Wednesday, August 3, 2016

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — Ultimate Edition" (2016)

Starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck and Amy Adams
Written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
Directed by Zack Snyder
Rated R: Violence, language, frightening images
Running Time: 181 Minutes

After the battle against the forces of General Zod in Metropolis, the world is divided over how to respond to Superman (Henry Cavill). Some see him as a savior, others as a potential threat. Two men in particular, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) fall into the latter group. For months, Wayne, as his alter-ego Batman, has been tearing apart Gotham City's underworld looking for someone or something called the White Portuguese. At the same time, Lex has been manipulating Wayne, the US Government and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in a plot to discredit and demoralize Superman.

As Batman gets closer to his goal, his methods grow more brutal and disturbing. Superman decides he's gone too far, and delivers a warning for Batman to stop or be stopped. Lex decides to take advantage of this rivalry, steering the two heroes toward a confrontation that he hopes will leave Batman dead and Superman disgraced in the eyes of the world.
Oh, okay, here we go... In my original review for the theatrical version of "Batman v Superman," I mentioned that there are parts of this film that work very well and parts that just don't. And that remains true, because most of the problems with the film aren't ones that can really be fixed by editing.

So what does this new "Ultimate Edition" fix? Firstly, the whole thing feels much more cohesive. Stranded plot threads like Lois' investigation into the events in Africa and how that ties into Lex's plan make much more sense. Clark's revulsion at Batman's increasing brutality is given more grounding and explanation as well. The whole thing just feels like a complete movie, finally... 

...except for the parts that feel like they belong in a totally different movie. One major piece of this movie that editing can't save is Jesse Eisenberg's boffo interpretation of Lex Luthor. He still brings every scene he's in to a grinding, awkward halt. That scene where Luthor gives a speech at a charity function is spectacularly bad. Even though his nefarious plot makes more sense and is better explained, Luthor himself is a huge miscalculation on the part of Eisenberg and the filmmakers, robbing the film's central villain of any real menace and throwing any sense of tonal cohesion out the window.

Additionally, the film's ham-fisted attempts to set up future DC movies is just as bad as it was before. Batman's apocalyptic vision of a future where Superman has gone bad and Darkseid's parademons is still jarringly edited into the film. If it's supposed to help explain Batman's growing fear and paranoia about Superman's power, that effect is ruined by how awkwardly the whole thing is handled. No attempt was made to smooth the transition from the vision into Flash's appearance from the future — which still ends with Bruce appearing to wake up at his desk. Why is Bruce jarring awake? If it was a vision and/or dream, why are there papers fluttering about in the air behind him?

The 3rd-act scene where Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman watches video footage of other heroes still feels unnecessary and overlong. It seems to go on much longer than it actually does, for no real reason, when quicker glimpses would have been better and more impactful. 

But here's what it all comes down to: If your problem with "Batman v Superman" had nothing to do with the film's interpretation of these characters, you'll probably find this to be a smoother, more complete film experience. It's still imperfect, but the added footage does help things make more sense and feel less jumbled (though no less jam-packed; there's a lot going on here). 

But if your problem with "Batman v Superman" was that you straight-up hated an emotionally troubled Superman, an overly vicious Batman and an overbearingly bonkers Lex Luthor... this version isn't going to change your mind. The "Ultimate Edition" doesn't change anything about the film on a conceptual level — indeed, it can't — so be warned before settling in for a 3-hour experience that you'll either find to be enlightening or a total slog.