If you are like me, you are one of the many comic book purists who saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and left the theater shaking your head in disappointment. The second film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) following Man of Steel dealt with the aftermath of the film pitting Batman against Superman before the climatic finale which will eventually form the Justice League. The theatrical release was met with abysmal ratings (27% on Rotten Tomatoes), but did go on to gross more than $800 million, so it can’t be that bad right? The film felt rushed, some things didn’t make logical sense, and many of the core character traits we know and love from the comic made hard core fans feel betrayed (Superman was humorless and Batman was a murderer).
Much of the blame fell on director Zack Snyder. After all, he was the director and ran the film from top to bottom. However, Snyder has a history of having “Director’s Cuts” of this films that are infinitely superior to the theatrical releases. Anyone who has seen the Watchmen Director’s Cut knows exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes keeping the extra footage in a film can help enhance the story and make the film much more watchable. Just ask anyone who has seen the ‘Extended Edition’ of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Recently Warner Bros offered a screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition one night in theaters only before the film was release for digital download/rental and Blu-Ray release later next month. The new version of the film promised an R-rating, as well as 30 minutes of additional footage. So how did the Ultimate Edition measure up when compared to the theatrical release?
WOW! This was like night and day! Pretty much everything that was missing in the theatrical release was included in this version of the film. Some things that were left ambiguous in the theatrical release were completely flushed out and provided much-needed clarity. The film’s characters were much more developed this time around, and everyone got equal time to shine. Unlike most “special editions” where there might be a few scenes that were tacked back into the film, this version of the film also had extended scenes that added a few key moments to help enhance scenes.
For a movie that had Superman in it, the theatrical cut was very much a Batman film. It’s hard to sell a movie having both Batman and Superman in it when most of the focus of the film character-wise is on Batman. Many people complained that Superman had little to do and there wasn’t much character development for him.
However in the Ultimate Edition, he is given equal footing. Not only does he have more to do as Superman, but he is given even more to do as his alter ego Clark Kent. There’s an entire arc where Clark bravely goes into the run down areas of Gotham City to learn all he can about Batman to help him decide if Batman is this criminal he thinks he is. As a result, we learn more about how many in Gotham perceive Batman, and the significance of the “bat-brand” in regards to the fear criminals have about being branded by Batman. Clark even interviews the girlfriend of one of the branded criminals who loses hope knowing her boyfriend is doomed. It serves to even out the storyline that both Superman and Batman can both be perceived as the “bad guy” in each other’s eyes.
Not only does Clark interact with his fellow reporters at the Daily Planet, but there are also a few scenes where he interacts with his mother for a few more scenes. A tender phone call to discuss their father further humanizes him. Pretty much the Ultimate Edition gave us back the soul of Superman, which was drastically missing from the film.
The same goes for Lois Lane who unfortunately played the “damsel in distress” in the theatrical release. However in the director’s cut, she has a lot more space to actually do things besides wait for Superman to rescue her. There’s an entire arc for her to also roll up her reporter’s sleeves and figure out Lex Luthor’s diabolical plan. With the help of Jena Malone, whose character goes unnamed but is rumored to be Jenet Klyburn who in the comics was a S.T.A.R. Labs scientist: further connecting her to both The Flash and Cyborg for their possible films, Lois helps unravel the mystery of the “magic bullet” she found in Africa, an attack which Superman was blamed for but set up by Lex Luthor.
Speaking of Lex Luthor:
Boy does his role increase!. Sure, he’s still played more like the mix of The Riddler and The Joker by Jesse Eisenberg, but there are much more layers and development to his character thanks to the additional scenes. His troubled childhood is explored, how his father names the company after him, and many other things are given more details. His plan to get Superman and Batman makes much more sense thanks to expanded arcs surrounding the big snafu in Africa to blame superman, which was clearly edited down when it should have remained expanded. Lex getting the bat-branded prisoner killed to avoid spilling the beans. He also paid off a woman to lie about the Africa attack all were to make Batman hate Superman with a vengeance and motivate him to take on Superman.
The film further connects to the extended DC universe thanks to the scene giving the introduction of Steppenwolf of the New Gods. Watching this and plenty other scenes make true and blue DC fans wonder why on earth would they cut a scene like this from the theatrical release. It helps flesh out when Lex later says to Batman “he’s coming” which in the film was rather vague. Now we know who “he” is and look forward to his arrival in Justice League.
What Didn’t Work?
If you did not like violent Batman, you really aren’t going to like the R-Rated violent Batman. This cut gave them the creative license to go even further with the mayhem that Batman is capable of. The car chase which already had plenty of deaths and upped the ante. There is also a scene where we get to see what happen to the “bat-branded” criminal where he gets dispatched in the most “stabby” way possible. That scene can only exist in an R-Rated film.
We are also treated to an F-bomb as well, and a few semi-nude shots. One featuring Amy Adams when taking a bath and one featuring Ben Affleck when taking a shower.
Of course, if you weren’t a fan of the famous “Martha” scene, this still remains a groan-inducing moment that no ultimate edition can fix. The same goes for the scene when Lois throws away the Kryptonite spear in the water and then almost drowns trying to retrieve it. Sorry to say, but certain parts of the story remain poor writing that couldn’t be fixed.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition is by no means a masterpiece, but it is a complete 180 for the film. Sometimes it’s worth the extra effort to keep the longer scenes in to help develop a more complete story.
This is clearly the cut that supposedly left WB executive giving it a standing ovation. So why on earth did they cut the film down to what was released in theaters? The one person you end up feeling sorry for is the person we all chastised for months, Zack Snyder. It’s clear he knew he had a much more superior film, but it was gutted in the editing room for the sake of time and not story. This is a message to studios, we will like a film more if it tells a better story. Stop worrying about more and more showtimes to effect the bottom line and give us a great story. This film would have been much better received if we saw the complete film the first time around.
Original Release: 3/5
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition is available digitally now and will be released on Blue-Ray July 19th.