Why, Oh Why, Did They Edit Down ‘ Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice?!?’ A Review Of The “Ultimate Edition”
Let’s just start with the preface that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not a universally beloved film. This was DC’s second outing in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and with Man of Steel’s lukewarm reception to the destructive third act, this film had a lot riding on it. Unfortunately, Batman vs Superman was not well received by critics. With a 27% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it seemed like this franchise was doomed before it could really start. That doesn’t mean that the film didn’t have its fans. In fact, if you check any internet message board within the geek community, there will be full blown arguments to the films merit and how it was a masterpiece and Zack Snyder was just misunderstood. The film was by no means a failure. It’s hard to say a film “failed” when it grossed more than $872 million.
A while back there was news that there was a cut of the film that was R-Rated and had way more footage. Because of the sour taste that the theatrical release left with many, it was dismissed by many as a gimmick, especially when it was rumored that it would be released in theaters. However, there was also an audience that looked forward to this. Given that director Zack Snyder’s previous film, Watchmen also had a Director’s Cut of the also divisive film, and it made the film so much better. There was hope that a Director’s Cut of Batman v Superman would also give a shot in the arm to the film and make fans appreciate it.
Recently Warner Bros offered a screening of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition for fans (who won the tickets) and the press ahead of the digital and Blu-Ray release of the Director’s Cut. So are does the Ultimate Edition measure up? Are we finally going to get the movie we initially deserved?
This cut of the film SHOULD have been in the theaters. If this cut had been presented to audiences, the film would have been better received. Many of the problems in the original film fleshed out and helped develop things further. After watching the Ultimate Edition, you will never want to see the theatrical version again. The theatrical version at times was clumsy, and you can really tell after watching the extended scenes. Significant character development was added, as well as additional plot development/details. We will try to explore a few of these additional scenes without being too spoilerific. But here’s your SPOILER warning…….
Clark Kent/Superman is actually in the film! One of the main complaints from the theatrical release is that the film was shown primarily from the perspective of Batman. It’s understandable because we already had Man of Steel to help develop Superman as a character. We needed some time to get to know this new batman. Unfortunately, in the theatrical film, it’s done at the expense of Superman’s arc in the film. The Ultimate Edition gives quite a few moments following Superman, and more importantly following Clark Kent. There is an entire arc where we get to see him do his own investigating of the legend of the Batman. How does he do this? By rolling up his sleeves and doing some actual reporting. He could have just simply flown over Gotham City and listened to everyone as they were talking about Batman with his super hearing, but by going from Kal-El to his alter ego, Clark Kent, this gives him the chance to show off his reporting skills as he interviews local people throughout the city.
As a result, he gets to learn about bat-branding at the implications it has for criminals. In the theatrical presentation, this is mentioned in passing. However in the film, we get not only a full understanding as Clark interviews local residents but also the girlfriend of the criminal Batman caught in the beginning of the film as she now fears for him and has to take care of her child on her own. The film also shows a scene showing prison life and how those who get bat-branded are dealt with. Because the film is R-Rated, we get to see it in all its crazy bloody brutality.
Clark gets more development through his interactions with his mother, as well as members of the Daily Planet. When he calls his mom to play catch up, they discuss his father and living in Kansas. The scene reminds us that Clark may be in a big city, but in his heart, he’s still a farmboy from Smallville. It also helps further flesh out when he is talking with his father later on in the film on the mountain. Hi interactions at the Daily planet, especially with Perry White are also great. He’s still the whipping boy as Perry White reminds him he’s a nerd whose low on the totem pole. This helps display that Clark has all the power in the world and could do whatever he wants, but instead chooses to hide it and even take abuse rather than lash out.
In the aftermath of the US Capital explosion, Superman sees the aftermath and destruction of the explosion. That was something that was missing in Man of Steel. In Man of Steel, there was countless destruction and death that he was not able to see the repercussions of his actions. In the aftermath of the explosion, not only did he see the bodies, but he realized that there was nothing he could do to help the injured. He had to get out of the way of the paramedics, who were the real heroes in this scene.
Another character redeemed by the extended cut is Lex Luthor. In the theatrical release, he was a very divisive character. Some people just did not see actor Jessie Eisenberg as a criminal mastermind. However in this Director’s Cut, he completely redeems himself. Not only do we get to see his motivations (pointing to a rough childhood), but we actually see every step he took to set Superman against Batman as he manipulated both characters as well other events to ensure they were on a path to face each other. From all the things that happened in Africa and his “magic bullets,” to manipulating Wallace Keefe, to ensuring that the bat-branded criminal would get murdered through a prison transfer. This film makes him a much more competent criminal, and not some spoiled trust fund baby who didn’t like Superman and Batman.
One of the biggest “Why did they cut this out?!?” moments came from when we got to see a glimpse of Steppenwolf towards the end of the film. We know that in Justice League members of the New Gods will probably be the main antagonists, so why didn’t they forecast this? Luthor even said to Batman “He’s coming,” but we were left wondering who exactly “he” is. Thanks to the Ultimate Edition, we now know who “he” is, and that helps build excitement and anticipation for the Justice League film.
Lois Lane’s role was drastically reduced compared to Man of Steel. However, she also redeems herself in this Ultimate Edition. Like Clark, she actually gets to be a reporter. We got to see her before looking at the bullet and begin investigating it. The Ultimate Edition allows her to roll up her sleeves and do even more investigative reporting, as she uncovers Luthor’s plot. She works with actress Jena Mallone, whose character goes unnamed even in the Ultimate Edition (although she’s rumored to be S.T.A.R. Lab’s Jenet Klyburn) as she helps Lois uncover the mystery of the bullets she found in Africa.
There are plenty other arcs explored or further developed throughout the film that make it a much more satisfying film that what was released. Many of the smaller moments are further developed and help add even more texture and depth to the film. You can tell this is the film that some WB execs gave the standing ovation for and not the one that was released in theaters.
Sure, there are still some of the not so good story choices like the famous “Martha” moment, and Lois throwing away and then almost drowning to retrieve the Kryptonite spear, but this film is infinitely superior to what was previously released in theaters.
Seeing this film actually makes you feel a bit of pity for director Zack Snyder, who was blamed for the critical failure of that film. Turns out he made a spectacular film, which was then chopped to pieces by editors, and he was forced to take the blame for it. It’s understandable why they didn’t want to release a 3+ hour film for the sake of time, but they really should have taken a risk and release the much better film. However, we will have the true vision of the film available for digital download/rental and Blu-Ray release. It’s completely worth spending your hard earned money to see the film. You will have a much better appreciation for the DC Universe.
Original Rating: 6/10
Ultimate Edition Rating: 8/10