Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition, 2016.
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy, Tao Okamoto, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Ray Fisher, Jena Malone, Ezra Miller and Callan Mulvey.
Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.
It’s rare to find a blockbuster movie as popular, polarizing, and perplexing at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since it’s release this past March the film has been met with a maelstrom of opinions. At best the movie was perceived as an interesting mess: a tone deaf work of staggering disconnect that left many fans feeling short changed by the epic promises of seeing two of the most iconic characters ever conceived sharing a screen for the first time.
Unlike the vast majority of critics and fans, I actually enjoyed the movie. It was a strange spectacle. A jarring experience that took many liberties with the characters and forged something unique and unexpected. But even I wasn’t immune to some of the issues involving the scattershot story and wildly uneven pacing. Maybe that’s why I found myself looking forward to seeing the nearly three hour ‘Ultimate Cut’ when it was announced. Not only to discover the missing pieces, but also because I wanted to see more of this crazy world created by director Zack Snyder and writers Chris Terrio and David Goyer.
While many fans seems to be looking for comic book adaptations to be faithful to a fault, I find myself interested in seeing movies that try something different. Sure, lots of people did like Super Murder Man from Man of Steel, but I enjoyed the sci-fi space opera of mass violence. It wasn’t the traditional Superman story, but it didn’t have to be. If you want the traditional Superman story you’ve got the comics, previous movies, and countless hours of television including the excellent animated series. So ‘faithful’ wasn’t something that factored into the equation for me. In fact, I gave credit to all involved for deviating from a well established script.
The Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice cures so many ills of the theatrical version. Here’s a run down of what it fixes.
Clark Kent is actually a character.
The biggest sin committed by Snyder and company was shorting Clark Kent/Superman on a real story. The theatrical version didn’t give Clark a whole lot to do. The Ultimate version gives him so much more to do. He’s far more realized and gets to do the things you would expect to see of the character. He investigates the Batman including speaking to some of those impacted by his recent violent streak. Clark has to consider the consequences of his actions throughout the movie and Batman becomes his dark mirror. The greatest improvement to the film comes from Clark’s expanded story.
I’m not sure why this material was cut from the theatrical version. I have a theory. Warner Bros.’ executives watched the cut and said “No one likes Superman. They like Batman. So cut all this useless Superman crap and give people what they want to see: Batman murdering criminals in a car.”
There’s a scene prior to the murder-riffic car chase where Clark meets with the wife and son of one of the criminals Batman has branded. It makes the whole moment where Superman shows up to confront Batman far more meaningful. There’s weight to a scene that felt kind of random in the theatrical cut.
We also get some Superman moments that make him seem a lot less like a mopey Man of Steel and more like a responsible hero. There’s a few moments after the Capital bombing where we see Superman helping survivors as the carnage of the aftermath unfolds.
The film’s opening and Lex’s plot is expanded upon making it a stronger inciting incident.
Much of the consternation surrounding the theatrical cut was a baffling opening sequence which left a lot of people asking ‘What the hell?’ African warlords, Luthor’s henchman, and a lot of question marks around how exactly Superman was to blame for any of this. The expanded opening gives us flamethrowers scorching bodies which implicates Superman. We also get a lot more insight into Lex’s overall scheme and get actual confirmation of every implication about Lex’s responsibility for the bombing of the Capitol. The extra scenes make this plot point feel a little more fleshed out. It’s not perfect, but it helps clear up the muddy start.
Little things start to make sense
I remember the theatrical version feeling pointlessly confusing. Certain things made no sense. Even the geography of Gotham and Metropolis. Towards the end of the theatrical cut you see the bat signal from the LexCorp building, and I thought “Is Gotham City that close to Metropolis?” There’s a shot in one of the deleted scenes of Clark taking a ferry to investigate Batman in Gotham. It’s a simple shot that helps establish the twin-cities nature of Metropolis and Gotham. Something that felt like nonsense in the theatrical cut but is established very early on in the Ultimate version.
What it doesn’t fix
The Ultimate version doesn’t fix everything. If you’re looking for any clarification about the strange dream sequences (aka the ‘Knightmare’), you’re out of luck. If you found Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor off putting, you’re still going to wince. The bit where Superman says ‘Martha’ and they become best friends: still there. Nothing here helps lighten the overall dark and philosophical tone of the film. If your problem was the direction of the franchise, you’re still going to suffer through these three hours.
However, as someone who enjoyed the original, the Ultimate Version is an absolute blast. Muddied plot points are clarified. Scenes are expanded. Characters are given more moments to develop. I’ll stand by my original assessment that Zack Snyder’s movie is unconventional and takes great liberties with some our most iconic heroes, but it’s a far more interesting superhero film. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie I will revisit because of the themes and the unconventional approach, and it could very well be the most interesting comic book adaptation ever produced.
SEE ALSO: Pre-order Batman v Superman via Amazon US or Amazon UK
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker and the co-host of Across the Pondcast. Follow him on Twitter.