Review - Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)
I'm going to start this review off by repeating a bunch of things you all probably know. Oh, and this movie has been out for quite some time, so there will be spoilers. Fair warning. 'Batman V. Superman' released to a seemingly endless spew of vitriol from critics and a decidedly mixed response from moviegoers. When I first saw the film I was somewhat entertained even though several of the character's morals were vastly contrary to that of their comic book counterparts. That being said, I took huge issue with the editing. BvS and 'Warcraft' were the two most unnaturally spliced-together patch-work movies that were on the borderline of making no sense at all this year.
I ended up seeing this film two more times in the theater, not because I really wanted to, but because different groups of friends hadn't seen it and they wanted me to tag along, so I did. The second and third viewings went a lot smoother as I was able to make sense of some of the scenes that seemed to dangle alone without much context, still I longed for transitions and cuts that made more sense. I will be honest though, I enjoyed this film a fair bit more the second and third time I watched it. Still, I hadn't been pushed into the realm of thought that I was watching a good or even decent film.
Fortunately the ultimate edition addresses the editing issue I had with the film. 30 minutes of extra footage were added to this version, and it's honestly a bit baffling that some of these scenes were cut out. We're talking BIG scenes that last mere seconds that really wouldn't have effected the film's run-time much at all. It's perplexing to say the least. There's one that's nearly a cheer-worthy moment at the end where Batman pins Lex Luthor to the prison wall and threatens him, only this time he mentions that he's sending him to Arkham Asylum where he has friends waiting. It was so small, but it added more character and humor to Batman. It was also a more satisfying resolution to Luthor's character arch.
Going into this I thought that the only way they could make this a decent film was if they fixed numerous scenes by adding context to them. I feared that the extended cut would be long segments of action, or scenes that would even further complicate the plot. I'm happy to report that the 30-minutes of new footage was very evenly dispersed throughout the entire film. The majority of the new footage padded the areas that sorely needed it: the opening sequence where they frame superman for deaths in Africa, and Superman himself.
The events in Africa are still a bit hard to follow, but definitely not as difficult to discern as they were in the nearly incomprehensible theatrical cut. You actually see the hired guns cleaning house and burning bodies to make it look as if Superman took their lives. It's not perfect by any means, but at least I could follow the story. In terms of Superman himself, you really get a sense that he's a living, breathing person in this version, instead of a brooding, pissed-off super-god like he appeared to be in the original. You see him actually being Clark Kent the reporter and going to Gotham and interviewing people about the Batman. I also got the sense that he actually cared about the people and their lives, which was a feeling that was sorely missing before.
There's a ton of other content they added back in that answers a lot of the questions people initially had about the film. One bit of expository information that actually services the story is the reason why Superman didn't see the bomb hidden in the victims chair in the courtroom. Luthor's plan is also presented a lot better here; it still doesn't make total sense, but how it comes together is more logical than I originally thought.
Unfortunately this version doesn't fix everything, not even close. There's still a lot of editing problems in the mid-section of this film. Not every awkward cut and transition was addressed in this film. Also, anyone who was upset with the direction Snyder took with the characters will still not be pleased. Another aspect of this film that still bothers me is Luthor's plan. Yes, I know that I mentioned that it was more cohesive and it is, but it still relies on a bunch of huge gambles that just happen to work out for him. It's also just too complicated, I feel like he could have made this "gladiator match" happen a lot easier, not to mention sooner in the film before my butt went numb.
Though this film is 30 minutes longer, and I know I just mentioned butt-number, but it actually felt just as long as the original cut, if not a bit shorter. This is all due to much better pacing and a plot that can actually be followed. It's definitely not a perfect film, far from it, but for me it was a much more enjoyable one because I felt invested in the proceedings. Pacing is so important, and that theatrical version really could have used it. It honestly pisses me off that they cut out some of this stuff because I know that it was only done in pursuit of the mighty dollar (you get more views in a day if a movie is shorter). What's dumb though is that word-of-mouth is infinitely more important. So what if your opening weekend is a bit lower; it will thrive in the long run if it's a better film. I guarantee this would have made more and lasted longer if this was the version they released.
Nothing about this flick's DNA and spirit has changed. It simply flows better and makes a little more sense, which was pretty huge for me in terms of enjoyment, but might not be for others who felt burned by the Snyder's treatment of the source material. I was able to put aside my feelings for how everything happened in the comics, but DC Comics have never been as close to my heart. For me (I stress that) this was a better film, and I can honestly say that what I originally saw as a mediocre film, I now see as a good one. Not great. Good.
Written by Rhys Paine on 8/2/2016