I hated Batman v Superman. It remains the only 1-star review that I written on the site. While I get plenty of (sometimes legitimate) criticism that I’m biased towards Marvel, I didn’t hate this movie because it didn’t live up to what we’ve come to expect from MCU stuff. I hated it because the characters of Superman and Batman deserve better than what this movie did, and fans of those characters most certainly deserve to see their characters treated better.
Batman is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and it’s his abilities as an investigator that make him dangerous (well, that and a whole bunch of money), not his ability to punch things. Superman is defined by a moral fiber that was defined by his small-town upbringing that distilled down to “do the right thing, no matter what people say.” Wonder Woman is… well, the character they characterized pretty well, in that she is powerful on her own and will do what she thinks is right with a bit of disdain for the mortal world. Lex Luthor is brilliant and calculating, always working ten moves ahead of where his opponents thinks he really is, was turned into a caricature of a crazy young tech genius. It was a movie that took from comics while seemingly holding complete disdain for them.
I will say out of the gate that the Ultimate Edition is certainly better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Unnecessary Subtitles, was… but the fact is when you frost a turd, you still have a turd. A lot of the stuff that this version adds to the movie makes it a better movie, but the other stuff is still there. Lex is probably the biggest example of that, as almost all of the stuff that is added makes him a lot closer to the Luthor we expected… but it still has the rest which keeps knocking it off the rails. Maybe the second time through made me a bit more numb to the experience, but I didn’t have high hopes in the original movie either.
Maybe the way to look at this is to start taking this re-edit of the movie, which was announced before it even came out, is figuring out how I would re-edit it. And I invite everyone else to do the same thing, because it’s interesting to think about how we rank amateurs that are entirely unqualified for a task would try to improve it. Also, I’m certain that I’m going to confuse some of the old stuff with the new stuff, but that’s more of a testament to the fact that the re-edit actually blends quite well… a lot of it was tiny additions to existing scenes. I’ll probably also forget my re-edit plan a few times while I’m writing. That feels like a fitting tribute to this film, honestly, cause it feels like they forgot what movie they were making a few times.
Warning: While I’m going to keep the language as PG-13 as I can, we’re talking about an R-Rated movie, so there will be some screenshots or comments that may cross hop that line.
The second time through, I think I’ve come around to the short opening that quickly replays the death of Bruce’s parents and the ultimate origin of Batman. The whole “fall and flying” thing is still stupid, and could be cut or just made to be a fall into the bats like we got in Batman Begins. But the actual curbside shooting and the homage to the Dark Knight Returns is actually decent by itself, and laid over the opening credits wasn’t bad at all. Of course, ending with the whole “Martha” thing only really stings if you’ve already seen the movie and know exactly how dumb that is later on.
The first big change I would make is to cut almost all of the driving scene at the start. I thought the action was still good, but basically, it’s a big CGI tech demo. Instead of watching how good Batleck is at driving around a crumbling city in a crossover SUV, why not just start at the point where he’s driving up to the Wayne building and seeing it get struck right before it falls. This helps define the character of Bruce Wayne more than his driving skills, and also ties up some of his resentment for Superman and the potential danger that he poses.
The scene once he’s at the site of the tower makes me like Bruce Wayne far more than anything that comes after it in the movie. He’s a concerned boss running an empire. The addition of a line of kids being led away, all holding hands, and Bruce Wayne stopping to put one of them in the line, has genuine emotion impact. More than the plot device with his legs trapped, and even more than the scene of the girl pointing where her mother was in the collapsed tower.
I’m not going to credit Snyder with this deep look at the definition of a “superhero,” mostly because I doubt that what he was going for. It’s an interesting discussion, what is the difference between a hero and a villain when their fights lead to the deaths of tens of thousands, but one that Snyder doesn’t seem all that interested in happening. The closest we come later on is when Alfred makes the observation that “Bruce Wayne did more than the Bat ever did.” As with nearly all superohero movies, it’s the secret identity that’s far more interesting than the costume.
