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BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE: ULTIMATE EDITION (2016) review

July 23, 2016

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written by: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
produced by: Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder
directed by: Zack Snyder
rated: R (for profanity, bloody violence and brief nudity)
runtime: 182 min.
U.S. release date: June 28, 2016 (VOD) & July 19, 2016 (DVD/Blu-ray)

 

Just as Warner Bros/DC and Zack Snyder promised, here is the R-rated version of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with an additional 30 minutes of footage dispersed throughout the theatrical cut released back in March. As Snyder’s “Justice League” is currently in production and a “Wonder Woman” already finished and ready, both set for release next year, this “Ultimate Edition” will have to bide the time for fans of this new DC Cinematic Universe (DCU for short). It was available for rental and purchase last month and this past week the DVD/Blu-ray hit was released. The timing is just right with Comic-Con currently upon us, but one has to wonder if these additional 30 minutes adds anything to an already polarizing movie. Is this just a cash-grab or a more fulfilling viewing experience?

In essence: No, this is still the same movie. Just more of it.

There are moments that add significantly to an important sequence in the first hour and there are snippets sprinkled throughout the second hour that help explain the way the story plays out. The additional footage does flesh-out or explain certain plot points and add a bit more for Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman and Lois Lane to do, but it still doesn’t help a movie I feel has some real problems. In case you haven’t read my thoughts on the theatrical cut, you can read them here.

What I’ll do here is list some observances and then touch on the scenes that have been added, so you’re aware or mindful when/if you watch this “Ultimate Edition” and I’ll mention what they add (or don’t add) – so, I guess ***SPOILER ALERT*** can be applied to what follows below.

 

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The biggest bonus are the details added to explain the extent to which Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor goes to turn Batman against Superman. It was hard enough to follow Eisenberg’s quirky schizophrenic antics, but even more challenging to comprehend just how exactly he was manipulating the titular heroes. In the “Ultimate Edition”, Kahina Ziri (Wunmi Mosaku), the African woman who testifies before Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch about how Superman supposedly murdered everyone in her village is revealed to have been paid by Lex to give false testimony against Superman. While, there’s no real reason why she would accept such a pay off. There’s also a bit more of Amy Adams’ Lois Lane doing some investigating, as she uncovers more of Lex’s manipulative activity, especially involving Scoot McNairy’s Wallace Keefe. Her investigation brings her to Jena Malone’s character – no, she’s not Barbara Gordon, but rather S.T.A.R.R. labs scientist, Jenet Klyburn. Malone’s role broadens and diversifies the supporting Metropolis cast, which is needed since we’re really only given a few Daily Planet and a couple Lex Corp. characters. Speaking of geography, one thing I noticed this time was the curious location of the Capitol building – is it in Metropolis or DC? If it is in DC, where is it in relation to Metropolis/Gotham in this DCU? Not necessarily a question that needs to be answered, but another one of this movie’s many mysteries.

Listed below are all the added scenes in the order that they appear in the “Ultimate Edition” (at least what I could tell. Let me know if you find any more)….

 

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  • The credits now include “ULTIMATE EDITION” under the title, and Jena Malone’s name listed under Scoot McNairy.
  • During the big opening “Battle of Metropolis” scene, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) rushes into a cloud of smoke and spots an entire group of kids on a field trip…for some reason. The kids are quickly hurried away by their teacher.
  • In Africa, Lois Lane’s photographer who turned out to be a CIA spy has an introductory scene where he reveals he is, in fact, Jimmy Olsen (played by Michael Cassidy). When Lois greets him, Jimmy yells out, “Ms. Lane — Jimmy Olsen, photographer!” The entire set-up to the African sequence in general is longer, and we’re shown that there are more CIA agents nearby. When things start to go south they try to rush in to save the day (riding on horses!), but aren’t fast enough to beat a drone the U.S. government has sent in to just bomb the whole place (and Lois) into smithereens.
  • Superman stops the drone (obviously) and saves Lois’ life. In the theatrical cut, Lex Luthor’s henchman Anatoli Knyazev/KGBBeast (Callan Mulvey) and his goons open fire and shoot several villagers to death. This still happens here — and since this is the R-Rated cut there’s more CGI blood exploding out of those bullet wounds. But after the shooting, Anatoli has several bodies rounded up and burned with a flamethrower. When the CIA agents on horses finally show up, they find a pile of charred bodies — this gruesome spectacle plants the seed that Superman is the one who killed all these people, and it certainly makes a lot more sense than the theatrical version. After all, a pile of burned bodies could indicate Superman used his heat-vision to torch the joint, whereas in the film released to theaters the only method of execution we see is via those mysterious prototype bullets — and guns aren’t exactly Superman’s style.
  • Before the big introduction to Batman in Gotham, we’re treated to a scene of the two cops – officers Mazzuchelli and Rucka – who eventually cross his path. They’re sitting in their squad car watching a football game between Gotham and Metropolis’ teams on a TV. All this establishes is that the two cities have a rivalry.
  • After returning home from Africa, Lois Lane checks her mail and unpacks her suitcase. It’s an easy scene to cut out.
  • After Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) sends Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) to Gotham to write about the big football game (that already happened in a previous scene?), Clark instead begins to investigate Kahina Ziri (Wunmi Mosaku), the woman who spoke out against him both to Congress and on TV. She’s apparently staying with some relatives in The Narrows in Gotham, but he can’t locate her. Instead he chats with some locals about Batman, and one dude from the neighborhood scratches off a lotto-ticket in the shape of the Bat symbol…for some reason. This scene seems to imply that even though Batman has been operating in Gotham for years, Clark/Superman has no idea he even exists until this moment.
  • For some reason, Clark is bothered when he learns that Lois is secretly investigating one of those strange bullets she picked up in Africa. Let a girl do her job!

