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The real hero behind the success of 'Batman v. Superman'

There's a winner in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" and it's not Batman or Superman.

It's Wonder Woman.

Batman v Superman still image
Source: DC Comics
Batman v Superman still image

Warner Bros.' newest DC Comics film was widely panned by critics, earning at its lowest point a 28 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a slew of poor reviews. As of Wednesday, the film held a 29 percent rating

Audience members had a very different opinion of the movie, however, granting it a 72 percent "Fresh" rating on the review site.

"Batman v. Superman" may have found its saving grace in the form of Wonder Woman, who, although only appearing briefly on screen, has created a stir on social media.

"'Wonder Woman' is definitely a film to keep an eye on in 2017," Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at BoxOffice, told CNBC. "She was arguably one of the most buzzed-about aspects of 'Batman v. Superman,' and audiences have been clamoring for a female-driven superhero film for years."

"Wonder Woman" is scheduled for release in June 2017.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, brushed aside the disconnect between fans' and critics' ratings, saying rabid fan response on social media could help ticket sales.

"Even viral interest in the movie only raises its profile and makes people want to see it," Dergarabedian told CNBC. "You can make or break a movie with your phone. It's the collective fan base that can make or break a movie in 140 characters."

Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Box office behemoths

"Batman v. Superman," which aims to set up a slate of nearly a dozen interconnected superhero films, racked up more than $166 million domestically during its opening weekend and an estimated $254 million internationally.

Despite record-breaking numbers — the movie clinched the top spot for the highest-grossing film ever released in March, and top opening weekend for a DC Comics film — "Batman v. Superman" may not be able to sustain its momentum at domestic box offices. BoxOffice projects that the film will make between $350 million and $370 million during its entire domestic run. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the film surpassed $500 million globally.

"You are going to see a very steep drop off, but that's not uncommon for a film that opens with $166 million," Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, told CNBC. "This is pretty much exactly how Warner Bros. saw this playing out. Worldwide [the film] is going to get close to a billion dollars. This is exactly the momentum they needed to compete with Marvel."

While domestic box office numbers may dwindle, international revenue is a different story. More than 60 percent of revenue from "Batman v. Superman" has been garnered in foreign markets thus far, according to Box Office Mojo.

The March release of "Batman v. Superman" was also a "master stroke" for Warner Bros., according to Bock. As it stands, "Batman v. Superman" will have little competition at the box office until "The Jungle Book" arrives in theaters in mid-April.

"I think Warner Bros. should be commended for picking a really good release date," Dergarabedian said. "This would have played out totally differently if the movie was coming out, let's say, the second week of May, which would have been crazy because "Captain America: Civil War" is indexing through the roof as far as how it's going to open. [Warner Bros.] might have had a tougher go."