I am not a fan of “executives” when it comes to the film industry, it’s an old line sure but the idea that bean counters who are more interested in the contents of their bank account than the films they end up in charge of is kinda shitty. So what do executives have to do with Batman V Superman? Well much like Zack Snyder’s 2009 comic adaptation Watchmen, it appears the executives at Warner Bros. felt justified in demanding a three hour film be cut down to two and a half hours. Now if you’re a piece of shit that might seem like a good idea, after all I’ve met people who happily argue that “any film over ninety minutes is too long”, but if you’re a decent human being you might understand how certain stories take longer to tell than others.
Extended editions aren’t uncommon when it comes to these sort of stories; the Lord of the Rings film series each had theatrical cuts that clocked in around the three hour mark when they were released, yet the home release extended editions boosted each film to nearly four hours. If you’ve ever watched them you’ll know that the theatrical cuts suck and there’s no point watching Lord of the Rings unless it’s extended versions. The Ultimate Cut of Watchmen is likewise considered by fans to be the definitive version and the same holds true for Batman V Superman.
Make no mistake this isn’t some shitty “Directors Cut” where they add six minutes of badly edited deleted scenes and up the price tag by $4.95, this is the film the way it was intended to be seen. Entire events are completely reordered with Snyder explaining that when the studio demanded he cut important plot lines he had to move around the events in the film to cover the holes in the story. Entire character plot lines are added to the film, in the theatrical cut a single line makes reference to Batman branding criminals with the Bat-symbol, the Ultimate Cut dedicates an entire scene of a bat-branded criminal being taken to prison, it might seem inconsequential but actually getting a visual explanation of the bat-brand is a lot better than “Batman has been branding criminals and now the weather”.
So what makes this worthwhile? Doing as little as possible to spoil the entire release; Lois Lane actually gets an entire character arc that makes sense. Lois’ story in the theatrical version had the most chopped out of it, one moment she’s in Africa, then she’s in Metropolis and then Superman saves her. This time around Lois actually does things; such as follow a story for the Daily Planet newspaper and you actually get to see an investigative journalist investigate. Alfred Pennyworth, played by my personal favourite British actor Jeremy Irons (Try and make an anagram out of that!), gets a whole lot more development, while Alfred’s actual scenes don’t change all that much (There’s one additional scene that adds about four minutes and some great exposition) every scene he’s featured in is extended with more dialogue on Irons’ end and while a few lines here and there might not seem like a big deal, this is Jeremy Irons the man can add an entire plot line with a single sentence if he wants to.
Lex Luthor gets a much better role in the film too; a few lines of dialogue and interactions with minor characters mighn’t seem like a big deal but we get some depth added to Eisenberg’s performance and much like Irons, Eisenberg can do quite a bit with a few lines. Case in point Lex’s father was apparently an abusive, manipulative asshole and you’d only know that if you watch this version. Of course the most important scene is the most well-known deleted scene; the Communion which involves Steppenwolf (A fucking crazy interdimensional Warlord, think Thor from Marvel if he was a villain) communicating with Lex, which ends abruptly and shows Lex absolutely horrified by whatever Steppenwolf has had to say. This is important not only because the scene itself looks really good and helps set up next year’s Justice League in which Steppenwolf has been confirmed as the major villain, but also explains the final scene of the film with Lex in prison screaming about an unseen evil coming for Earth.
Even more than the development of supporting characters and the addition of subplots that flesh out previously nonsensical plot points (Seriously, the African conflict is a much bigger deal than you’d have thought if you saw the theatrical cut), the film develops the two main characters. Batman didn’t need a huge amount of development, in fact most critics singled out Ben Affleck as the shining star of the film in otherwise negative reviews. Still, a few additions help to drive home the reality that this Batman is in a downward spiral, a few added scenes of Bruce indulging in handfuls of painkillers, newspaper clippings that ask “Has Batman gone too far” and the extended debates with Alfred show that Bruce has gone off the deep end since Joker murdered Jason Todd (Robin). Also for anyone interested; you get Ben Affleck naked in the shower.
Finally the Man of Steel finally gets his chance to actually be a character. After the film was released a lot of people said that Snyder just straight up didn’t care about Superman, that he had no interest in developing the character and many even pointed out that Spider-Man had more lines of dialogue in his Captain America cameo, then Superman had in a movie where “Superman” was in the title. Well I say no more! Added to the Ultimate Cut are extensive scenes that showcase Clark Kent the person, conversations with his mother, conversations with Lois, conversations with random people on the street during his day job all lead to an accurate depiction of the internal struggle Superman faces with being a God among ants. This is perhaps the best and worst thing about this version of the film; the best depiction of the Clark Kent character is found here and everyone who needs to see it to realise that the criticism of Snyder’s depiction wasn’t accurate is unlikely to see it. It’s incredibly unfortunate that Warner saw the need to cut just about every piece of Clark’s character from the release, but I implore you to watch this version and see what actually happens when Henry Cavill actually gets a chance to showcase his acting ability.
Just to wrap up; the fight between Batman and Superman is almost identical to the theatrical cut. There’s like a punch or two added but for all intents and purposes the sequence remains untouched and that’s a good thing because the fight itself was fine. Yes it still ends with the infamous “Martha!” scene but thanks to the added scenes where Clark talks to his mother and even Bruce’s nightmare about his parent’s murder has a slight extension, the emotional impact of the revelation is a little better. Also yes, Lois still throws the kryptonite into the sea only to dive in and pull it out a few minutes later. The fight between Batman and Lex’s henchmen has a few added parts which is cool because Batman beating up bad guys is awesome and there’s been a few additions to Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman’s fight with Doomsday that again doesn’t change a lot but still a few more flashes never hurt anyone.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition Rating: 9/10