it's been a short amount of time since Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' trilogy ended," he told CNBC.

Are you ready for Ben?

Casual viewers may not yet be ready to embrace Ben Affleck's interpretation of the Dark Knight, following Christian Bale's widely celebrated turn as the character, which concluded in 2012, Robbins said. Warner Bros. has carried over the dark tone of Nolan's Batman films, rendering Superman as a lonely outcast in 2013's "Man of Steel" and casting Batman as an embittered, aging crime fighter in the upcoming sequel.

So far, "Batman v Superman" is not shaping up to be a so-called "four-quadrant" film, said Tobi Bauckhage, co-founder and CEO of Moviepilot. Such movies have more evenly distributed followings across four quadrants comprising older, younger, male and female audiences. "Batman v Superman's" core audience appeals to men, many of whom grew up reading the comic and watching movies and TV shows based on the characters.

That may have to do with the tone of DC's superhero movies, Bauckhage said.

"It's a very grim and a very dark and not a very funny world in Gotham and Metropolis. They went down that route a few years ago, and I think the question with the DC universe is will that be the underlying tone for everything?" he said. "Will it be more adult, more grim and more earnest? Will that work for a big universe?"

With its slate of monster hit movies, Disney's Marvel Studios has slightly outpaced DC in attracting core female fans and young comic book enthusiasts, according to an analysis by Moviepilot for CNBC.

Of the Moviepilot users who followed past and future DC movies on the genre website, about 23 percent were female and 30.4 were under 25. That compares with 24.9 percent female and 33.4 percent under 25 followers for Marvel movies with similar Moviepilot audiences.

While the gap is not huge, Moviepilot concluded the divergence has an overproportional effect at the box office because "hardcore fans influence a bigger group of their peers." The Moviepilot analysis suggests Marvel gets a greater share of young fans and women influencing their peer group.

However, Moviepilot also concluded that the volume of interest in "Batman v Superman" is so large among older males, the movie could post solid results on the strength of that demographic alone.

ComScore's Dergarabedian said the lighter tone of the 1970s and 80s "Superman" films likely wouldn't work today. Indeed, Bryan Singer left Twentieth Century Fox's successful "X-Men" franchise to helm "Superman Returns," a 2006 throwback to those films, but the movie disappointed and had to be rebooted anew with 2013's "Man of Steel."

Plus, DC made a savvy marketing move by releasing "Batman v Superman" in March, when there is traditionally a gap in comic book movie releases, Dergarabedian said.

"They have a wide open playing field. Even if you're on the fence about whether or not you think this movie is going to work, for that kind of movie, what else are you going to see? There's nothing else out there," he said.