REVIEW — “Batman v Superman: Dawn-of Justice” Ultimate Edition Blu-ray
This article assumes you’ve seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so beware of spoilers.
I can’t express how badly I wanted to love Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This was the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel coming together in live-action for the first time, and like Star Wars: A New Hope or Jurassic Park, this was supposed to be the theatrical event of a generation. Though the movie, as is, was in development for only the past couple years, it’s been a lifetime of waiting. When Marvel Studios changed the cinematic landscape with their interconnected cinematic universe and The Avengers in 2012, it was only a matter of time before Warner Brothers and DC Comics caught up, bringing together two of the greatest – and most recognizable – heroes of all time.
I’m a Marvel fan, not a DC fan – but I’ve always loved Batman and Superman. I alternated between Spider-Man and Batman pajamas as a kid, and I won’t deny disregarding my mother’s orders to not use her good, for-guests-only red towels as a makeshift Superman cape. With Marvel setting the stage for the modern comic book film, I thought Warner Brothers would be up to the task to deliver a movie that competes with – or at the very least, keeps up with – Marvel’s impressive filmography. No one is comparing the dark and dreary Batman v Superman with the light and breezy Marvel movies – and Marvel will go unmentioned for the rest of this piece – because this isn’t about how Batman v Superman stands against any other modern comic book movie. This isn’t even about how Batman v Superman feels like a betrayal of the characters’ storied histories of more than 75 years in print. This is about the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition, and why it doesn’t fix – or even address – any of the many, monumental flaws that dragged down the theatrical cut.
Announced before Batman v Superman even reached the big screen, the Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition promised an extended and R-rated cut of the film (PG-13 in theaters). “We call it the Ultimate Cut because to me it’s a deeper dive into that world and there are storylines in there that get fleshed out by the longer version,” said director Zack Snyder. “I would say that we didn’t really take out much of the Superman/Batman story because I felt like, you know that’s kind of the movie, but there was some sort of interstitial stuff that surrounds the story, that kind of finishes some of the ideas that we trimmed back, and I think that’s what you get.”
“There’s a little bit of action, there’s a little bit of violence that we trimmed out for the MPAA that we put back. The Batman warehouse rescue, there’s a couple shots of Doomsday that were too intense. Then there’s a little bit longer ending, sort of the ending sequence, and the opening of the movie, the North Africa sequence is really much different. It was in there until very recently, so all of it’s finished,” Snyder elaborated. “It was really just a function of time, to be honest. Because the movie’s long now, long-ish—I don’t think it’s long, but when you get over two and a half hours the studio starts getting nervous. I’m not James Cameron who’s like ‘No it’s three hours, suck it!’, which is cool by the way. I just wanted to try and get it to a length that is work-able.”
When we learned more about the Ultimate Edition, there was hope that it would fix up – or outright solve – many of the film’s glaring issues, which you can read about (and yell at me for) in our review of the theatrical cut. The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition carries a longer running time – and an R rating – but it adds almost nothing of value, save for restoring some much-needed fleshing out (and screentime) for Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman, who was mostly shafted in a movie that was supposed to be at least partly about him. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has inherent, structural, and fundamental problems – flaws that can’t be solved with the additional or removal of small, unnecessary deleted scenes. Anyone going into the Ultimate Edition expecting Batman v Superman to be a completely different movie (or even a better one) will walk away disappointed, and likely with an unchanged opinion of the movie – no matter what your initial opinion, good or bad, of Batman v Superman as it was seen in theaters.
Clark, an investigative reporter, spends more time doing some actual investigative reporting, despite the protests and warnings of Daily Planet boss Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), who is a monumental butthole as found in the Ultimate Edition. (A hardass in the theatrical cut, the Ultimate Edition makes Perry out to be a schoolyard bully; Clark will get his lunch money stolen in Gotham, Perry says, before later calling Clark a “nerd”). “No one cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman,” says the journalism veteran, who is proven correct by Batman v Superman editor David Brenner, who elected to leave most of that footage from reaching theaters. Time constraints is an understandable reason – we don’t need to see the Gotham residents Clark interacts with, just like we don’t need to see the girlfriend of the human trafficker that Batman (Ben Affleck) brands early on in the film – but aside from some sexy-time with Lois (Amy Adams), these scenes are the only time in the movie when Clark isn’t being mopey and dour.
Clark is given a bit more to do in the Ultimate Edition – like the theatrical cut, he doesn’t have a lot of lines or a lot of screentime – but he still spends most of the movie soul-searching and looking downtrodden. Didn’t we go through all that in Man of Steel? Why is Clark/Superman stuck in the same place we saw him three years ago (18 months in movie time)? Man of Steel was about the introduction of Superman to the world, and Batman v Superman is more about Clark’s place in the world – both as a savior and as a controversial figure – so it’s a shame that much of Clark’s plight retreads the same ground that was exhausted in Man of Steel, instead of exploring Clark’s newfound status quo as the outed, premiere superhero of the world. One deleted scene finds Clark watching the news, with Kahini Ziri (Wunmi Mosaku) – the African woman who, early in the film, says she believes Superman answers to no one, “not even, I think, to God,” – on the television, speaking of the murder of her parents (supposedly at the hands of Superman). She wants to ask Superman “which lives count, and which ones do not,” with Clark looking like he’s asked that question himself.
