There be spoilers, folks. If you haven’t seen the Ultimate Edition, you really should. And here’s why.
Today I eat my own words. I tried to start a movement. #fireSnyder. I’ve never met the guy but I, like many fans of these beloved characters, despised many of the ways Batman v Superman treated them. It seemed like disdain. It seemed like Snyder must’ve hated these characters.
I can stomach a portrayal of Batman which is removed from the mythic “this is my Batman” representation, where he’s older and cynical and worn to the born, where he’s suffering from nightmares he’s never dealt with, haunted and tortured by the memory of his parents to the point where he’s sedating himself with everything from women to alcohol to sleeping pills and straight up murder. That’s a hard pill (heh) to swallow. But I can see how the character could be interpreted that way in an isolated setting. This isn’t all that Batman means, of course, but I can understand the reasoning.
But when it comes to Superman? Man… I felt like they castrated the poor guy. His name’s in the title and he says so few lines of dialogue, his portion of the script would probably take up half of an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper! He just seemed joyless and angry and dour and uninterested in helping anyone, selfish and borish and other negative adjectives. He’s frown-tastic. And I understand he’s under a lot of pressure and he hasn’t reached the comic level of acceptance yet. But it’s like they just wanted to take a steaming dump all over him: he loses to Batman, he can’t save anyone, he watches people burn to death in an explosion, he gets nuked in 2 seconds by the USA, everyone hates him, his girlfriend has a weird-looking nose, and to top it all off… he bites the dust. HARD. Poor Superman! My boy! What did they do to you?
So for many of you, who may have other gripes with the film, just the mention of Batman v Superman may make you growl:
And then I watched the Ultimate Edition.
Oh. My. Zod. Why in the name of Warner Brothers did they not just release this version of the movie instead of the ridiculously inferior theatrical release? And I am not being hyperbolic. There are a sizeable amount of reviewers out there who hated the theatrical release and loved this version. How? Here’s how. 30 minutes of additional footage, a few extra scenes and a few extra lines of dialogue, even just some extra seconds of character development here and there, put a band-aid over nearly every complaint I had with the original movie.
Clark Kent. Not enough of him. At the end of Man of Steel it seemed like we’d reached a point where we’d brought Clark to the status quo, but in BvS Clark was just absent. And when he was there, the guy just seemed like a downer. No chance for Superman to shine made him seem like a plot device more than a character. As a fan of Superman (he’s my favorite superhero) this was one of the biggest beefs I had with the theatrical version.
Solved. Most of the cut footage happens to be Clark Kent scenes. Calling his mother. Talking with people. Doing journalistic things. Standing up for what he believes in. Trying everything he can to make a difference as a normal reporter. And there’s even a great scene where Superman is saving people. I literally paused the movie and leaped to my feet with all the agility of an overweight man and cried out to the heavens: “Why on Earth would they cut this?!”
Terrible editing. There were several points in the theatrical release that really seemed to drag on, particularly in the first act. And the second act too. And… also parts of the third act. Strangely enough, though the Ultimate Edition is 30 minutes longer, it feels shorter because it’s now put together in such a way that it allows itself room to breathe, that it follows a more logical progression of the plot, that we get elements of the plot better explained, that it’s smoother and more seamless. When things make sense, scene follows scene without feeling like unrelated images in a dream (or nightmare in this case).
Character development and character motivations. If we’re to buy the titular fisticuffs between the two most iconic superheroes of all time, then we really needed more character development for Bats and Supes. As mentioned, particularly Superman suffered from next to zero character development. This resulted in a climactic battle between the two that seemed like it was built on paper-thin reasons. But now we get to see the animosity between the build, which explains why Superman didn’t talk Batman down but dangled across the line of losing his patience and ending him. We get to see Clark investigating Gotham and seeing the damage that the Bat has done to his own city. It’s no longer a single Gotham headline that frustrates him about the Batman. It’s now loads of investigative reporting and multiple stories planted by Luthor. The characters operate in much less confusing ways because the story and their motivations have been clarified.
Weak villain. Now 30 minutes of additional footage isn’t going to fix casting, of course. It’s not like they CGI’d Bryan Cranston in there, superimposing him over Eisenberg (I think he’s better than Spacey’s ham-fisted Lex, but whatever). The Ultimate Edition gives us better reason to get into Luthor’s head by showing us more clearly just how imposing of a figure he is, orchestrating everything from the shadows. And that scheming is at the heart of the Luthor character.
This is clearest with the additional time spent on the events in Africa at the opening of the movie, demonstrating that the woman who complained about Superman before Senator Finch was actually being paid off by Luthor to lie. We also discover that Luthor was also behind the killings of bat-branded inmates in prison, all in the subtle effort to sow distrust between Clark and Bruce leading up to their fight. Even telling us in the space of 5 seconds that the wheelchair that exploded had lead in it goes a long way to better explain what happened and how much of a schemer Luthor is. His master plan is more accessible to the audience and he’s scarier for it. Plus blowing up a disabled man is beyond evil but now its clearer that he did everything possible to prevent Superman from seeing the bomb.
Now the movie isn’t going to win Best Film of the Year. Does it still have directorial and editing and casting and vision problems? Shyeah. But it’s now far from garbage with the Ultimate Edition. It now has real characters and motivations and a plot that makes sense. Both Superman and Luthor, even Lois, benefit tremendously from the additional footage. The final moments of the film weigh in more heavily before of the set up that has come before.
So I am sorry, Mr Snyder. I still don’t think you’re the best director, but I do think that you were falsely maligned because this is the film you intended to make. I’m not sure who made the call to cut the film into worthless fragments for the theatrical release but they may have irreparably ruined the face of DC in the eyes of the general audience of Marvelites and memesters for a generation. Maybe if they had just manned up and released this version originally we wouldn’t have a movie sitting at a dismal 27% on Rotten frickin’ Tomatoes!
Rest In Peace
I for one now have a little more hope with the burgeoning franchise though I’ve not bought into the whole direction. But I’m curious as to whether any of our readers have watched the Ultimate Edition yet. Let me know your thoughts. And here are more reactions to the Ultimate Edition around the web:
-The Well-Red Mage
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