Watch this as soon as you can…
Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Batman, Bob Kane’s pop culture icon, could not be done properly without watching a few of the films. So many great Batman films have come out: The Dark Knight and Batman (1989) to name a couple of the best. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, for many, was not one of the great Batman movies, nor one of the great DC films more widely. Perhaps this is because the “Ultimate Edition” was not the one released in cinemas. It is a vastly superior cut of the film that gets a lot right. The differences between the r-rated cut and the theatrical cut are all very welcome.
The plot is a lot more fleshed out in this version. There is a smoother flow as plot point A moves to plot point B, rather than A going straight to C, as was the case in the original film. The Nairomi sequence is extended to make it clear how Superman (Henry Cavill) was set up so it looked like he caused the deaths in the terrorist compound. Wumni Nosaku’s Kahina Ziri is giving a much more significant role. Like the theatrical cut, Kahina testifies against Superman, but in this film, we find out she was paid by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to lie about the deaths. In fact, Lex just comes across as a better villain in this version. Eisenberg’s performance during the scene with the Senator (Holly Hunter), as he sinisterly drops his childlike innocence act, is so subtle in the way he changes from the public Lex Luthor to real one. He really sells the unhinged interpretation of Lex. When he is sent to Arkham Asylum, you do not doubt the decision. It helps that his plan make a lot more sense now too, for it is given greater time to develop. The fact all of these plot points were taken out for the theatrical release is baffling. It is difficult to differentiate between old and new scenes because the “new” scenes were always meant to be there. As the Ultimate Edition includes them, we are given a much more cogent film.
Most of the additions relate to Superman’s half of the story, rather than Batman’s half. Clark Kent/Superman is given clear reasons for being sceptical about Batman (Ben Affleck). He does some unassigned investigating of his own and witnesses first hand the intensity and brutality of Batman’s vigilante justice. The scene where Superman helps victims out of the burning Capital building is a particularly moving addition, demonstrating his sense of helplessness (for the bomb is revealed, in this edition, to be covered in lead) and his unwavering desire to help. Like the epic long shot where Superman blocks Doomsday’s punch from killing Lex, despite everything Lex has done, this film shows great understanding of the Superman character. It is a shame the theatrical cut did not get more of this Superman story.
The reason Batman’s story gets few extra scenes is because the theatrical cut’s greatest scenes were all related to Batman anyway. Ben Affleck is a natural as Bruce Wayne, and effortlessly changes from the public playboy persona to the angry soul behind the mask. We get a few more shots depicting Bruce struggling to sleep and taking pills, which hammer the point about his troubled mind home. No major additions though. The shot, early in the film, with the police officer’s nose and cheek in focus as the Batman watches out of focus is still a brilliant introduction to the shadowy hero. The warehouse scene did not need extra footage, for it is still one of the best Batman fight scenes put to film. The choreography is intense and violent in a way no other Batman film has been able to capture. Batman’s theme is played in all its magnificence during this scene too. Like Superman’s theme, it is memorable, captures the character perfectly, and just a pleasure to listen to in its own right. Everything the theatrical cut got right was related to Batman, so the Ultimate Edition did not need to change much.
As the theatrical cut was two and a half hours long, the Ultimate Edition, with all its additions, comes to the three hour mark. This may put some off, especially because not all of the shots and scenes seem entirely necessary. Whilst the “Knightmare” sequence is great, and the fact Batman fails/gets captured subtly reveals a lot about Bruce’s insecurities, we could probably still do without the Flash sequence. It is confusing, even in this version. Did we really need to see Ben Affleck naked in the shower too? Extraneous shots and scenes are harder to forgive when a film is this long. Even harder when the titular battle does not take place until the two hour mark, and the first meeting between the two heroes does not take place until an hour has passed. Nevertheless, the narrative flows a lot better, and the action is still entertaining. The CGI is superbly rendered and remarkable in how realistic it looks, and all of the action is well-choreographed. What else would you expect from a Zack Snyder film? Action is what he does best. Even though the film is three hours, there is a lot to like to make sure it goes quickly.
Give Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice another go, but watch the Ultimate Edition this time. Everything the theatrical cut got wrong (an incoherent plot, lack of depth to Superman’s character development) is corrected. These are seamlessly mixed with everything the theatrical cut got right, such as the stellar cast of performances and the action sequences, which are still just as thrilling this time around. It may be three hours, but you can forgive the runtime when the film is this damn entertaining.