Batman vs. Superman: Ultimate Edition

Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition is the extended cut of the divisive love it or hate it blockbuster Barman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was disappointed by the film for a multitude of reasons, and my opinion of the film is largely negative, mainly due to the confusing, downright poorly written script and a horrendously poor performance by Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. However, despite what other critics have said, the film was not unwatchable and there are many entertaining moments.The problen is that these genuinely entertaining moments are bogged down by genuinely stupid or confusing ones.  When news of this 3-hour cut of the film came, I was curious to see if the thirty or so minutes of extra content would fix, or at the very least, improve on the multitude of outright failures to be found in this film. When I first saw this film, I didn’t want to spoil it too badly for those who may have wished to see it. Seeing as I’m doing a comparison of a director’s cut and a theatrical cut, as well as seeing that the film came out in March, there will be no restraint on spoilers.

The Ultimate Cut does not magically fix every problem with the movie. In fact, all the problems are still there. The additional scenes and extended sequences act as a bandage. To summarize, The Ultimate Cut does turn the rather crappy Batman v. Superman into a more coherent and enjoyable film, while still very flawed and still rather crappy. With the Ultimate Cut, there is much more character development in a movie that desperately needs some. Let me explain what good things are in this movie, what its many problems are, and how the Ultimate Edition fixes some of those problems.

We are once again shown the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, which doesn’t really need to be in there. Afterwards, we are shown the destruction of Metropolis from Wayne’s perspective. I thought this scene was very effective, and clearly shows the viewer why Bruce Wayne wants to eliminate Superman.

Everything involving Batman in this film, both the theatrical and extended cut, is pitch perfect.The problem is everything else. The fact of the matter is, Henry Cavill can’t act, or at the very least he doesn’t play Superman right. Superman is thought to be a boring character, and in some respects, he is. He has unlimited power, and it is very difficult to make someone with unlimited power and nigh invincibility interesting. His creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, got so caught up in giving Superman a bunch of cool powers, they forgot to give him any weaknesses so as to add conflict. So they wrote themselves into a corner and had to create Kryptonite, which is the bane of my existence. There’s a problem with someone’s sole weakness being an object. The problem is, whenever someone wants to weaken Superman, all you have to do, all you CAN do, is whip out Kryptonite. That is why Superman’s boring. He isn’t a drab piece of wood with a complete and utter lack of any sort of emotion, but I think someone must have told Henry Cavill Superman was “boring” and completely misinterpreted what they said.Everyone in this film, and I do mean everyone, does a better job emoting in this film than Cavill does.

Ben Affleck is a great lead, Henry Cavill is not. How the film’s true antagonist,Lex Luthor as played by Jessie Eisenberg, hold up? I’m not going to drag it out or sugarcoat it, Lex Luthor is the single worst part of this movie second worst part of this movie, plain and simple. Eisenberg is an excellent actor. His performance in The Social Network is worthy of praise, and I was very hopeful upon his casting. Lex Luthor is a genius, a billionaire, and a complete and utter megalomaniac with an obsession of Superman and the power the Man of Steel possesses. The chrome domed doom bringer that is Alexander Luthor, Junior is not someone you want to reckon with. He’s cold, calculating, methodical, and gives little regard for human life. That’s where the similarities between him and The Joker end. The fact that Luthor is not a deranged lunatic and rather a logical and calculating individual, actually makes him, in some ways, much more dangerous. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor poses no threat and makes a laughingstock out of possibly the most dangerous human being in the DC Comics pantheon. Eisenberg’s Luthor is eccentric, skinny, completely unassuming, non-threatening, and downright annoying. He’s creepy and weird, but not in a good way. Instead of chilling scenes…

like this, where Lex Luthor coldly demands your attention and tells you how the world is going to be a better place without Superman and how you’re going to help him whether you like it or not. We get Willy Wonka sticking Jolly Ranchers in your mouth.

