With Wonder Woman arriving for home video consumption with August 29th DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital release date, I thought we could take a look back at the film that officially launched the DCEU and gave us our first look at Gal Gadot in action as Princess of the Amazons, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
I already know what you’re thinking, “Why?” I get it. For all the money that this second installment in the DCEU (yes Man of Steel is considered to first official film in the new DCEU) generated at the box office, the film itself is still considered terrible with a Rotten Tomato score of just 27% Fresh. Upon my first viewing of the theatrical cut at my local theater I remember thinking, how could they have gotten this so wrong? I decided to give the movie a second chance once it was released on home video, deciding to watch the extended cut of the film. Upon this second viewing it became very apparent that the extended edition and theatrical edition give two very different narratives of what leads our two heroes towards their collision course.
Now I whole heartedly recommend the Ultimate Edition Extended Cut of BVS:DOJ for your second viewing. I know what you’re thinking, “wasn’t sitting through two and a half hours of the theatrical cut torture enough?” Yes it was, but most of what was lost on the cutting room floor was expository. Those missing scenes help make the film more comprehensive and eliminates the head scratching that the theatrical version left you with.
Now for some perspective I did enjoy Man of Steel, and outside of Richard Donner’s Superman 2 it is perhaps my favorite Superman film. The more “realistic/darker” take on the Superhero genre is something that appeals to me. I always felt that for these heroes and villains fighting with god-like powers collateral damage being contained to a couple of city blocks was for a lack of a better word dumb. Maybe with previous films this was due to budgetary constraints or maybe the imagery of mass destruction was more than the audience could handle. In many ways many of the critiques of man of steel showed that audiences perhaps were not ready for all the carnage. After years of Marvel Movies at the theater perhaps audiences weren’t prepared for D.C. to go so dark. This is one of the main critiques of BVS:DOJ, that it felt bereft of a kind of humor or joy. Now this is one of the problems with the movie that the Ultimate Edition could not fix, however the additional scenes do help alleviate what felt like manic pacing and storytelling in the original cut. In the end this makes for a slightly more enjoyable film.
Most of the previously cut expository material centers around Lex Luthor’s(Jesse Eisenberg) manipulation of the titular heroes. Framing Superman for the burning of the African Rebel Soldiers, and ordering the prison hit on the criminal batman brings in creating distrust between the heroes leading each of the characters to believe the other was a menace to society. It erases what seemed to be stupid and erratic behavior on the parts of both our heroes and ties in their rationale for their actions.
Ben Affleck still makes a pretty solid Batman. Any disappointment with his portrayal of the Caped Crusader is due to what was left on the cutting room floor. The theatrical cut gives us a Batman who seems pretty dumb and is in no way the worlds greatest detective. It’s his teetering into a madness caused 20 years of damage from his fight against crime in Gotham that we’re meant to get as the audience. In the extended cut were allowed to see how and Bruce Wayne/Batman starts to believe a “Godlike” Superman can be the greatest threat the world has seen. His desire is merely to stop Superman before he can become that threat.
In Clark Kent/Superman’s extended story we see Clark operate as an investigative journalist. Digging up what he can about the “Gotham Bat.” It’s in these moment that we see more of the behind the scene manipulation Luthor’s conducting that leads Clark to believe that Batman is nothing more than a blood thirsty vigilante. This in turn will lead to the first face off between the two heroes in which Superman basically tells Batman to knock off his vigilante activities.
Also lost was Luthor’s manipulation of Senator Filch(Holly Hunter) and Senator Barrows(Dennis North) so that he could gain access to the Kryptonian ship, its technology and General Zod’s body. A manipulation that Senator Finch becomes all too aware of and then is eliminated by Luthor before she has a chance to correct her error. This all makes Luthor seem a bit more diabolical, which makes Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Superman’s longest running rival a bit more tolerable.
The film ultimately still suffers from trying to stuff twenties pounds of crap in a five-pound bag, but with the additional expository information it does at least make some sense and has better pacing. Attempting to squeeze Doomsday and the death of Superman storyline in a film already filled to the brim with undercurrents of Franks Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns was wholly unnecessary. The only total positive of the movie is the first cinematic appearance of Wonder Woman, who we see early in the film as Diana Prince, but absolutely steals the show once in battle garb with sword and shield along with absolutely kick ass theme music.
Now I am in no way suggesting that the extended edition catapults this film from bad to good, but it certainly makes it more watchable. If the rest of the DCEU follows in the footsteps of its first certifiable hit in Wonder Woman, the the Ultimate Edition of BVS:DOJ is a tiny bit easier to swallow as the launching point of this cinematic universe.