Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ultimate Edition
NOTE: While this is filed as a review it's focused more on the additions made with the Ultimate Edition and how they compare and contrast to the theatrical cut and how the film shapes up with said additions. It's a tad irregular (shit, I can't think of any other time we've done this), but given the popularity and controversy over this film, we felt it would be good to investigate this new cut with another pair of eyes (mine, in this instance). You can read Chris Bumbray's original theatrical review HERE and Eric Walkuski's review HERE. Obviously, this is a more SPOILER-filled review, given that the film has been out since March and is an extended cut.
REVIEW: I would never have guessed that BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE would become such a controversial film. When it was originally announced at Comic Con the room was buzzing with excitement and the subsequent build of that excitement was palpable. However, there were always detractors from Zack Snyder’s take on the DC Universe and upon the debut of BVS, a sudden divide was created over his ultimate vision. However, just after its release it was revealed that a longer, harder, and (hopefully) more immersive version would be coming for the home video release (as well as a blink-and-you-missed-it theatrical turn).
For me, the good outweighed the bad for the theatrical cut of BVS, but it still had some glaring issues, most notably the choppy and confusing editing. It was all over the map, with scenes cutting in strange places, losing all sense of narrative, and a general lack of cohesion throughout. This particular flow is sadly apparent with the Ultimate Edition, as the new version clarifies so much that you have to wonder just what the hell happened when they were making cuts up until initial release. I didn’t mind the darker take on the DCEU, though. In fact, I quite liked that aspect, as it was a nice counterbalance to the often upbeat and colorful world that Marvel excels at. I also loved the fact that BVS hit the ground running, establishing a deep-rooted history with its characters (i.e. a world where superheroes have existed for some time). Beyond that, it spared us yet another Batman origin film, while still involving us in his plight, yet at a much older age (and in a pretty dark place) than we’ve seen before on film.
And now comes the Ultimate Cut, which includes a whopping 30 extra minutes of footage and sports an R-rating (which is completely unnecessary and hardly earned, minus a few bloody shots and one use of the word "fuck"). The question now on the tongues of fans (and non-fans, for that matter) is if this cut makes any difference in the overall film or if it’s just excess filler from the cutting room floor. Well, it's surprisingly in favor of the former. Each new addition to this cut adds clarification to a number of scenes and subplots that, quite simply, didn’t make sense in the theatrical cut. I found myself on numerous occasions going, “Ahhhh” with each new scene that served to clear up some of the more confusing parts of the theatrical cut.
The opening of the film, which finds Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in a terrorist compound in Africa, about to interview a suspected terrorist along with her “photographer” Jimmy Olsen (revealed here with that name). Things go awry, however, ending with Olsen dead and Lois held hostage. Here, however, there’s more to the action, including the U.S. government’s response, including a drone strike, which is promptly cut short by Superman. We also get more of the bad(der) guys (led by Callan Mulvey’s Anatoli, in a much larger role with this cut), who kill off the men in the compound and burn their bodies (blaming Supes "heat vision" for their deaths), giving more insight into the overall set-up to frame Superman for their deaths, which was completely missing from the theatrical cut, causing much confusion as to why anyone would think that Superman killed those men to begin with.
The set-up of Superman for the deaths, which leads to Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch seeking to hold him responsible, plays a much larger role in the Ultimate Cut. The most glaring omission comes from the woman who testifies in Congress that it was Superman who killed those men. After her tearful revelation of his “crimes” we later find out that she’s a local woman that’s part of the conspiracy to frame him. This is a major thing to leave out of the theatrical cut, as the question always loomed on the validity of the government’s response to Superman supposedly killing those men and just how far and deep the set-up went, which we later find out is orchestrated by none other than Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Anatoli later kills the woman, who, after a crisis of conscience, decides to tell Senator Finch that she made it up, which gives us a peek into just how far Lex will go to cover his tracks and get what he wants.
Speaking of Lex, there’s some extended dialogue scenes here, which could be good or bad depending on how you liked Eisenberg’s interpretation of the character. I found him more grating than I anticipated initially, but felt that he was fleshed out a bit more in the Ultimate Cut, as we find out more on his plot and motives to destroy Superman. However, if the character didn’t work for you in the theatrical cut, I wouldn’t expect a 180-degree turn on those feelings with this version.
For Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), we get a number of cool, small scenes, including a discussion about the Wayne family history with Alfred just prior to his mission to kill Superman and we also get a peek at him in action on security monitors when he steals the kryptonite from Lex’s headquarters. A notable addition comes as well when Batman confronts Lex in prison at the end. Batman tells Lex that he’s having him “moved” to Arkham Asylum after Lex cops to being “criminally insane.” It’s a cool reveal that ties us back into Batman’s story, which is arguably the most interesting of the entire film.
Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) gets a hefty amount of beefing up here as well, with an inclusion of many sequences involving Kent investigating Batman. Kent seeks out the man that Batman branded at the beginning of the film, who is killed in prison for having the brand on him. He later runs into the man’s widow and child, which furthers Kent’s overall disdain for Batman and takes us much deeper into the story of the man he branded, for better or worse. There’s also a scene where a neighbor talks ominously about Batman to Kent, again building up the drive to bring him to justice. On the homefront aspect, there's a moment where Kent calls his mom, Martha Kent (Diane Lane) for some counsel, which serves to give their relationship some familial depth.
For Superman, there’s some added heft after the Capitol bombing, where we actually see him rescuing people from the building and bringing them to safety. It’s baffling that they would leave that out, as one of the complaints about his character in the theatrical cut was that he didn’t exude enough of the heroic traits we’re used to. In this version we see him stick around to help, rather than just fly off like a guilty man in the theatrical version. It adds a lot of weight just to see him standing there and helping people after the explosion. That said, don’t expect the “Aw, shucks” bright version of Superman that some desired. Despite the additions, this is still a conflicted Superman that’s finding his place and purpose on Earth. This aspect was fine for me, although I’d certainly agree he could use some more punching up in the charisma department.
The Ultimate Edition also gives Lois a much larger role after the Africa incident as she dives deep into the investigation of it, eventually uncovering that Lex Luthor was behind the whole thing. Two new scenes stick out, including one with Jena Malone’s Jenet Klyburn, a lab tech who analyzes the bullet that Lois recovered from the incident, telling her it’s a metal that’s not been seen before. She also tells Lois, after the Capitol bombing, that the wheelchair that housed the bomb was made of the same metal, but also lined with lead, which reveals to Lois that there’s no way that Superman could’ve seen the explosion coming. The other notable scene is Lois investigating the apartment of Wallace Keefe (the main the wheelchair), finding that his home is stocked with food, indicating that he may not have been in on the plot, but rather a puppet in Lex’s plan (i.e. he was not prepared to die...because he had oranges on top of the fridge).
As far as Wonder Woman goes, I couldn’t spot anything new and, while I think Gal Gadot is great in the role, she’s mostly relegated to a socialite who goes to parties and watches superhero reveals on her laptop (the lamest aspect of BVS, which should've been the coolest). We learn almost nothing about her reason for being there, other than to get an old photo back from Lex. Obviously, she’s not hip to the digital age as, once a photo is out, it’s out for good. Perhaps she should’ve tried a DMCA notice. Her whole reason for getting on the Turkish Airlines flight is obviously a tie-in for the airline and serves no relevant purpose that we’d know and the reveal of her name (Ms. Prince) when it’s said by the flight attendant as she leaves is just silly. They can't even remember what drink I asked for during in-flight service.
The Steppenwolf (who has since been revealed as a villain in the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE) scene is worked into the finale, which is a suitable addition, as we never see Lex actually captured (let alone tried) in the theatrical cut. He just goes from his unleashing of Doomsday to getting his hair cut for prison. An odd jump, but now we have a smoother transition to that point.
So, is the Ultimate Edition better than the theatrical version? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, but…do we really need three hours to get the best out of this film? I don’t think so. Unlike Snyder’s longer WATCHMEN cut, which serves very specific source material, BVS could easily lose just as many scenes as its gained, but more than that, a tighter narrative (i.e. much less convoluted) would have given it the strength to hold its own without more time added. However, for those that loved the film, I think the Ultimate Edition will be a welcome and appreciated addition and for those that didn’t, I think this could assuage some of their disappointment with it. And for many, I'm sure this cut will make no difference at all of their opinion.
There’s still much to love about BVS (pretty much anytime Batman is onscreen for one) and there’s some rousing and cool action to be sure, so it's certainly not the lackluster affair many have made it out to be. Far from it. If anything, it's a promising and ambitious work that sometimes comes together and sometimes doesn't. The DCEU set-up and establishment of rooted history gets the comic geek in me excited for the future of this universe, but on the whole, I think BVS bit off way more than it could chew in attempting to really immerse itself fully in that world. A little restraint would've gone a long way. It’s kind of like when someone has a great surprise party planned, but the excitement compels them to reveal it all to you beforehand, thereby killing the surprise. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun at the party.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Oh, and this version features 100 percent more Assfleck in the shower. Enjoy.|