Every scene with Lex Luthor plays out exactly like this. Creepy and unsettling, but not intimidating at all. One reviewer described it as “It’s like they were going to have Lex Luthor and The Joker, but they couldn’t get the Joker, so they just made Lex another Joker.” That is about right, except MetroSex Lex here is an insult to The Clown Prince of Crime.

Lex wants to kill Superman because he’s a god. and he is angry at God because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his alcoholic and abusive father. In order to kill Superman, he frames him for a war crime in Africa and blows up Capitol Hill, a suicide bombing which was carried out by a disgruntled former Wayne Industries employee who was mad at both Bruce Wayne and Superman, having been crippled in Superman’s battle against General Zod, even though Bruce Wayne not only had nothing to do with these attacks, he even saved Wally during the attacks. The paraplegic Wally hides a bomb in his fancy wheelchair and blows up a Superman-focused Senate hearing.

No, I would rather not explain the jar of Lex Luthor’s piss, but it has something to do with Kentucky. It’s always Kentucky. And yes, Lex Luthor’s plan is as needlessly convoluted as I previously described, but it gets more complicated. To force Superman into confrontation, he also kidnaps Martha Kent and Lois Laine. In case things didn’t work out as planned and Batman doesn’t kill Superman, he reanimated the body of General Zod into the supervillian Doomsday. And, yes, Luthor’s motives are as stupid and ill-defined as “I hate God.” I think that’s the movie’s attempt to be edgy and provocative but I’m not sure.

But then, towards the end of the film, we are treated to a rather nonsensical rant that apparently teases Darkseid. To be honest with you, when I saw this movie in theaters, Luthor’s rant was so jumbled and manic that I could not for the life of me decipher what it was supposed to mean.

You wanna know why Batman and Superman stop fighting and Batman goes to save Martha Kent? I’ll just roll the clip…

Yup. Superman isn’t killed by Batman because their mothers’ names are Martha. But wait… there’s more…

Yup, that’s right. Superman dies… he is literally dead. But wait… there’s more…

Somewhere at Warner Brothers, somehow, someone made the decision to kill the all-powerful, all-good, mostly unkillable Superman, only to have him resurrected in time for the next movie in the DCEU. You wanna hammer home that metaphor even more? I don’t think we get it. Jesus Christ… And see, told you that whole thing with Luthor made zero sense.

The thing about Dawn of Justice, and another thing that made it a kind of bad movie… it’s the start of a franchise, and that is the only thing the movie cares about. In addition to Superman’s death being the downright flimsiest excuse in the world to start the Justice League, there’s also a hard drive. You see, in his research of Superman, Lex Luthor also compiled data on other metahumans. I can think of no good reason for doing this except shoving WB’s next few tentpole releases right down your throat. The only reason Wonder Woman is even featured in this film is to tell Bruce about the drive.

And the scene in which Batman views the drive doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it’s a WB press kit. For Pete’s Sake, the Wonder Woman film was already in production at this point and there’s an ACTUAL set photo on the drive. The movie’s plot is literally put on hold for this, and it doesn’t matter.

The movie is literally called Dawn of Justice and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has already been established, everyone with half a brain cell knows you’re building a franchise. World building is fine, but Marvel Studios does it better. They leave that stuff for the epilogues. It’s a habit to stay after the credits for every Marvel release, but you don’t have to. In fact, most people are left having to Google the characters involved in the post-creds, anyway, but the thing is, we want to see what’s next, but not until the story you’ve promised us has already been done. That’s the beauty of just having subtle references to Doctor Strange in The Winter Soldier, or Wakanda showing up conspicuously on a map in the background in Iron Man 2.

A 45 second bit after the credits of Iron Man doesn’t make it a Nick Fury movie, and Sitwell’s frantic name-drop of Strange does nothing  Dawn of Justice literally pauses the movie and put the plot on hold for something most already knew and the rest of them could easily Google. It is obvious and transparent that Dawn of Justice exists exclusively for franchise maintainance. While Marvel treats franchise maintenance like the dessert course of a five-course meal, DC’s doing franchise maintainance like parents force feed their children broccoli. It’s annoying, stupid, and, after some consideration, the worst part of the movie.