Once we are done with /sadface Bruce Wayne, we cut over to the desert scene where we get the single greatest sin that Zack Snyder has ever committed: he killed Jimmy Olsen. Worse, if you go read why he killed Jimmy Olsen, you are going to nerdrage for a good half hour or so, minimum. In the theatrical release, it was just implied to be Jimmy, but in this version, it was straight up revealed. Lois has never met him, he’s just a substitute camera man that showed up at the border, which I’m sure isn’t suspicious at all.
There’s a whole new sub-plot that gets mixed into this, which ties into some stuff lately if you are really paying attention. Basically, the scene in the desert is a play between three powers now. The CIA trying to get into the mix, via Jimmy “I Died For Nothing” Olsen and this new team that’s riding across the desert that’s there to either take care of the warlord or give him an offering. Jimmy even reveals his purpose in being there was to get the warlord into the fold. The mercenaries are from another player that the CIA hasn’t uncovered, which we find out later is Luthor… and the warlord and his guys who are all executed. That lovely bird above is actually from the CIA spec ops team towards an airstrike that’s coming in to destroy the warlord’s base (and Lois with it). Said airstrike is launched, but “stopped” by Superman when he comes in.
This whole thing is then interwoven with the senate hearings that are going on asking about Superman. Specifically, there’s a new character that’s being interviewed by the committee, presumably from the African country we just saw, asking what lives matter and which don’t. Why was her family killed and Lois spared? This is the first little touch of some puppet master stuff that’s going in the background, and establishing that the congressional hearings weren’t just a spur of the moment thing. Unfortunately, much like all the Lex stuff, the new stuff is undermined by the old when we cut back to the bathtub scene.
About half of the new stuff is establishing that wherever Superman goes, death follows him. He’s dangerous, no matter his intentions. That would be a fascinating plot to bring to the focus, but sadly, it’s mostly relegated to the background (and undone later completely). Marvel plays with this a little more in their movies, but also tosses it out the window once there’s a bigger bad to go after and explosions to be had.
In the theatrical version, we are dropped right into the whole Batman finding criminals and branding them; the scene starts with cops arriving and finding women that Batman didn’t really rescue, as they’re still terrified and locked in a cage. In this version, we get a couple of minutes of watching a football game between Gotham City and Metropolis. It’s nice that the stadium was rebuilt so well after Bane blew it up, but really, this makes me again wonder what cities these are supposed to be paralleling.
In the comics, it’s always kind of fuzzy. I liked the whole New York and Chicago parallel, though there’s also an argument to be made that both are modeled after New York (which also exists in the DC universe… that’s a crowded island). Perhaps this makes sense if the teams involved in this game were the Giants and the Jets, but that can’t be true. No suspension of disbelief is going to make me believe that either the Giants or the Jets are capable of a) shutting out an opponent or b) putting up 58 points on any team.
So I’m now working under the assumption that Gotham is actually Cleveland. I’m pretty sure most high school teams could shut out the Browns, and given that a score by Metropolis leads to a fight on the field, it certainly fits a team that once almost killed both teams and the refs with bottles because of a bad call on the field. This whole extended scene happens while the cops are receiving a call to respond to whatever it is Batman is doing, and they’re ignoring it to watch the end of the game instead. Is the purpose of this whole scene to let us know the Gotham cops are bad at their job?
The shootout between the cops and Batman doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point, and never really did in the theatrical release. However, some additions that come about later do put a bit more context around the tensions in Gotham regarding Batman (as well as the reason that Superman confronted him in the first place): the city is terrified of him. He’s been getting more and more aggressive, and the bat brand that he puts on the criminal, that’s called a death sentence at one point, is just the latest escalation. His efforts as Batman hasn’t made Gotham better, and hasn’t even done much to combat crime. The interaction between him and Alfred draws an uncomfortable circle around it, in new (I think) dialog where Alfred questions the branding… “we’re criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals.”
I wanted more Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and we did get a bit more. The short scene gets expanded on a lot, where he basically tells Bats that he’s afraid of Superman, and that’s making him act irrational. One note that before we get to this point (we of course have an unrelated scene… god forbid we put things in a logical order), we still get the gratuitous bathroom scene. There were a couple of small tidbits added, mostly around the fact that Superman showed up and his interference has been blamed for murders as well as the government of said country cracking down on the rebels or whatever they are.
