Is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition Still a Bad Movie?

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This analysis contains spoilers for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition. If you have not seen this movie, reading this post will spoil MAJOR parts of it for you. Continue to read at your own risk.

The short answer to this is “No.” The longer answer is that it depends on what you want out of this movie and what bothered you originally. Let’s talk about that.

My major complaints with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’s theatrical cuts were twofold. 1.) The movie clearly had editing problems. The plot didn’t make sense, the characters’ motivations didn’t make sense, it seemed to jump from scene to scene without a sense of purpose or rationale. It was just a mess. 2.) Zack Snyder did not treat these characters the way that I, and a lot of fans, felt they should be treated. Batman wasn’t acting like Batman, Superman wasn’t acting like Superman, Lex Luthor wasn’t acting like Lex Luthor. This is a smaller concern, in a way, because adaptations change things. It’s just what happens. Whatever Zack Snyder does to these characters isn’t going to change the comics that I read, the great cartoons that I’ve watched, or even the better representations of them in other movies. It was, nevertheless, a bit disappointing to see them acting contrary to the way they traditionally would have acted in these situations. The Ultimate Edition does a pretty good job of fixing point 1, but it doesn’t really do much for point 2, with a couple of exceptions, which I will get to.

Let’s talk about the editing problems. The Ultimate Edition contains 30 minutes of additional footage. That means that it takes the film from a two-and-a-half hour runtime to a three-hour runtime. Most of this additional footage is used to create transitional or clarifying scenes. Sometimes, it’s just an extra couple minutes here or there (like Bruce seeing the group of children on a field trip during the destruction of Metropolis), sometimes it’s a lengthier scene that was cut (such as the extended scene leading up to Superman’s arrival in Nairomi to save Lois). The result of these additions is that the film just makes more sense as a whole. At no point in this cut of the film did I feel lost or confused by a character’s motivations, even if I didn’t agree with them (with the small exception of Lex. We’ll get to that later). It becomes much clearer in this cut why Batman wants to kill Superman (if you accept the version of Batman we are given, at least), and Superman’s actions also make more sense, thanks to some re-ordering and some additional scenes where Clark finds out about Batman. The plot flows in a way that it just didn’t in the original cut, with scenes leading into each other, rather than feeling like a series of vignettes that we are treated to.

Okay, so what about Lex then? You may remember in my original review, I was totally unclear on Lex’s motivations. Are they more obvious here? Yes… But he is still by far the character that makes the least sense to me. One thing that becomes much more obvious in this cut is that Lex is behind everything. His mercenaries create a scene in the desert that makes it look like Superman rampaged through and killed people (this makes Clark’s line that “I didn’t kill those people” make a LOT more sense), he pays and threatens the witness who testified against Superman so that she would lie about her family being killed, he implants the bomb in the wheelchair that blew up the capital building and DIDN’T tell the guy it was going to explode (what a guy!). All of these things were set up by Lex. He is moving ALL the pieces in this movie. That makes things much easier to understand, and it just makes him a better villain.

That said, I’m still not really sure why he’s doing it. I mean he makes some comments about his father that points to a history of abuse, and he is clearly uncomfortable with the existence of Superman, maybe because Lex doesn’t want a being who is capable of stopping him, or… maybe because of the influence of Darkseid? There is a scene in this extended cut where Lex is talking to Steppenwolf… Or, at least is seen communing with him? It’s unclear. There is definitely some Darkseid influence by the end of the movie, but for the earlier portions, Lex’s motivations are still a little unclear. Nevertheless, we, at least, get a fuller view of his character.

As to the second point about the way these characters are treated, no scenes are removed from the film, so Batman still shoots and kills people, Superman is still really dark and dour, and Lex is still basically acting like a more sadistic version of The Riddler, but there are some additions that make these characters more like what we remember. I already mentioned Lex’s far-reaching motivations. He is the chess master here, and that is very in keeping with Lex as a character. Batman does a bit more investigative work here, but still nothing to really convince me that he’s “the world’s greatest detective.” The real turn around for me, though, comes with Superman. Superman acts much more like Superman in this cut. The dark and dismalness of his representation aside, he is seen being internally tortured by the things he is accused of doing, he has more scenes where he connects with his mom, and, most importantly to me, his scene with Lois after the capital building blows up (which was already the most Superman scene in the film) is even more in-character than it was in the original cut. He tells Lois that he is afraid he didn’t see the bomb, because he wasn’t looking hard enough. He’s concerned he’s not doing enough. And then, in this cut, Lois discovers that the wheelchair was lined with lead, and that Superman couldn’t have seen through it, which makes the whole situation make more sense, and also makes her decision to go find him (which ultimately gets her kidnapped) make more sense as well.

In addition to these changes, some of the action scenes are extended, including the fight at the end with Doomsday (which means we get to see more Wonder Woman fighting, so that’s great), and a cool action sequence in the desert. By and large, the action sequences seemed pretty fleshed out to begin with, because, I imagine, that’s what the studio wanted the film to focus on, but the extended scenes make for some more cool moments, so I appreciated them.

So, yes, the film is better. If this was the theatrical release that we got, some fans still would have been disappointed (myself among them), but it wouldn’t have been the critical disaster that it was. This is by no means a bad movie. It’s not a great movie, either, but it’s totally watchable. If you haven’t seen it, and you were waiting for the DVD release to check it out, do yourself a favor and rent this one (don’t buy it. I don’t think it’s rewatchable). If you were one of the people who liked the original cut, you should also pick this version up, and not the theatrical cut. It’s just more stuff you like. If you—like me—saw the theatrical release and hated it, I would hesitate to recommend picking this up. It is a better movie, but I don’t think it’s better enough to make it good, if you already disliked the original. Rent it, if you are really curious (or write a blog about superhero stuff, and feel obligated), but don’t buy it, unless you have a compulsive need to own every superhero movie ever made (in which case, you are already beyond hope).

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