Normally I don’t do a follow-up review of a film I’ve already watched. But when talk of an ultimate edition of Batman v Superman was coming out, I had to give this film another viewing.
Does the ultimate edition fix the problems I had with the theatrical version? Yes it did.
Just to reiterate my review back in March. I did enjoy Batman v Superman. It had its problems but that was mostly down to pacing and execution. So I was very relived that most of the issues that I had with the theatrical cut was actually resolved.
What the ultimate edition has in abundance is balance. There’s a better handling with the characters, the plotting and therefore there’s a better reward and justification.
One of the obvious difference is that Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) gets more of an extended run out. In the theatrical cut, Clark Kent/Superman was a mere plot device instead of being his own character. The ultimate edition makes him more of an integral part of the story, giving his character the motivation that was missing. The restored scenes show Clark investigating the bat threat in Gotham. He sees the destruction of Batman’s vigilante justice. Low-level criminals branded with the bat symbol on their skin, a sign that they’ve been in contact with the bat, snitching their secrets. It ultimately becomes a death sentence when they enter prison. This is certainly an improvement because it gives more of an established reason for why Clark would want to stop Batman. We get to see Clark being a journalist. It’s through his investigations he becomes obsessed and defies orders from his boss Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). It’s the exact same manner as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and how he defies advice from Alfred (Jeremy Irons) with his obsession in stopping Superman because he felt Superman brought a war to the planet.
This restored change puts Batman and Superman’s battle in perspective. Whilst the theatrical cut comes across as one-sided in Batman’s favour, the ultimate edition becomes more of an in-depth character study, a balanced parallel in what they believe in. Superman still believes in truth, justice and the American way whereas Batman is a broken individual who has lost his symbol of hope. His actions are out of fear in creating a deterrent in stopping an unstoppable threat. They both face challenges and their response to them comes under question.
The restored changes also makes Superman more of a sympathetic character. He’s a conflicted individual who is trying to do good for the world yet the world doesn’t understand him. He suppose to stand for hope yet everything he does comes under scrutiny. The ultimate edition makes more use of the political and philosophical angle that surrounds him. Is he a God? Has he come to save us? For someone so powerful, should he bend to our rules and laws? The ultimate edition re-enforces the fear complex, that human beings are not as special or alone in the universe. There is a higher power that flies above the skies. Because of this improved integration, the entire debate doesn’t feel forced.
In a strange way, the film holds a mirror up to the world. The film didn’t go dark for the sake of it. It’s a reflection of our current events and how the world is today. The constant hate, the constant destruction and terrorism, manipulation of the truth and the lies and the lack of hope feeds into the film’s reality. Since we perpetuate our own beliefs and desires onto others, especially in the cycle of blame, Superman becomes accountable and a hate figure.
Another massive improvement is Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Because there’s more scenes involving her investigation, it feels more connected to the plot, explaining the reasoning behind Superman’s actions and why he couldn’t stop certain acts such as the bombing at the congressional hearing. Furthermore, because there’s more scenes with her and Clark, there’s more of the emotional connection between them as it builds towards the final pay-off.
The ultimate edition also highlights Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and his plan more thoroughly, providing context to certain scenes and to him as a character.
Lex is obsessed with the idea of Gods and believes Superman is a fake God, the biggest sinner of them all. God can’t be all-powerful and all good he suggests and his plan comes off as an experiment that tests his theory. His complex yet calculated plan is to show Superman as a fraud. He deliberately drives a wedge, a division in political and public opinion to get Superman turned into an enemy rather than a saviour. He removes problematic obstacles such as Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) who doesn’t bow down to his rule and will. He prayed on the mind of Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy), promising justice and a cause to believe in when in reality he was just a trojan horse and a convenient target of culpable blame. If Superman is a “God” as people have labelled him, then man (as in Batman) must defeat him, to expose this truth. When that plan failed, he creates a monster, Doomsday to defeat them.
While I’m now use to Einsenberg’s interpretation of Lex Luthor, there’s also a moment of vulnerability. His obsession can also be described as jealously, jealous of the power that Superman has over people. Lex wants to feel powerful, like a God and Superman is a threat to his power. By making his sacrifice in order to obtain knowledge from the Kryptonian archives, he makes a covenant, a pact with another worldly being (Steppenwolf). He has awoken a bigger devil than himself.
But having said all that, his complex plan still relied on elements falling in the right place and the success of others. Makes me wonder what would have happened if Bruce Wayne didn’t go along with the torment and obsession? What would have happened if Clark Kent/Superman said to himself, I don’t owe this world anything and left the planet for good? Superman wouldn’t have been there to rescue Lois as she was pushed off a building by Lex! How did Lex know their secret identities in the first place?
The only character that didn’t change from the original theatrical cut is Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck). Is Batman still murderous? Yes. Is he still dark? Yes. But I absolutely still love this interpretation and Affleck still remains the standout performer.
But as I mentioned, because there is a better balance between his character and Superman, the motivation is clearer. The additional scenes with Alfred become crucial as he tries to be the voice of reason in Bruce’s conflict. It automatically makes him an underrated hero in Batman v Superman.
The fact that the beginning and end of the film occurs at a funeral is not a coincidence. It’s to highlight the parallel changes and purpose in Bruce Wayne. Attending the funeral of his murdered parents inspires the scared little boy, fearful of his future into becoming the Dark Knight. To defend the defenceless so they don’t become victims like himself. But twenty years of crime fighting questioned the validity of his work which sets him down on a dangerous path. Attending the funeral of Clark Kent/Superman gave him a renewed purpose. As symbolised by the “Martha” scene, Superman was as human as everybody else. He had a life and a family and he died trying to defend those principles. It restored Bruce’s faith and humanity in people, that there’s some good amongst the darkness. Now he must use that belief to find the other meta-humans aka the Justice League.
Despite the obvious improvements, the film still has its flaws. It runs for 3 hours, restoring 30 minutes of cut footage from the theatrical. Whilst I was never bored throughout the runtime, for others it may challenge their patience. It doesn’t escape the criticisms about the plot elements for those who felt the film was overstuffed and could have been split into two or three films. It doesn’t address my issue in the third act with Lois and the Kryptonite spear and how she knew it would be relevant in the battle with Doomsday. The PPV fight between Superman and Batman is still short but then again, they both had a bigger battle ahead of them. But most importantly, if you hated the theatrical cut the first time around, realistically – would you sit down again to watch three hours of something you didn’t like? That alone might be a tough sell.
However, the flaws are now irrelevant. The complaints that stemmed from the theatrical cut have mostly been answered. The question that I can’t get over is, why wasn’t this version released? It certainly would have faired a lot better in the cinema and the harsh criticisms wouldn’t have been so divisive.
I personally don’t think it deserves the hate it gets. Trust me I’ve seen far worse superhero films. I still love that DC aesthetically have taken a different route over Marvel. Instead of conforming to what other superhero films have done recently by relying on formulaic structures, it’s dark, gritty and realistic approach provides a deeper look at two iconic characters, something that may have taken people by surprise.
The ultimate edition is a superior version to the theatrical cut and certainly has restored my faith in the franchise and the exciting possibilities ahead. Thanks to the recent Comic-Con trailers for Wonder Woman, Justice League, Suicide Squad and the continued updates on the solo Batman film, there are reasons to be optimistic.