A guy called The Nerd Writer (who does some very interesting stuff and is worth watching), did a video where he called out what he sees as the fundamental flaw of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Overly Long Titles. In watching it, I think he hits the nail on the head with why I disliked a lot of things about this movie, and really in Snyder films in general. They are typically very striking and well filmed movies (one note on this version vs. the 3D I saw in the theaters… I vastly prefer the 2D version just for the quality of what you’re watching; all of the distracting junk is gone), but ones that focus on the slow motion shot over the substance.
Let me draw a parallel to something I really hate about the Internet: memes. Sure, some of them are funny, but the vast majority of them are used like they were somehow proof of some great truth, distilled down to ten words or less laid over a completely unrelated picture. I keep a few basic rules in my life, and all memes tend to break one I usually explain as “if you have a belief, any belief, that can be explained with a picture and a couple of snarky words… it’s probably a *bleep* belief.” Basically, I pretty much discount what you have to say, even if it’s something I’d probably agree with, when wrapped up in something like this.
Snyder loves the moment, that little slow motion blur that is the bullet time of our age, but he does so at the sacrifice of everything else. It’s something that’s meant to elicit an emotional response, but it almost always fails at creating any sort of connection with the subject. The whole ‘this… is… Sparta!” is probably the ultimate level of this idea; it is quotable, but it was instantly turned into a punchline. It didn’t make you like the character (in fact, you should hate him… he straight up murdered that dude) and it certainly didn’t do much to the plot (how does a dead guy deliver a message). BvS is just full of things like that, even ones that I liked, such as the whole Bruce Wayne walking through the smoke.
Let me draw a contrast with my favorite Batman movie, and easily one of my favorite comic movies of all time… the Dark Knight. Nolan is the antithesis of Snyder in the sense that his movies focus on the character and let them grow and build. Sure, there are fantastical things and moments that play out (looking at you, Interstellar), but they are there to support the much better. The reason Joker worked so amazingly, other than Heath Ledger being amazing (and now I am sad), is that the little moments like what was pictured above drove home how unhinged he was. He left his card, which makes you think he’s insane… but everything he said before that was precisely on-point and correct.
If that was in this movie, I assume it would have been distilled down to him coming in, showing grenades, and then going. He’d say, “let me leave you my card” but we wouldn’t see it. The camera would just go slow motion and pan down to it… revealing the playing card.
The stuff added really does outshine the existing stuff a lot of the time. Kahina, which we only got a brief glimpse of in the theatrical version, spends more time doing interviews, testifying before congress, and generally questioning Superman and his effect on the world. This TV interview is being watched by Supes/Clark while he’s making breakfast, and you can kind of tell that it’s starting to affect his confidence (mostly by looking all sad-faced).
A major component that was added to the movie, and something that helps to draw a whole lot more interest around the reason why Superman goes after Batman, comes via Clark Kent. Perry White wants him to do a sports writeup, Clark wants to focus on Batman and Gotham, and in the theatrical version, that was that. Here, we get research into what’s going on with the branding, in Clark actually going around Gotham and asking people what’s up, etc. He even goes to try and find Kahina in a Gotham slum, presumably to let her ask the question. This is a pretty decent scene, since it draws, for the first time in either movie, a clear distinction between the idea of Superman and the idea of Clark Kent.
Like I said earlier, there are a lot of small changes that are added to several characters, but I think the majority of changes like that go to Lex. At the start of the whole company tour of LexBook or whatever it is, Lex gives a nice little story about the fact that he’s Lex Jr., and why he’s the name on the company. It’s a very interesting tidbit that gives us a glimpse of the late Lex Sr., naming a company after his son because it pitched better to potential investors. There is something cold and ruthless in an action like that, and it feels more like something a Luthor would do… have a kid and name the empire after the kid because it gained him more power. Again though, we are just yanked out of that moment and back into the bad when the rest of the scene comes on, including just an awful over-the-head score that cuts between Lex talking to one of the senators and walking into the alien ship.
