Batman v Superman – Ultimate Edition
I am supposedly one of the few that enjoyed the theatrical version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Justice when it was initially released. While I admit that it had it’s problems, I would say that most superhero films suffer from similar problems (especially as a sensible narrative goes) – Iron Man 2 anyone? There are often plot holes, problematic world-building, and weakly defined motivations for their villains (looking at you, Marvel). With director Zack Snyder letting everyone know that there was going to be a 3-hour cut of the film before it even came out, I knew this wasn’t the film he intended for everyone to see. As it turns out, the studio was afraid of putting out a 3-hour superhero film and Snyder & Co. were forced to make cuts to get it down to 150 minutes. This was a strange thing to me seeing as how the same studio had recently released The Dark Knight Rises, a film only 15 minutes short of three hours. Not to mention Snyder’s own Watchmen film at the same runtime in 2009. Both of these films did well at the box office, with TDKR, making over one billion dollars. So it’s strange to me that for such a big event movie that features the two most iconic superheroes of all time, that the studio didn’t take a chance on it.
Now here’s the sad thing about this whole mess. Cutting 30 minutes from this film apparently meant cutting scenes extremely important to the plot and, basically, cutting out Clark Kent altogether. When I go back and think about it, there are a few moments here and there I would have left on the editing room floor, but that would never had added up to 30 minutes total. I truly feel bad for Zack Snyder because I now realize that what we saw in theaters was not his fault. This original cut of the film proves to me that he has genuinely made a great movie. Even though it runs three hours long, it feels shorter than the one that actually is shorter. Every scene flows much better and the abrupt transitions have completely disappeared. There is a ton going on in this film and you really needed it to breathe. At three hours, this film has the opportunity to do that. Now it feels like the dark epic superhero film we wanted in the first place. The whole opening sequence in the Middle East makes complete sense now, which is very important seeing as how it sets up a bulk of the film (not to mention that it’s now one of the best sequences altogether). We get a lot more Clark Kent, with his motivation to fight Batman actually explored…and vice versa. Lex Luthor’s whole plan comes into light and makes him a much more interesting villain. While I’m still not totally sold on Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of him, I think we are in for better things to come.
When I started the film, I noticed during the opening credits it added the additional subtitle “Ultimate Edition.” At first, I thought this was going a bit overboard. I had never seen an extended or alternate version of the film where the opening credits drew attention to that fact. After the film was over, I could see why Zack Snyder would put that there as this really marks it as the film he made in the first place. Here we get more Superman, Clark Kent, Batman doing awesome Batman things, Lois Lane being a legitimate reporter, and Bruce Wayne being an actual human being. His relationship with Alfred (played by the great Jeremy Irons) is explored a bit more here, with some small touches that were left out, but ultimately say a lot about the two. The dark tone is definitely still there and that’s how this film should have been made in the first place. The ultimate edition earns its R-rating, however, with a dropped F-bomb, blood, and an overall brutal intensity to the fight scenes.
I am a HUGE Batman fan. I own every Batman movie (even Batman & Robin, in a more so-bad-its-fun kinda way), even the animated ones (plus both the Adam West series, Batman Beyond, and Batman: the Animated Series collections). As far as I’m concerned, Christopher Nolan perfected the Bruce Wayne/Batman character (and arguably even the superhero genre as a whole) in a realistic manner. This Batman we have now is the “comic-book” Batman. There may be elements of realism, but this is still Batman in the DC Universe where he will fight monsters such as Doomsday or Darkseid. Putting him in the same world as Superman and Wonder Woman, it will have to be that way. I have to say that I love this iteration of Batman from head-to-toe, and Affleck plays him to perfection. I do like a dark Batman and I fully buy the fact that he’s fed up with criminals to a point where he’s considered his actions as a half-measure. Him taking them out once and for all really fits this older, grittier Batman and I enjoyed it for the film His past with the Joker is hinted at in the film and that, combined with the introduction of Superman in the film, could easily send him over the edge. This film portrays that beautifully, but his change of hear is much more subtle I will hold onto my reservations until I see him again in Justice League, it’s an important aspect that definitely needs a payoff.
If you didn’t like the film initially because it was too dark, then you still won’t like it. If you were annoyed by the many plot holes, minimal story, and lack of characterization (as far as Superman and Lex go), then I think you will do a complete 180 here. It was hard to really pinpoint the things that gave me hesitation watching in theaters for the first time, but I can confidently say that I love this movie now. With 100% certainty, I will not watch the theatrical version again…but this “Ultimate Edition,” I may pop on every couple of months or so when the wife is out of the house. It may not be the perfect Batman vs. Superman movie we could have gotten, it’s truly not far off.
Theatrical cut: B+ (my inner Batman nerd came out and I had a ton of fun)
Extended Ultimate cut: A (this is truly a much better film in every way, it’s what we all wanted from the beginning)