- by Jeff Beck
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition): Not Much of an Improvement
It was merely four months ago that Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was released into theaters, preceded and followed by a multitude of negative reviews from both fans and critics alike. To say that the film was a bit of a disaster would be an understatement. The weak screenplay presented an overstuffed narrative that was very light on character and story development, but very heavy on gloom and dull, monotonous action sequences (including the incredibly bloated climax).
In an effort to fix the film, a new version has been spliced together that introduces 30 additional minutes of footage that had been deleted for the theatrical release. The film certainly had a lot of problems, many of which would seem to take nothing less than a total rewrite to fix, so it seems unlikely that throwing in any amount of new footage would be enough to save it, but we’re going to give it the benefit of the doubt in hopes that even a train wreck can be fixed. However, for those who are completely new to the film, let’s take a quick refresher on the story (or stories, as is more appropriate).
The film begins by taking us back to events that occurred during “Man of Steel,” that being the epic final battle that left much of Metropolis in ruins, including a building run by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). We see the events from Wayne’s point of view as he desperately tries to get there to help, but he’s simply too late. Back in the present day, there is a Senator (Holly Hunter) who is holding hearings regarding Superman (Henry Cavill) because she is concerned that his power is going unchecked. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is growing concerned about a “bat vigilante” who also seems to be going unchecked, causing him to give a stern warning to Batman via his superhero alter ego.
At the same time, Bruce Wayne is investigating a young CEO, Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg), under the suspicion that he may be trying to bring a dangerous weapon into the city. However, Bruce’s butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons), doesn’t completely accept that explanation, believing instead that he is looking for a way to go up against Superman. Eventually all of this comes to a head, forcing the two superheroes into an epic battle, but little do they know that an even bigger threat is looming.
Whenever a new extended cut of a film comes out, I like to think that it’s for a good reason. There are times when a director simply isn’t able to include everything that they want to in their original theatrical cut, such as more subplots, characters, and extended scenes that perhaps made the runtime a bit too long. I always think back to Sir Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy and how incredible the extended cuts were. The original versions had been outstanding, but the additional material had added so much background on the story and characters that they ended up making the great films even better.
For “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” one would hope that any additional material would be put towards that missing story and character development to make the film feel like more than just a garbled mess of plotlines and action sequences, and while it does cover very little bit of the former, it’s sad to have to say that it does nothing for the latter. The 30 minutes of new footage delves a little more into Lex’s plan to frame Superman, giving us more insight into how he tries to pull it off, but as for turning the narrative into something deeper, richer, and more fulfilling, it has to be said that the new cut still falls very short. The characters themselves remain as flat on the screen as they did in the theatrical version, once more giving us very little reason to care about them, which becomes particularly problematic during the overblown action sequences that still plague the film.
It seems like the filmmakers took the wrong approach not only originally, but with this new version as well. Adding footage to what was already an overly-long mess was not the answer, but perhaps trimming the theatrical cut would have made it run smoother and make it feel less like several movies cobbled together into one (i.e. a mere setup for the upcoming “Justice League” film). However, while this might have solved a couple of issues, it still leaves the problem of there being little in the way of character development, showing once more that perhaps a reworking from the ground up is all that can be done to fix all of the film’s multiple problems.
It really is a shame, because it shouldn’t have been that hard to bring these two titans together and make a film that was fun, exciting, and joyously entertaining. Was there really a need to cover the film with such a thick layer of gloom that there was hardly a chance to have any fun at all? Who would want to see a Batman OR Superman film like that? Again, there are some things that the filmmakers got right, such as casting Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jeremy Irons as Alfred (even Henry Cavill continues to be a serviceable Clark Kent/Superman), but just about everything else about this approach is wrong. At the very least, a lesson appears to have been learned from this experience, as future DC films will apparently not be this dreary. Let’s just hope that the lesson fully kicks in before we get to the hotly-anticipated “Justice League.”
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.4:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly good quality. The movie was shot on film, so there is a fair amount of noticeable blur to the picture, especially in the darker scenes. Given that most of the film has a dark and gloomy look to it, you have to wonder why Snyder would choose to use film for this particular project, but luckily it doesn’t hinder viewing too much. The Dolby Atmos audio, on the other hand, is outstanding, giving you all of the dialogue and Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s thunderous score in excellent quality. Overall, it would appear that the film has been given the best treatment it could get under the circumstances, leaving you with a pretty good experience.
Uniting the World’s Finest (15 Minutes): A featurette that discusses the DC Universe and bringing together Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants (12 Minutes): A featurette that takes a look at the backgrounds of the titular characters.
The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder (21 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the history of Wonder Woman.
Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile (23 Minutes): A featurette that explores the creation of the latest Batmobile through interviews with the designers.
Superman: Complexity & Truth (7 Minutes): A behind the scenes look at Clark Kent/Superman, including the costumes and fight sequences.
Batman: Austerity & Rage (8 Minutes): A companion piece to the previous featurette, focusing on Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Wonder Woman: Grace & Power (7 Minutes): The third and final piece in this trilogy of featurettes, focusing on Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.
Batcave: Legacy of the Lair (7 Minutes): A featurette that goes behind the scenes of the creation of the Batcave.
The Might and Power of a Punch (5 Minutes): A brief look at the strengths of the two combatants.
The Empire of Luther (13 Minutes): A featurette that explores the history of Lex Luthor and the film’s new interpretation.
Save the Bats (5 Minutes): A brief featurette that discusses an ecological issue facing bats.
The 30 new minutes of footage added to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” for its “Ultimate Edition” may add a little bit to one of the film’s multiple plotlines, but overall, its inclusion is rather insignificant in regards to helping it solve its numerous issues. The good news is that the new footage doesn’t really do anything to hinder it either, though it obviously makes it even longer than it was before (which was too long in the first place). In fact, most of the additions were completely unnecessary, as a majority of the 30 minutes are taken up with little bits and pieces of scenes that just didn’t need to be there. In the end, I suppose we should just consider ourselves lucky. The original cut of the film was supposedly four hours long, and I’m sure most of us don’t even want to imagine having to sit through a film this problematic with that long a runtime.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting Tuesday.
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