Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 'Ultimate Edition' Retrospective Review
Prior to seeing Justice League, I thought I'd go back to rewatch and review Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This movie features the DC Comics characters Batman and Superman. It was directed by Zack Snyder and is the second installment in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) following 2013's Man of Steel. It stars an ensemble cast that includes Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter and Gal Gadot. This film was released on Blu-ray that added an extra 31 minutes to the theatrical cut of the film. There will some some spoilers so proceed with caution.
The Story/The Direction:
This film shows criminal mastermind Lex Luthor (Eisenburg) pushing Batman/Bruce Wayne (Affleck) into fighting Superman/Clark Kent (Cavill) because he wants to prove that he is not a god. With this extra time, Snyder is able to capture a story that is more enticing than the theatrical cut. This Ultimate Editionis able to show how Luther had been manipulating Superman, Batman, and the many other people in this film. He exploits everyone and everything in his reach in a much more defined way. This is not to say this makes Eisenburg's acting any better but the character is slightly better. Snyder's action scenes are packed to the fullest and this film does show his passion toward comic books. While his characters may not be the ones that most people grew up with but his appreciation is there.
Some actions scenes with Batman look exactly like the Arkham Asylum video games and amazing to see on screen. He also is able to add a good amount of Easter eggs into this film. Some are really obvious such as the Darkseid symbol and the Joker writing on the old Robin costume but then there are small things such as dialogue that really bring out his passion. One example is when Alfred and Bruce are trying to find out who/what is the "White Portuguese." Bruce states its a man but then Alfred says that the unknown "phantasm" could be a woman. This is a clear reference to debatably the best Batman film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. While majority of regular movie goers may not appreciate or notice things like this, it does not go unnoticed by all. This goes to show Snyder does really care about his heroes. Another thing that this UltimateEdition is able to do is address the biggest issue of Man of Steel: the destruction of Metropolis that clearly killed A LOT of people. Snyder addresses this by making it the central issue of the film and it is what drives Bruce to do what he does throughout the film. He also addresses it in the final battle scene where our heroes make sure that innocent civilians are clear and safe from the destruction they are about to cause, which is a lot.
One change was the film's addition of the subplot dealing with Superman's apparent murders in the desert. Jimmy Olsen exists and this scene is able to set up why Lois was investigating the deaths unlike the theatrical cut, which did it very messily. You see how Superman was being blamed as many people were burned as by his heat vision instead of the bullets.This then leads the addition of Kahina Zin who had family members who were killed in the attack which allows for a more cohesive case against Superman. This also allowed for Superman's image to the public to be tarnished. He no longer was being looked at in a positive light and when a EMT says "We need room to help," he actually means "Get away, we don't want you here." This does make Superman's dilemma of helping out Earthlings more interesting.
In addition to this, you get to see Clark Kent acting more as a reporter which somewhat shows the duality of his character. While not developed as Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, it still is able to show you some bits of this life that Superman has to live. This was something that was really missing from Man of Steel. As Clark, Cavill is able to show many more emotions than his as Superman. He is able to show emotion towards his loved ones. He has very intimate conversations with them that do dive into the character more so that in the theatrical cut. As Clark, he becomes somewhat more likable and you get to see what's going on inside his head a lot more. You see how he sees Barman and its not just as competition. He sees the average person's fear of Batman and how this person must be stopped with a fist instead of words. While investigating, he also sees Luther's Batman brands that were placed on criminals to force these two titans to fight each other. This makes the battle even more intense when it actually happens. Batman/Bruce is fighting for the people against this power that could kill everyone without flinching and Superman/Clark is fighting against this force that is striking fear. They are both fighting for good causes and the fight feels epic when it happens.