That’s pretty much the bad stuff about this movie. Trust me, there’s some good stuff, too. I mentioned earlier that everything involving Bruce Wayne/Batman and Alfred is pitch perfect. Ben Affleck is the single best live-action Batman thus far. Let’s expound on that. Ben Affleck is partially based upon the older version featured in The Dark Knight Returns. In that storyline, the 55-year-old Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to fight crime. He is weaker since his retirement, but what he lacks in strength he makes up for in escalating brutality.

This Batman is the single most brutal and angry Batman in any medium. This Batman is a murderer, and that is something that is new and edgy. The thing about Batman is… he’s nuts. Bruce Wayne left Gotham as a teenager ans sought out the world’s top scientists, computer experts, chemists, martial artists, weapons designers, escape artists, etc. He did this with one singular goal in mind: create fear in the hearts of criminals. Instead of using his knowledge and skills to become the world’s top neurosurgeon and follow in his father’s footsteps, Bruce Wayne runs around dressed like a bat pummeling criminals every night. He’s got a profound case of PTSD and a warped sense of what justice is. Batman doesn’t want to protect this city. He thought he did for years because of the upright and stalwart morals his parents gave him. His real motive is “You killed my parents and you all must pay!” In his younger days, Bruce Wayne didn’t drink in order to keep his mind sharp and had little interest in sex. In this movie. Bruce is popping pills with alcohol while in bed with a supermodel.

Bruce has reached the stage where he doesn’t care anymore. He’s full of anger and rage, not morality and kindness. He kills without remorse and brands people. He’s older than his father ever was, and nothing’s changed, and that enrages him to the deepest level. I don’t know if that was originally a part of the script, or genius on behalf of Ben Affleck, but it is psychologically accurate Batman, and I didn’t know I needed that in my life, but I do.

Jeremy Irons is has the potential to surpass Michael Caine as the most important and influential Alfred, and I hope he does, because he’s a wonderful actor and every scene that features him in this film is downright perfect. He understands, and even plays into, Batman’s psychology. Nothing is good about this Batman. He’s terrifying, and that’s actually kind of awesome.

This is why you don’t need Lex, you don’t need Martha, you don’t need Lois Laine, Wonder Woman or Doomsday. Really 75% of this movie you don’t need. Batman already had his mind set on going blow to blow with Superman. He is absolutely terrified of the Big Blue Boy Scout.

You don’t need to make it anymore complicated than this: keep the opening scene of the movie how it is, cut out Lex, have Batman assemble kryptonite weaponry, have Superman try to prevent that, have little skirmishes, then a big climactic battle. The problem is the franchise management. WB came in and messed with Chris Terrio’s script, filled it to the brim with all the bad stuff I mentioned earlier, thinking references are what make a good superhero movie, and then this mess happened. This is my theory, because there’s a lot of really great stuff in here, and the actual Batman v. Superman fight is pretty entertaining. Once it gets to Doomsday, not so much, but I blame WB for that.

This is a very visual and stylistic movie, and that is Zack Snyder’s strong suit. I am not a big fan of the guy and his style over substance approach, but the guy knows how to make a comic book movie. He knows how splash pages work.

I blame Warner Brothers and Warner Brothers alone for the bad stuff in this movie. The Ultimate Cut does what it can to add some padding between the crap and the good. Fundamentally, it changes absolutely nothing, but it does add interesting stuff like this…

And it does make the whole stupid “Superman committed a war crime in Africa” thing make a lot more sense.

The problem is that all the bad stuff is so intrinsically tied to the movie that there’s no way to fix it. The Ultimate Edition attempts to offset the balance of the crap with some more good stuff, but it is still a bad movie. I don’t blame Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer, I certainly don’t blame Ben Affleck, and I don’t even blame Henry Cavill or Jessie Eisenberg. I blame Warner Brothers and their need to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re doing it all wrong, and I hope they redeem themselves with Suicide Squad and/or Justice League. At the very least, I hope the DC Extended Universe survives long enough for Ben Affleck to make his own Batman movie, and I think he hopes so, too.

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