There are just a couple of little lines added in for Lex, like the fact that his company has been doing cleanup (not just finding it). Maybe that line was there before, but I do not remember it in the theater. The music as he walks in is just as stupid as ever; it’s not a bad theme, per se, it’s just that it’s so over-the-head about informing us this is the bad guy, to some slow motion, trying to force an emotional response without ever actually doing anything to actually get a response. At this point, Luthor is annoying and opportunistic, but not at all evil. Take away the music, and you would have no idea that he’s even the bad guy.
I’m seriously wondering if the music editor… wait a minute, the music for this was done by Hans Zimmer and Tom Holkenborg. That’s a combined resume that includes Mad Max: Fury Road, Dark Knight, The Lion King, and Deadpool (either as the composer, supervisor, or editor). Everything I’d put above was before I’d seen Suicide Squad, yet now after seeing it, and again going over parts of this movie and the music, I’m just wondering how DC messes this up. The Dark Knight used music brilliantly. Steven Price was the music guy for Suicide Squad, which mostly consisted of slapping some throwback song from the 80s and 90s over montages and slow-mo… yet he was the composer for Gravity.
Those three guys all know how to use music to illicit an emotional response; the Joker theme in the Dark Knight is one of my favorite pieces in the past decade, building in tension at the same time the movie does. Deadpool used pop music to incredible effect, Fury Road and the Dark Knight had recognizable themes that served to draw you further in to the story. How can this movie (and yes, Suicide Squad as well) get messed up so badly when it comes to music? Mostly, the issue is that it uses the music as a substitute for actually building drama, tension, or anything else. Much like the camera work, which relies on slow motion scenes to beat us over the head until we give up and feel some sort of emotional response.
The Ultimate Edition does a whole bunch to bring some of the supporting characters to the forefront, especially Lois Lane. We get more time with her and Clark, establishing Lois as more than just Superman’s girlfriend. At the same time, filling in the important plot-hole of what Clark Kent was doing at the gala… Luthor “anonymously” invited him. It’s more than just the bullet and showing up in Washington DC, she’s doing research, calling up favors. There’s another new character involved in this arc, Jena Malone (not playing Batgirl, unfortunately) playing Jenet Kylbum, a lead researcher at S.T.A.R. Labs.
That’s actually a pretty important connection to make and lay some groundwork, since S.T.A.R. is who makes Cybrog, ultimately. In a movie that tries to just rush to the conclusion, it’s great to see some actual groundwork being laid. Here’s hoping this is the kind of forward-thinking that their rival has been doing for awhile, because that kind of continuity is important in building a franchise.
There’s a whole lot of deeper story going on around it that Lois ends up picking apart. The bullet is made by LexCorp, and there are tracks that seem to be following Superman around. Luthor is working in the shadows trying to undermine Superman and bait Batman. The guy that Batman branded earlier is killed in prison, which was implied before. The important new addition is that we see Knyazev, Luthor’s henchmen, visit the prison and order his execution. The less important addition is actually showing the execution.
That does tie into the new Clark stuff as well, which gives insight on why Superman eventually went after Batman during the dock chase. Clark tries to find out information on the (now dead) branded thug, and talks to his “not wife.” She’s holding their child, and even though she knew he was a bad man, also gives a better glimpse into the havoc that Batman’s crusade is causing.
That really shows off why the Batman in this movie is just the worst Batman that’s ever been on film. Worse than batnipples, worse than limping Batman in Dark Knight Rises, and worse than Val Kilmer. The worlds greatest detective can’t figure out something something that a journalist figures out in less than a week. He’s fighting crime by committing even bigger crimes. And, as Alfred points out, he’s able to do more as Bruce Wayne than Batman ever could.
I didn’t like the dock scene the first time through, but this time I was a bit more prepared for it, which is probably why I noticed the music so much (and that it was trying to sell us more action than it had… explosions don’t make action exciting). Before I watched this movie, I actually watched both the ’66 Batman and the ’89 Batman. One was because I wanted to laugh intentionally, the other because I wanted to compare kill counts. While it’s generally seen that Batman in the Keaton film does kill, mostly because he tosses them from great heights. Not gunning them down with miniguns and smashing his vehicle through their squishy bodies.