 

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  • In a scene that feels pulled out of a comic (if you’ve been reading the comics for the last three decades, you’ll know what I mean), an exhausted Bruce Wayne is shown taking a shower (it’s less Affleck than in the “Gone Girl” shower scene). There’s your R-rating!
  • Clark and his mother, Martha (Diane Lane) have a phone chat, where they primarily talk about the deceased Pa Kent.
  • Lois, pays a visit to Jena Malone’s forensic specialist character, to follow-up on the bullet investigation. Many think there’s something flirty going on with her, but I didn’t see it. If anything, it reminded me how rare it is to see Lois talking to another woman – or two woman talking together in a superhero movie.
  • We see Scoot McNairy drop an F-bomb at Lex when he returns to his home to find the billionaire in his apartment, “What the f–k do you want?!” he blurts.
  • There’s a prison scene where we see how Lex Corp pay off an inmates to “shiv” the latest bat-branded inmate in the prison yard. This is all part of Lex’s plan to make Batman out to be a maniac and ignite Superman’s outrage  the fires of Superman’s outrage – yet, we don’t see Batman too upset about any of this.(if t
  • Jon Stewart has a cameo! Not that Jon Stewart, but “The Daily Show” host makes an appearance here even though this film was released long after he had left this position. He delivers some rant about how Superman doesn’t want to be seen as American. It’s odd-placed and unnecessary, lost amid the talking heads that resemble Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
  • Clark does some investigating! He sniffs around about the death of the bat-branded inmate (who was transferred to a Metropolis prison in the promise of keeping him safe. Mmmhmm.) and talks with the dead man’s ex-girlfriend (Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel), who offers some key input regarding Batman, “Know what stops him? A fist!”

 

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  • I swear the big Batmobile chase scene seems longer – you know, where Luthor’s goons pursue the Batmobile, which halts after hitting an Kryptonian roadblock –  I just can’t pinpoint what and where.
  • Fearing for her life, Kahina Ziri goes to Senator Finch and spills the beans about Luthor paying her to smear Superman’s name. Later on, Luthor’s henchman Anatoli pushes her in front of an oncoming subway train (it happens off camera, but still another action that confirms the R-rating.
  • Although it’s brief, there’s another scene where Superman is actually saving someone! This time, he’s seen landing outside the decimated Capital building with a survivor in his arms. Then he kind of just looks around and takes off, like he did in the theatrical cut – at least we get to see him saving a life first.
  • Jeremy Irons chops some fire wood as Alfred Pennyworth! I don’t know why it’s one of my favorite scenes, but it is.
  • In an effort to reinforce how the public feels about Superman after the bombing of the Capitol, we see television footage of  protesters burning his likeness in effigy – even though there’s no real proof that he was involved. It’s yet another Christ analogy – they were quick to judge him to!
  • Great Caesar’s Ghost! Lois uncovers more dirt on Luthor when she visits Scoot McNair’s apartment (I already forgot his character’s name and “Scoot” is unforgettable), and finds out the guy had a freshly stocked fridge – clearly, he wasn’t planning on dying. Later on, she calls up Jena Malone who divulges that the bomb in the wheelchair was shielded by a lead lining. So, guess who couldn’t see the bomb? And of course, she knows this, since a girl who shares a bath with Kal-El, know everything about him. Funny how this movie nor “Man of Steel” don’t touch on the fact that Superman can’t see through lead, but anyone well-versed in Superman lore or “Superman: The Movie” will know this. Still….
  • The scene where Lois is abducted by Lex’s goons is a bit longer and more detailed – in case we were confused.
  • Snyder cuts to a SWAT team that propel into Zod’s shape immediately after the big, long battle between Doomsday and the Trinity. This is where we find Lex waist deep in that raspberry goo, while chatting with a weird-looking alien being with floating cubes hovering near it. Turns out that’s Steppenwolf from Apokolips with mother boxes, one of the acolytes of Darkseid. It’s the same scene WB released the scene online after the theatrical cute. It made no real sense then and in context it only makes slightly more sense.
  • During the joint funerals of Superman and Clark Kent, we see some morose shots of a mostly empty Metropolis where stores closed and streets are abandoned, because everyone is at Superman’s funeral – even though no one liked him before. Flip-floppers!
  • Back in Smallville, as Martha begins to walk away from her sons funeral, she suddenly stops and remembers she left her checkbook back at the house, concerned about paying the funeral. That’s when someone kindly informs her that the funeral has already been paid for by an anonymous donor. Hmmmm….in the distance we see Bruce Wayne. Hmmmm….
  • When Batman pays Lex Luthor a visit in jail he comments on how he’s arranged it so that Lex will be sent to Arkham Asylum.

