When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released way back in March, it divided fans and was met with a negative critical reaction, with most critics citing its failures in storytelling, as well as the paper thin motivations that had our heroes kicking the hell out of each other. In response to its underwhelming reception, Warner Bros announced an extended cut of Batman v Superman that would feature 30 minutes of extra footage that would (allegedly) help make the film a more enjoyable and cohesive experience, with extended scenes, deleted scenes and completely new sub plots.
Just to be clear, this is just a review on how the extra footage affects the film’s quality, whether it improves or hinders the theatrical version. For a full review of said theatrical release, check out my review here. For a quick summary, I found the story of Batman v Superman lacking focus, jumping around incoherently between five story-lines that never really line up satisfyingly. Their insistence of shoehorning as much of Justice League prologue as possible into the film only distracts from the main conflict, not to mention the clumsy nature in which this quasi prologue is executed. I also had a problem with the characterisations and motivations of the titular heroes, with a charmless Superman and a murderous Batman only coming to blows for the most ridiculous and flimsy reasons. I did enjoy certain aspects of the film, like Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman, but its apparent lack of understanding of its comic book source material as well as basic storytelling are too overwhelming to ignore.
Let’s hope that the Ultimate Edition can help to rectify the faults of its little brother, or at the very least, soften their blows.
Or not. I mean, I guess that the Ultimate Edition does improve upon the theatrical release but it doesn’t do anything to address the wider problems of the film. There’s an attempt to devote more time to flesh out the motivations of Superman’s campaign against Batman, that gives us some more, much needed Clark Kent but having Superman don a pair of glasses and sleuth for 5 minutes around Gotham doesn’t really negate the hypocritical nature of an all-powerful Alien, who doesn’t adhere to any laws, being angry at a Vigilante who does exactly the same thing. If you didn’t like the theatrical release then, chances are, the Ultimate Edition isn’t going to change your mind. Don’t expect any significant changes to be thrown into the mix.
Nevertheless, the Ultimate Edition does shine more light on certain scenes, like the revelation that Clark Kent had been requested to appear at Lex Luthor’s charity event, which adds a nice depth to Luthor’s initial interactions with Kent. The ‘Superman event’ at the start of the film is also given more screen time to actual establish the details of the event, and reveal the extent of the deception that saw Superman be called in front of a committee. When I first watched the theatrical release, so much information was being thrown at me at the beginning, that the significance of this scene in the desert went over my head, so it was nice that the Ultimate Edition saw fit to give the sequence slightly more time to stew. Even so, it’s within its more subtle changes that the Ultimate Edition shows its strengths. Conversations linger on a moment longer to reveal more details, scenes are edited together smoother and I didn’t feel like I was being rushed through everything that Batman v Superman had to offer, with the film taking the time to let us breath in this brand new universe.
However, this clarity comes at a cost. With a 182 minute running time, the Ultimate Edition does drag in spots and I felt like it was a task in itself to get to the credits, having to take two breaks along the way as a breather. This problem becomes more prevalent as the film reaches its clumsy third act, as you are subjected to 20 minutes of shallow CGI violence when you just want the film to hurry up and end. Which brings us back to the storytelling problems of the theatrical release, if you need 182 minutes to tell a semi-coherent story then you are doing something wrong as a film-maker.
As I said earlier, the Ultimate Edition isn’t going to change your mind on Batman v Superman, whether you hated it or you loved it. I won’t be rushing back to re-watch the Ultimate Edition, with the problems of the theatrical version persisting, the run-time being astronomical and Superman still being portrayed as a bit of a lemon, even if we did get a little more Clark Kent this time around.