The scene around the bombing of Congress gets a lot more stuff to it. First, we get Kahina showing up at the Senator’s office to reveal that the entire thing was staged. Her parents are alive, but she was coerced and paid to slander superman. Lois still meets with the Secretary of Defense, but he reveals that the government wasn’t supplying the weapons to the rebels, it was a private contractor with ties to LexCorp (which we had to just guess in the theatrical cut). Luthor and Mercy have a far deeper connection, and for a second, you almost see some emotion between them. It’s hard to recognize, since it’s so rare in this film, but it does serve to make Luthor’s sacrifice of her later in the hearing a bit deeper. For Kahina, sadly, it doesn’t end well, before the hearing can start, she’s executed by Knyazev via a timely push in front of a subway train.
All of this works to make Luthor much better, but then it’s all wrecked when we get back to the theatrical parts. We get great new lines mixed in like the start of the gala where Lex goes “Okay, speech, speech. Open Bar… the end.” After that little bit, it goes back to the creepy stuff with Lex, the good stuff with Bruce and Diana, and a poorly guarded computer mainframe. As an IT person, those servers are at best floor demos and at least completely fake. Servers aren’t public, aren’t put behind glass, and just don’t look that fancy. LexCorp is just crazy enough to hook up their corporate mainframe to a sales unit.
The aftermath shows Superman helping to rescue people before he runs off to go climb the mountain and talk to the ghost of his dad. That scene does more to sell Superman as the classic hero than the whole flood or Day of the Dead scenes that were just there to beat the Superjesus metaphor into our skulls… it’s just a shame that it ends so quickly.
While Superman is hiding, we get more Lois Lane, who can apparently break into the scene of a terrorist and just poke… oh, wait, that’s fairly accurate too (thanks CNN for continuing to televise the downhill slide). This whole new section is again just about plugging plot holes more than anything. The S.T.A.R. labs tech reveals that the chair was lined with lead, which is why Supes never saw the bomb. More than that, Lois discovers that the bomber had just purchased groceries (which we saw earlier, though it was before he got the chair from Lex), and therefore was just another unintentional victim.
In one of the few good moments of Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller (the best character in the movie), she makes one thing very clear about Superman that they never seem to acknowledge in this movie. It’s why that CNN picture above is so stupid… if Superman wanted to, he could simply just show up and kill everyone. No one would have been able to stop him… America just got lucky that he shared their values. It’s part of what makes Batman so stupid in this movie… Superman could have ended that fight in a second, but he wanted to talk to Batman. The idiot just didn’t listen, and thus, fight.
You know the funniest thing about the whole Martha thing? You could remove Batman’s reaction to it as his mom’s name, and just put Lois in there explaining who it is, and perhaps use it as a moment where he realizes exactly how far he’s fallen. We got a glimpse that perhaps he’s having second thoughts in an exchange with Alfred when he says “I don’t deserve you,” so it could be seeing the humanity in Superman could bring him back from the edge.
While I’m thinking about it… who is the woman that Bruce has in bed with him before Alfred shows up, and where does she go after he pops some pills and shows us the Batass in the shower (seriously, we get some Assleck in the Ultimate Edition – I guess to balance out the bathtub or something). That actually happens fairly early on in the movie, and I suppose it’s supposed to show us how much of a mess Bruce Wayne is, or how vulnerable he is without the armor… I’m honestly not sure. It comes off like the kind of “shock” you got when NYPD Blue decided that Prime Time TV needed Dennis Franz’s butt… which is to say more weird than shocking.
With the new stuff added in with Lex, and Clark, and the whole mix around things… Batman looks like even more of an idiot. Superman comes in and calls him Bruce, reveals that Lex is setting it up… and he picks the fight anyway. Of course, if Superman would have just immobilized him there instead of tossing him into a building, this would have been a lot easier. I mean, given the amount of intelligence Batman has shown, it’s more like Superman v Dog the Bounty Hunter.
