Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a muddled, divisive, and underwhelming theatrical release. The subsequent vilification of the film prompted WB to make changes to their emerging ‘DCEU’, with huge ramifications for future films.
The release of an ‘Ultimate Edition’, with 30 minutes of extra footage four months later, wasn’t a shock. You could argue that it was a cash grab, but personally that doesn’t hold up. For me it was a chance to see the film fundamentally make more sense. It still has its problems, but I like it a lot more.
The extra scenes and lines of dialogue included in the Ultimate Edition make a massive difference to the overall story, giving us more character moments whilst clearing up the majority of the confusion caused by frankly irresponsibly editing.
Batman and Superman
This Batman is broken. Years of fighting and loss has taken it’s toll as this corrupted force of nature bends his environment to suit his weary and violent state of mind. The visuals and age of this Dark Knight were always inspired by The Dark Knight Returns, so why is anyone surprised when he’s vengeful and willing to cross the line? There could never be enough of BvS’s Batfleck kicking ass, so more time with the warehouse fight is welcome, but extra scenes correctly do nothing to change him.
They do change Superman. I find it hard to believe that Snyder’s intention was to make him appear mopey and unhelpful. Whose idea was it to cut a scene of him helping people? Such decisions were idiotic and harmful, undermining Cavill’s performance. Superman as every right to feel conflicted and hurt after killing the last known member of his race. Yet despite that, and facing rising public backlash he still tries to be a symbol of hope who will always help.
I’m standing up for this film but I’m not oblivious to it’s faults. Luthor is too much. We didn’t need the Batmobile chase when Batman just ends up following the tracker anyway. The nightmare sequence is cool but extraneous, as is the Flash from the future. We didn’t need videos of the future League and we didn’t need Doomsday. Did we need Wonder Woman? She comes across well but a leaner cast, with more focus on the actual ‘versus’ might have been better.
There absolutely could be a version of this film that comes in comfortably under three hours and still make sense. The LOTR films, and even films such as The Dark Knight Rises, prove that audiences can cope with the time. So length isn’t an excuse from either a storytelling or monetary perspective.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is almost a trilogy on it’s own. Sure it’s dark and sullen, but that’s the point! Both characters, and the world they inhabit, are going through massive upheaval in terms of their world view and aren’t sure how to deal with it. The film is part of the story of how everyone moves forward. Marvel has created a highly successful template that audiences have responded strongly to; it’s not surprising that something so different discouraged people. But again, if you know Snyder, and you’ve seen Watchmen, is there much here that should surprise you?
Batman v Superman is not for everyone, and it’s far from perfect. But it’s worth defending.