'Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition' review: Added footage can't help ambitious DC film
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is now even longer, by a staggering 30 minutes and 53 seconds.
With the extra footage edited in for the new Blu-ray as well as for digital download, Zack Snyder’s controversial opus is even darker, moodier and weirder. It is also three hours, two minutes and 33 seconds long — epic-length yet still shorter than Lawrence of Arabia or Gone with the Wind.
Not surprisingly, BvS is more overtly violent and far more brutal now, leading to a harsher restricted rating. That is unwelcome, in this case. The good news is that the storytelling is occasionally more logical in the spaces between the tougher action scenes. So we better understand how this cape-crusading madness came to be in the DC Extended Universe. This sets up Snyder’s Justice League movies, as well as standalone titles such as Wonder Woman.
Yet none of this reworking succeeds in remaking BvS into a superhero classic. While the movie is improved overall — and the brilliant bits from the theatrical cut remain intact — the new director’s cut does not rescue Snyder from his murky depths of despair. BvS is still a downer, a convoluted mess and funereal in tone.
Not that it flopped, with $873 million in worldwide box office. That ranks it fourth in 2016 behind only Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia and The Jungle Book. That also means BvS will make multi-millions more in the home entertainment market.
The expansive Ultimate Edition arrives Tuesday on Blu-ray. In addition to a “free” Ultraviolet digital HD copy, the pack contains a DVD with the theatrical cut; a Blu-ray with the theatrical cut and tons of interesting making-of bonus materials; and a separate Ultimate Edition Blu-ray with the extended cut. So there is value here for collectors, even if they hate BvS.
The extra footage adds nothing to the Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) side of things. But it dramatically fleshes out the Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) side, turning his existential crisis into a humanistic drama with emotional depth. That, in turn, impacts his love life with Lois Lane (Amy Adams).
In lockstep, because she is inextricably linked to the super-alien’s fate, Lois’ story is greatly expanded. That means that Adams’ talents and screen charisma are not wasted this time. The endgame is that we get why she is the Daily Planet’s ace reporter, especially when investigating the massacre in the fictional African village of Nairomi.
We even hear Jimmy Olsen introduce himself to Lois by name (although it is a mystery why she does not already know him). He again turns out to be a CIA spy marked for death. This expansion gives Lois, and the audience, more grounds to eventually understand how unhinged villain Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) creates his conspiracy to pit Superman against Batman.
We also see how Clark Kent digs more deeply into the activities of Batman, reinforcing his own impression that the Dark Knight’s crime-fighting is wreaking unnecessary havoc, especially in poverty-stricken, mixed-race neighbourhoods in Gotham City. This means Superman’s enmity towards Batman becomes equal to Batman’s hatred for Superman after the tragedies depicted in Man of Steel.
The extra footage also expands the moral bankruptcy of the Daily Planet’s headline-obsessed editor-in-chief, Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). This deepens the movie’s social commentary, slightly.
More critically, the movie’s denouement is dramatically exploded out. Lex Luthor, in his dream/nightmare confrontation with Batman, gets to rant in greater detail. “The bell has already been rung,” he chatters insanely. “He’s hungry, he’s found us and he’s coming!”
He, of course, is Steppenwolf (although not mentioned by name, he is glimpsed fleetingly). This is a major teaser. We will soon enough see him do his dirty deeds in Justice League, leading Darkseid’s army on a mission to Earth. That movie opens Nov. 17th next year. Let us hope for the best.
DAWN OF JUSTICE EXTRAS TEASE DCEU
Batman v Superman may still be a downer, even in its new extended version that pushes the running time past three hours. But the Blu-ray for the new Ultimate Edition is the best thing about it.
In fact, a terrific documentary featured in the combo pack gives Zack Snyder’s subtitle for BvS — Dawn of Justice — much more credibility. Look for Uniting the World’s Finest in the bonus menu. It is a 15-minute tease for Snyder’s own double-barrelled Justice League movies, which launch in 2017, and even more so for David Ayer’s gonzo DC super-villain title, Suicide Squad, which debuts Aug. 5.
“There is a massive DC Universe that is just ready to explode onto the screen,” Snyder says in the doc.
Beyond Suicide Squad, we begin to see how the standalone titles Wonder Woman (2017), The Flash (2018), Aquaman (2018), and Cyborg (2020) will fit into the DC Extended Universe as the stars of those movies — Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher get some interview time in the doc after debuting in Dawn of Justice.
First things first: Jared Leto, who did not do interviews during the Suicide Squad shoot because he was always in character as the psycho Joker, talks as himself here: “I didn’t know this Joker was 75-year-old,” he says of the iconic character. “I mean the story of the Joker, that there were so many different variations of the story and who he was.” Will Smith also talks briefly but garbles his message.
Also from the shot-in-Toronto Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie is wildly enthusiastic about playing Harley Quinn, who is armed with a baseball bat. “There is so much to do,” she says, “I would do another 10 movies! You never know where Harley might pop up!”
The doc contains a lot of sneak-peek footage that goes beyond the trailers Warner Bros. has released already. And it looks enticing, funny, violent and twisted.
Momoa says of playing Aquaman, who cannot handle his superpowers yet: “He’s human and he’s a god … I want to see him struggle because he does know how to handle them (the powers). He hasn’t been trained.”
Miller says of playing The Flash: “I’m too excited. I’m more excited than it’s cool to be.” Miller says he is trying to bring the science to his character’s lightning-fast superpower.
Fisher says of playing Cyborg, who struggles to assert his humanity: “His greatest strength is actually his greatest weakness!”