Let me preface by saying that I really did like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice when I saw it in theaters. Never one to be influenced by the opinions of others, I found myself pleased with Zack Snyder’s uniting of three of DC’s most iconic characters for the first time in live action. But despite my affinity for the film, I fully admit it had its flaws, chief among which was its editing. Fortunately for us though, the newly released Ultimate Edition remedies many of those problems.
Now, we all have our stance on this movie, which was quite divisive amongst critics and general moviegoers; some said it was great, some really hated it, and even fewer seemed to be lukewarm. That’s kind of an issue with today’s landscape: it’s either “epic” or “worst movie ever.” By no means did I feel BvS deserved the amount of hatred lobbed at it. It was shot well, the production design and costuming were top notch, and many who weren’t pleased with the flick still admitted that Ben Affleck was a solid Batman and Gal Gadot likewise did justice to the character of Wonder Woman.
Continuing on that note, I was very satisfied with Affleck’s portrayal of The Dark Knight. Not only does he look like Batman/Bruce Wayne in and out of costume (you have no idea how relieved I was to finally see the black and grey color scheme on the big screen), but he brought a believability to a crimefighter who had been through two decades of a brand of Hell that only Gotham City can deliver.
Frank Miller, author of classic graphic novels such as Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, has his influence felt heavily on this iteration of the character. He’s a bit more violent than we have seen in quite some time, but I will say it’s arguable that every live action version of Batman has amassed some sort of body count, barring Adam West. I’m not sure how much Miller’s touch will be felt in the future because directors such as Ben Affleck will likely cull from various bits of source material – and let’s not forget that Geoff Johns, author of the Batman: Earth One series, is co-writing the screenplay for the upcoming solo outing.
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The main thing that my opinion changed on upon multiple viewings was that of Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor. You see, Lex happens to be one of my favorite villains in all of fiction, so I get somewhat protective of him. I felt the character was well-written – for the most part. His arrogance and xenophobia were captured rather well, but to see him stumbling over his words while speaking in public made me cringe. I understand that Eisenberg wanted to leave his own unique mark, but his mannerisms and neurotic behavior made him far more suited to the role of The Riddler. Perhaps you will agree with me in saying that the man was cast in the wrong role.
Now, it’s about time that I let you know how the added footage improved this movie, at least in my opinion. As I said earlier, many of us had our misgivings with how the theatrical cut was edited. Despite my positive lean, it was apparent that chunks of the film were missing, and that was probably a move the studio made in an effort to have a shorter runtime. I fully believe the Ultimate Edition was the version Zack Snyder wanted to display in theaters and, quite frankly, it’s the one we should have gotten. Segues between scenes felt much more organic and I found myself saying, “Now that makes sense,” on more than one occasion.
If you wondered why people would believe Superman executed a village full of people in Africa or how he didn’t see the bomb inside the courtroom, know that your questions will be answered in full. These were legitimate gripes people had with the theatrical cut and providing these answers really wouldn’t have increased the runtime by very much. Many folks also yearned for more Superman and here we not only see more of Clark Kent the investigative reporter, but we gain real insight into why he has a growing animosity for Batman and his brutal methods.
Furthermore, things as simple as Jimmy Olsen saying his name aloud (that’s right, it never happened in theaters) or Batman saying he’s having Lex Luthor transferred to Arkham Asylum would have added only mere seconds to the film and I think there’s no legitimate excuse as to why they were cut. If Luthor is languishing in an Arkham cell in Justice League, it will make sense only to those who have seen the extended cut.
While the thirty minutes of additional footage certainly makes the story more complete, it does make BvS feel like even more of a political thriller than it did in theaters. Aside from brief but entertaining sequences like the Batmobile chase or the Knightmare scene, the first two hours are largely bereft of action. A positive thing I can say about the theatrical cut is that the big fight between the titular characters arrives around the hour-and-a-half mark as opposed to the two-hour mark. I’m not asking for “non-stop action from start to finish,” but we do have expectations of various genre films. In the superhero realm, we demand several groundbreaking action scenes spread throughout. Unfortunately, three of the major ones in this movie are in quick succession toward the finale. Man of Steel went the same route and I hope Snyder corrects this in Justice League.
In my view, no set of bonus features supplementing a superhero movie have been as probing or insightful as what was offered by Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology, but what is served up here is pretty informative and entertaining. The first of my two favorite featurettes had to be “Uniting The World’s Finest,” which discusses the momentous occasion of bringing Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to the silver screen for the first time, along with teasing what’s to come in the next few outings of the DC Extended Universe. My other favorite is “The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder,” a nice presentation that sums up Wonder Woman’s history for the casual audience.
In short, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition fixes several problems that its theatrical counterpart had. If you liked what you saw in theaters, you will be even more pleased. If you didn’t, I can’t make any promises. The tone of the film remains quite dark (this is R-rated, don’t forget), so if you wanted a delightful romp, you may have to look elsewhere.