This is brought home by Lex when Superman confronts him, when he reveals that he was intercepting the checks to the Wayne Corp security guard and scrawling all the messages. Lex says the whole thing was so easy… and nothing with Batman should be that easy. That being said, the one time the Lex Luthor music does work is when Lex shows Clark the pictures of his mother being held captive. It is a genuinely menacing, since all the setup was done before hand to show Luthor being ruthless and there were additional scenes to show Clark’s relationship with his mother.
Batman v Superman already felt like too long of the movie, and this new edition only adds to the mix, it doesn’t subtract from it. It comes in at just over three hours… and the whole final act/fight kicks off with Lex and Superman meeting on the rooftop… at 1:52. So much could have been added to this movie by taking some away. Also, this whole thing could have been easily prevented if Kryptonian security was a bit better, and didn’t let some jerk take control of the massive ship and cloning chamber just by saying “Yes” to one question. Maybe a password, a security question, or even perhaps, I don’t know… a genetic scan or something.
More than the time, though, there’s not a lot that seems to justify jumping up to the R-rating that it gets now. Maybe that’s why they called it the “Ultimate Edition” instead. Sure, there’s a bit more violence, but other than showing a couple more arms getting busted when Batman saves Clark’s mom, it’s not a ton. A lot of it feels more like how every video game released these days starts with a “Collector’s Edition,” even if there’s no one interested in collecting it, and how after a year or so, no matter how bad it is, there is a Game of the Year edition.
The best new dialog in the movie probably came in the section before the fight broke out with Doomsday, between Clark and Lex, again proving how the good stuff got cut out. It seriously smacked of some of the classic Reeve / Hackman in some ways, or even some of the best exchanges between them in the comic. Instead of Superman coming in and just saying “You Lost” before Doomsday pops out of the egg, Batman reveals that they both worked, and Lex responds with “I don’t know how to lose.”
“You’ll learn,” is this wonderful retort from Superman, and then a short, if heavy-handed, revelation of Lex Luthor’s motivation in this whole mess. He doesn’t hate the sinner, he hates the sin. He hates the very fact that Superman exists, and what he represents. He cannot let Superman win, which is why he gave Batman a chance (and implying that he knew Wayne stole the Kryptonite… and that he’d know how to weaponize it). Luthor may be insane, but this gets more to the core conflict they had in the comic than the theatrical version did… Lex Luthor wants to bend the world to his will, and Superman is the one thing he cannot bend. So he can only seek to break him.
Right before this whole thing falls apart for Lex Luthor, we get a glimpse of the next big bad. Well, little bad… Steppenwolf isn’t exactly an A-list (or B-list) villain in the DC circles. I get not wanting to jump straight to Darkseid, but there are certainly better choices to go after here. Interesting that he’s holding several motherboxes… and that the Kryptonian drone doesn’t seem to care at all about it. Seriously, their security is International Secret Intelligence Service bad… actually, worst, since they at least had a password of Guest.
Part of the reason for the longer runtime is that the funeral, specifically in Smallville, is given a whole lot more time. We get more speaking over it, shots of Metropolis nearly empty with a city of millions all at a memorial. Again, this is all done in those slow-motion cuts, trying to illicit some sort of emotional connection to us. Except we don’t, and the extended scene doesn’t change what we already know: Superman isn’t going to stay dead. Hell, we’ve already seen him on the SDCC panel at Comic Con, and you know that they’re going to spoil his return by the time the third trailer comes out early next year. No amount of Amazing Grace being played on bagpipes will make us believe he’s dead.
Of course, this new funeral scene that is easily the most padded and both interesting and unnecessary. We get some cool callbacks, like the priest giving the eulogy being the same one that advised Clark back in Man of Steel, or the manager of the IHOP, Pete Ross, telling that the funeral has been paid for by an anonymous donor (given that both Bruce and Diana are there, it’s not that anonymous). Yet, at the same time, it’s all undone when the priest gives us this gem.