Another character that is done well is Affleck as Batman. While not the best Batman, he does a really great job portraying an aged but still focused on protecting the innocent from those who would hurt them. Affleck physically fills the role of Batman in a brutal and powerful way. This is definately an older and more cynical Batman than most people are used to seeing. It is a clear cinematic version of Frank Miller's Batman from "The Dark Knight Returns." There is an animated two-parter that is highly reccomended for anyone to see. Another character that is still very enjoyable is Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. His character is not just a butler. He is a father figure for Bruce and voice of reason. He does not hold back and he feels more gruff than Michael Caine. You get the feeling that he could fight Bruce if it came to it. He's also really intelligent able to put together a lot of Batman's gadgets.
However, the standout, as in the theatrical cut, is Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman. Back when she was cast in this role, there was uproar and many said she was not muscular enough or that she was not a good enough actress for such a high profile role. Her most high profile roles were in the Fast & Furious films. In this film, she is able to give this character power, both physically and mentally. She is not on screen that much but is able to make every moment fantastic. She's mysterious as the antiques dealer Diana Prince and puissant as the demi-god Wonder Woman. Even in the Ultimate Cut, she is still the standout.
While this version does make the film a much better viewing, it does not alleviate all of its issues. One big issue is the amount of things going on in this film. There are multiple stories happening in this film, you have the sequel to Man of Steel, a Batman origin film, a Justice League origin film, and a "Death of Superman" story. The execution of the "Death of Superman" is probably the worst among them with its awful attempt at Doomsday however the others are not much better. It only seems there is way too much going on even in this 182minute movie and the writing just does allow this to happen coherently. The script was written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, both of which have successful careers writing films such as Argo and The Dark Knight Trilogy, respectively. Even the characters that are listed above have scenes that are beyond stupid such as the "Martha" scene. In addition while Cavill is better in this film as Clark, he still does not fit the character of Superman well. He seems to always be sad and seems to have little to no emotion. You see him saving a bunch of people but he gets no joy out of it. There is a supposed conflict for him of wanting to save people but its hard when they treat him in a negative aspect. However, when you see little to no joy when he does save people, it seems that he only does it "because he has to" and not because he wants to. This then gives the audience very little to care for his internal conflict. He also does some really dumb things like climb a mountain. There is no real reason why he does this aside from he deciding not to fly to the top of it. Another problem is his relationship with Lois.
Cavill and Adam's chemistry is almost non-existent and really feels forced. As in Man of Steel, it seems they are only together because they have to be. Adams, herself, does not do a terrible job and her character is able to do some better detective work than in the theatrical cut to show the details of Luther's plan.However, she ends up being just a damsel in distress for Superman to save as necessary. Though the biggest issue is Eisenberg as Luther and pretty much every thing that he does.
Once this guy steps on screen, the audience won't know whether to laugh or cry. The film was clearly trying to make him closer to a Mark Zuckerberg but that idea was not executed well. For the majority of the film, he comes off as a spoiled brat with parental issues. Luther is supposed to one of the most intelligent people in the world not a guy who forgets his speeches and who forces others to eat cherry Jolly Ranchers.
Being a film that has been ostracized so much for its flaws, it would seem hard to find an enjoyable time. However after watching the Ultimate Edition multiple times, it can be said that these flaws can be looked past. If you are a fan of films that are honestly filled with action, this film is for you. If you can appreciate the work a man who is a big fan of the comics, this film is for you. However, if you absolutely hated the theatrical cut, you won't find too much more here. If you were among the few that had some good feelings towards it, this edition is defiantly better. Enjoyment in this film can be found in the little places and the action is great even though the CGI is not the best and kind of clunky. However, that's the style of a Zack Snyder film. This film is better than Man of Steel and Suicide Squad but not as good as Wonder Woman. This Ultimate Cut is good but enjoyable film is definitely worth buying on Blu-ray and watching over the theatrical cut. Going into Justice League, it can only be hoped that it is better than the former two. If it is anywhere in between this and Wonder Woman, it'll be a good time. That film brings back Affleck, Cavill, Adams, Gadot, Irons, Lane and essentially brings in new stars of Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Hopefully, the new additions will be good and for what the score alludes to, the film won't be rushed with a run time of 120 minutes.
Rating: 3.5/5.0 bowties
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