Ziri’s reduced screentime comes as a result of the removal of a minor subplot which delves into explaining how Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) managed to frame Superman, a bloated and needless plot thread. Aside from a few lingering questions, the theatrical cut works just fine without bending over backwards to explain exactly what happened in Africa – the specifics are unnecessary, and when we see it all in the Ultimate Edition, it proves to be nothing more than rightfully-removed fluff. And that’s what the Ultimate Edition does: it inserts deleted scenes that were rightfully banished to the cutting room floor. There’s one, and only one, scene present in the Ultimate Edition that shouldn’t have been excised from the theatrical cut, and it finds Superman in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol explosion. Superman actually acts like Superman, and is seen helping victims of the blast, having assisted paramedics and flown hurt civilians to safety. He surveys the scene – people hurt, in anguish, the bodies of the needlessly slain being enveloped in black bags – and this weighs heavy on Superman, the ultimate humanitarian. Though physically unharmed from the blast that decimated the Capitol, Superman shares a look with Lois, expressing his profound sadness, disappointment, and regret. This is one of the rare moments of the film where Superman acts like Superman – and is a big part of what little arc Superman has in the finished product – so it’s curiously infuriating why it was cut in favor of Lex Luthor’s Jolly Rancher fetish and other time-wasters.
The Ultimate Edition is full of such time-wasting scenes – stuff we’ve either already been told or can figure out on our own – and like a high school student rattling on to meet an essay’s required word count quota, the majority of the new footage is wasted breath. We don’t need to see an old man rambling on to Diana (Gal Gadot) about the sword of Alexander, so I found myself wondering aloud why this was scripted, much less filmed. It needlessly prolongs a film that’s already lumbering on, and with so much ground to cover, it feels insultingly ignorant to think anyone would give a damn about this wanton surplus. The apocalyptic Knightmare sequence still serves only to set up Justice League and future films (many of which probably have yet to even be officially given the green light), and it’s just as jarring, disorienting, and as shoehorned in as it was in the theatrical version. That’s one of the biggest issues with the Ultimate Edition: it’s barely distinguishable from the theatrical cut. The reinserted scenes are nothing more than deleted scenes posing as an extended version – deleted scenes that would have been relegated to the designated special features section on any other Blu-ray. Snyder and Warner Brothers try to present the Ultimate Edition as a whole new iteration of Batman v Superman when it isn’t – it’s essentially a version of the movie without the fat trimmed off.
There’s no added interaction between Batman and Superman, and like Fant4stic, the titular heroes barely spend time interacting – much less talking with each other. Batman and Superman spend most of the running time segregated, being shown on screen together only during the climax – a climax, by the way, that’s so overstuffed and cluttered that it can’t dedicate more than the bare minimum of interaction between the two. No, Batman v Superman isn’t as incompetently made as Fant4stic, but keeping your heroes separated for most of the movie feels like a fully-clothed stripper who doesn’t understand what the audience is there to see. Superheroes have been fighting each other as long as superheroes have been around – most would have a misunderstanding upon their first meeting, leading to a scuffle before teaming up against the real bad guys – so the problem isn’t that Batman and Superman trade blows. Comic book readers and moviegoers are always going to wonder who would win out of a pair of superheroes, but to keep the pair in opposite corners of the room for the majority of the play date treads dangerously near false advertising.
Much of the Ultimate Edition is superfluous, unnecessary information and footage, and little of it does anything to actually fundamentally alter the movie. Lex Luthor still projects his religion and daddy issues onto Superman, lacking any kind of motivation, and Lex still comes off as a campy buffoon straight out of a Joel Schumacher Batman movie in spite of Batman v Superman‘s try-hard efforts to present itself as dark, serious, and mature. It’s glutenous in its excess, none of which actually makes Batman v Superman a better movie. At 2 hours and 3 minutes in – the time most movies are ending – Batman and Superman finally have their titular bout, and it’s still inherently stupid. Superman just found out there’s a literal ticking clock on his mother’s life, and he instigates a fight with Batman. He tried explaining – for all of two seconds – but then he walks through some Bat-traps and gets aggressive, throwing Batman 200 feet before performing his best wrestler’s grapple and flying him through a building. “Stay down,” he yells, having just ragdoll’ed Batman through a roof and the Batsignal, “if I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” Because that’s how you calm someone down: “I could kill you if I wanted.” Superman has multiple opportunities to end the fight nonviolently and to explain himself, but the filmmakers (and the title) demand a fight, so it senselessly continues. The advertised showdown is as brutal as it was in theaters, and Batman still tries to outright murder Superman by beating him to death. Batman and Superman can fight, but how many moviegoers shared their savage bloodlust? This wasn’t the way to please a blockbuster crowd. It was a ferocious, barbaric fight, more horrific than exciting. This intrinsic misunderstanding of the characters and the audience shows just how out-of-sync Warner Brothers is with the audience, explaining the major tone adjustments coming for Justice League.
Gratuitous and overlong, the Ultimate Edition doesn’t fix Batman v Superman – it just makes it longer. The heft of its action is still saved for its overpacked, overwhelming final act. It’s supposed-to-be-emotional closing moments still feel wholly unearned. It’s still a nihilistic, depressive take on superheroes. There’s some Batbutt and a steamier version of the tub scene, Bruce pops some pills and downs some wine, Wally (Scoot McNairy) says “f–k,” and some CGI blood spurts are added to gunshots and punches, but the meat and foundation of Batman v Superman remains unchanged. Plot-stopping set ups for other movies are still here. Nothing substantial and nothing of substance is added. The Ultimate Edition isn’t better – it’s just fuller. This is still, at its core, a fundamentally flawed and apparently irredeemable movie. It’s not unwatchable, and it shouldn’t be banished to the lower rung of comic book movies, mentioned in the same breath alongside the likes of Batman & Robin, Catwoman, and Green Lantern – but it’s a wholly disappointing mess and the cinematic equivalent of missing out on a pretty girl and forever wondering what could have been. Succinctly said, you aren’t missing anything by not catching the Ultimate Edition. Picking between the two, the theatrical cut is preferred – even if only because it’s thirty minutes shorter.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition are now available on Digital HD download, and come to Blu-ray July 19th.