“The Dead Shall Live. My Slain shall rise again. Awake and sing ye that dwell in dust. For thy dew is like the dew of the morning, and the earth shall give birth to her dead.”
For those who are curious, it’s Isiah 26:19. And the closest version I could find to that quote is “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” from the English Standard Version. I guess we’ll call that quote from the Snyder Standard Version, and I assume the purpose is to set up future tie-ins with Mountain Dew. Other translations use the word “corpse” more often. Get it, get it! He’s going to come back!
You could take that bit out and still have a decent, heartfelt, emotional scene. In fact, it’d be far more emotional without all that baggage. You get the juxtaposition of the funeral of Superman the magic Superjesus Hero against the death of the Midwest farm kid. The world may cry for a moment because this idea died, but he had a very lasting impact on the lives of those closest to him. In my re-cut (see, I didn’t forget… well, not entirely), I would just end the whole thing with the exchange between Martha and Lois. We don’t need Bruce and Diana talking outside… it doesn’t add anything (certainly nothing that the trailer released a year before the movie comes out has told us twice already).
We’re not done, though! This movie still has some more to give us, in the whole Batman and Lex Luthor in prison with the brand, scene. This is arguably improved, honestly, and did give me a moment of excitement and hope that I know will not be met. We learn that Lex won’t stand trial, because he’s been deemed unfit and insane. Lex acts like he’s beat the system, since this is movie legal system, where being unable to stand trial means you get off, and not like real world justice, where if you’re found competent to stand trial in the future, you still totally have to do it (insanity is actually an extremely hard path to take in court; it hardly ever works).
Bruce has the comeback for that, and reveals he’s made arrangements for Lex to be transferred to a facility where he can keep an eye on him… Arkham Asylum. And that Batman has some friends waiting for him there. That’s an interesting choice, given that Lex has already revealed that he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, and maybe putting the sociopath killer in a facility with hundreds of other killers and metahumans that all have a pretty big grudge against the Bat is a bit… unwise. Yet, this whole time, I could only think one thing…
Ultimately, the Ultimate Edition (see what I did there, I can do it too, Snyder) is a better cut of the film than the Theatrical Version was. But I stand by my opening statement… it just can’t escape what it was before it. A lot of that happens because nothing from the Theatrical version is gone, it’s just stretched out a bit. And there’s so much unnecessary stuff that’s wrapped in there. I’m starting to get curious on what some fan edits could do with this movie, now that we have extra stuff in there. It seems like this could be shaved down to make something better, and set up what’s to come.
I’d like to say that there’s hope (Wonder Woman notwithstanding), but honestly, DC just feels like a hot mess right now. The comics are in the midst of their third reboot in the past few year, and managed to do it in a way that ticked off even some of loyal fans (Doctor Manhattan has no business being in the main continuity; none). Suicide Squad was a jangled mess (though better than this) that felt far too often like it was trying to be three different movies. Even the Animated Division, which has long been the best part of DC (and, honestly, Comic movies in general overall), just released the steaming pile that is the Killing Joke. That comic is controversial, but important, and deserved so much better. That feels like the mantra of DC right now… it deserves so much better.
From a business point-of-view, anyone who’s a fan of these properties should be worried. Batman v Superman broke all kinds of records… but also saw the largest drop on week-over-week ticket sales, and in the end, it’s box office earnings were barely at the “break even” point for DC/Warner Brothers. Suicide Squad just had the biggest August opening ever, but also the biggest Friday-to-Saturday drop-off in ticket sales ever. Worse, Suicide Squad won’t likely get the Chinese release, the second biggest film market, which means it will almost certainly be a failure even if it somehow managed to make the same money over the next three or four weeks.
The underlying problem here seems to be tied up in economics and over-production getting in the way of making a good film. DC is typically putting almost twice the production budget of a film on marketing, at least that’s what a lot of the press around it’s box office disappointment was concluding. If a film needs to get 3-4 times it’s production cost back to be profitable, that means that a huge feature like this needs to make a billion dollars for a good return. When you’re talking that type of money, you can only expect the marketing name to get you so far. In the end, you need a good movie that people want to see, and more importantly, tell their friends to go see. I would not recommend this (or Suicide Squad, or Killing Joke) to anyone; at best, it’s a “wait until it’s on Netflix” sort of thing.
