***Warning: Spoilers regarding the theatrical and ultimate cuts of BvS***
Upon it’s theatrical release back in March of this year, Miguel and I split a review for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, both with the consensus that the movie felt disjointed, full of plot holes and lacking in much coherence or energy despite it’s 2 1/2 plus hour runtime. This may, indeed, have been the consensus of most moviegoers, in any case, the overall reception of this highly anticipated superhero battle royale spurred WB to almost immediately (and rather desperately) start promoting the extended “R-Rated” version of the feature, better known as the “Ultimate Edition“. It seemed like they were grasping for any kind of reconciliation with the audience considering this was to kick off a new superhero cinematic universe, spanning up to ten movies for the next five years. And whilst I’d like to say I wasn’t so easily swayed, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little curious to see what this extended version brought to the table as it offered 30 minutes of unseen footage, which, considering what the theatrical cut lacked, sounded like there might something worth seeing that may redeem this lackluster of a film.
I, personally, rated the theatrical cut a 6 out of 10, and despite having seen that version only once, I stand by that rating. Now, the question is, does the Ultimate Edition make BvS:DoJ a better movie? The short and simple answer is, yes. For the most part, a majority of those 30 minutes adds so much more context and coherence to the story and a lot of those moments where I’d just been left wondering “WTF?”. This isn’t to say that this edition solves all of the film’s problems, it doesn’t, but it does add layers and reveals plot points that are so obviously vital to the development of the story, it’s almost baffling to think that the studio thought it was a good idea to cut them the way that they did.
Where to start? I’ll just stick to the points that I noticed and thought helped the plot. (***Again, spoilers for those who haven’t seen either version***)
- The first appearance of Lois (Amy Adams) and Superman (Henry Cavill) in the desert that, in the TC (Theatrical cut) simply led to the next scene where Supes falls under scrutiny having caused some fatalities amongst local villagers, turns out he was elaborately set up by guys working for Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg). We actually get to see more of how Lex is involved pretty much from the get go, which was never as clear in the TC.
- We see way more of Clark Kent in the UC (Ultimate Cut), where as before we barely saw him at all. Here he actually goes over to Gotham and investigates the Batman, adding more context to why they actually have beef with one another. A significant revelation being that the criminal who had previously been branded by Batman (Ben Affleck), ends up being murdered in prison because of it.
- Another key scene following the bombing of the courtroom hearing for Superman, leaving him engulfed in flames and leaving us to assume (in the TC) that he just leaves like a guilty-looking idiot. In the UC he actually stays to help survivors.
- Following the climactic battle, we get the scene that was released online shortly after the TC, showing a SWAT team arriving at the Kryptonian ship where Lex is communicating with Darkseid and then we see Lex arrested, which isn’t much other than it just shows a point of when Lex is arrested as opposed to just cutting to him already in jail having his head shaved.
- We get the inclusion of Jena Malone’s Jenet Klyburn, who works for Lois and actually helps clear up a few details throughout the story.
So those are just some points that stood out to me that helped make the story more coherent throughout, and I must admit that I felt more involved in the plot whereas in the TC I hardly cared. But, as I say, it doesn’t solve all the problems. The titular confrontation is still short and underwhelming (I actually clocked it at just around 8 minutes… that’s 8 minutes to a 3 hour movie), with no added footage there and still ending with “Martha?!”. The “R-rating” is absolutely unnecessary and seems to have just been a ploy following the success of Deadpool. There’s some extra violence with a little blood, but nothing horrific, and one “fuck” added to the dialogue, but you can get that in PG:13 movies these days, so honestly, I just didn’t see the point.
Ultimately, you’ve just got to ask yourself if a 3 hour movie is justified with this story. In my opinion, they could’ve lost the whole Justice League setup, it still adds nothing to the story beyond all-too-brief cameos and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) still has the same amount of screen time. This is still a better, more fleshed out version and certainly superior to the TC. I’d done well to forget most of that version, so rewatching this film in its extended version wasn’t nearly as tedious as I thought it was going to be. Going forward, there still is plenty to be weary of for the DC universe, but hopefully the theatrical release of this film was a rude awakening for WB, and they’ll redirect their efforts to something greater, it’s just a shame it wasn’t applied here.