 

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SPECIAL FEATURES: 

Beyond the quality sound and vision, the Special Features on a Blu-ray are pretty much the reasons people still buy them. The three-disc package I received from the studio includes the 151-minute theatrical cut in a DVD disc and also a Blu-ray disc with Special Features. The 182-minute “Ultimate Edition” is on its own Blu-ray disc. There’s also an UltraViolet HD digital code for download as well. As expected, the extras and here’s a rundown of them….

Uniting the World’s Finest  – The cast and crew discusses the characters and world building of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and viewers are treated to new footage from “Suicide Squad” and the upcoming “Wonder Woman” film. (runtime: 15:o3)
Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants  – The origins of the Batman/Superman conflict and the progression toward the events of this film are discussed here. We also discover the importance of “Martha” to these origins and the storyline. (runtime: 12:26)
The Warrior, the Myth, the Wonder – This piece focuses on Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and explores the character’s portrayal and growth throughout her 75 years. We see talking heads moments with Gadot, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, Snyder and DC comics writers like Geoff Johns (who co-wrote “Wonder Woman”) (runtime: 21: 15)
Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile –  Here’s where we see the new Batmobile in action and discover how select professionals built it. Seeing that the vehicle has minimal screen time in the move, the segment is a bit overlong, but it’s certain to appear in “Justice League” and Affleck’s Batman movie. (runtime: 22:45)
Superman: Complexity and Truth – In this bit, we see Cavill, producers, directors and writers discuss how iconic and great Clark Kent and his super alter ego are – two bad neither of Snyder’s movies have conveyed such. (runtime: 7:06)
Batman: Austerity and Rage – This unique version of the Dark Knight is discussed here. Snyder, Affleck and company discuss the new character, his motivations and all the Bat-tech. (runtime: 8:14)
Wonder Woman: Grace and Power  – A shorter look at Gadot’s Wonder Woman, that basically serves as another add for her own movie next summer. (runtime: 6:46)
Batcave: Legacy of the Lair  – This is kind of a cool look at Batman’s lair, which offers a somewhat different feel in this movie than previously seen in other movies. I really like the crumbled Wayne Manor and the compound on the river thing Bruce and Alfred had going here. (runtime: 7:11)
The Might and the Power of a Punch – The superhero smackdown is discussed here, with Snyder working hard to create a realistic fight between Batman and Superman. Here we see all the training, planning and choreography that went into the shoot. (runtime: 5:13)
The Empire of Luthor – This featurette explores the new take on the longtime villain, and dives into the character’s origins and backstory. (runtime: 12:32)
Save the Bats – The cast and crew become real life superheroes as the work to save real-life bats thanks to efforts led by Snyder. (runtime: 4:35)

IN CONCLUSION:

If you liked the theatrical cut as is – you’ll probably like this even more. If you didn’t, well, you may be like me and appreciate this “Ultimate Version” just a little bit more, yet still have some problems with the movie overall. If you’re gonna go R-rated, you might as well go there. It may not be a tone I’d prefer to see the first big-screen meeting between Batman and Superman and I still have major issues with the characterization of Clark Kent/Superman, but this extended version corrects a number of problems with plotting and expands the DC Comics universe with better character development and world building. With over 2 hours of solid extras, the Blu-ray offers excellent quality picture and sound as well.

 

ULTIMATE EDITION RATING: **1/2

DVD/BLU-RAY PACKAGE RATING: *** 

 

FOR MORE OF MY THOUGHTS ON THIS “ULTIMATE EDITION”, LISTEN TO ME CHAT WITH IAN SIMMONS OVER AT KICKING THE SEAT!

 

 

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