You can see a difference in strategy between Disney/Marvel and Warner Bros/DC when it comes to these movies (I’m giving LEGO Movie Batman a pass, it looks amazing). Marvel seems to have a trust in their cinematic movies division to actually produce a decent film, and generally stay out of the way. That’s not to say there isn’t oversight or direction or even rules about what can/cannot be done. There obviously are… it’s why we didn’t get to see Edgar Wright do Ant-Man, why they’ve been a lot more cautious about killing off all the big bads and heroes (something that the Comics aren’t abiding by right now… no one wanted Civil War II, Marvel; no one).
Disney/Marvel is more concerned on delivering a product that people are going to want to see, going to want to buy, and going to tell their friends to go see. Their “worst” movie since starting the MCU, the Incredible Hulk, scored higher than this movie with both critics (3x higher) and audiences (6% higher). Even the down films, Thor: Dark World or Iron Man 3, have had higher scores with audiences. It’s clear that Marvel has an idea and a formula, and movie goers enjoy what they offer. Even a miss for them is a bigger hit than Warner has managed.
The entire issue seems to be that DC keeps trying to do exactly what Marvel has done with their Cinematic Universe, and that’s hurting them. Suicide Squad feels like what you’d get when a producer watched the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy and read a Wikipedia article on Suicide Squad. It’s actually a good comic (and was one of the brighter spots in the New 52 universe), and deserved better than that… but Guardians was all about telling us just enough to get to the meat of the story (the backgrounds of every character probably added up to about 15 minutes, tops – Suicide Squad spent at least half of their movie with background). Maybe I should be more worried about Wonder Woman, since it could just be trying to redo Captain America: the First Avenger…
Batman v Superman was basically trying to set up some underlying conflict that led up to the Avengers and Civil War all wrapped into one. It shows in the final product, in that it feels like we’re getting multiple movies and stories smashed together to hurry up the end product. We got the whole rise of Lex Luthor, who had no prior conflict with Superman in this universe; we got the fall of Batman and the crumbling of Batman; we got the Death of Superman and arrival of Doomsday; there was the Darkseid War and Dark Knight Returns… and it was less than the sum of its parts for all of that.
I’m not sure I have a good fix for the movies, but my first suggestion would be to tell one story at a time. Imagine what Batman v Superman could have been if it was the culmination behind Wonder Woman and a Batman movie that featured the Joker not being a Hot Topic washout. What Justice League be like of the Flash and Aquaman had been set up in more than YouTube preview encrypted in a LexCorp marketing presentation.
What it would be like if characters like Batman and Superman got the respect that they deserve for nearly eighty years, which are in a lot of ways intertwined with American culture itself. Maybe we would get movies that were better than a two out of five; marginally better than the original (if you buy this on Amazon.com, you get both versions as well as digital copies on Ultraviolet). All of the parts are there. I actually think that Ben Affleck did very good as Bruce Wayne, and was involved in the best Batman fight we’ve ever gotten on the big screen. Cavill certainly has the look for Superman, and the Ultimate Edition showed that he can do a very good Clark Kent. Gal Gadot was still the best part about the movie, and her Wonder Woman looks fantastic. Honestly, with the Ultimate Edition, it’s possible that even Lex Luthor could be salvaged, though I’m not sure anything can save Leto’s Joker.
While I’m much more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy, ultimately, I’m a comic book guy, and I want these movies to succeed. I loved Superman as a kid, and still love the Christopher Reeve movies (even IV… guilty pleasure, but that scene with the hair and the giant weight amused me greatly as a kid). Batman has still had more good movies than bad ones (though it’s close), and the Dark Knight is a course on how you can make a comic movie series and dark and still enjoyable.
Competing franchises can be out and successful without trying to imitate one another. I want Justice League to be amazing, and would love to see it stand toe-to-toe with the Avengers. There’s is room for both to be great.