When the wife and I initially saw the movie in theaters, we both enjoyed yet. Yes, I understood problems people had with the movie, but they were not problems for me. Due to some life issues, I was delayed in writing a review for that version of the film, and when they announced the Ultimate Edition, I just decided to wait for it. So, I bought the Ultimate Edition on blu-ray, and watched it with a friend that had not seen it in theaters.
As we’re watching the movie, every now and then I’d point out some scenes that weren’t in the theatrical release. And as we got further along in the movie, these “extra” scenes actually started to upset me. I wasn’t upset that I was watching an even longer version of this movie with unnecessary fluff scenes added back in. No, I was upset because these were scenes that had no business being cut out of the movie in the first place.
These scenes would have greatly helped the story to those that complained that the story didn’t make sense. Well, in this extra 30 minutes, the story does make sense. There are entire sub-plots that are vital to leading us to the point where Batman and Superman would be fighting. Spoilers after the break.
One of these sub-plots has to deal with the early scene in the dessert, where the black ops team takes out a group in a village, and then Superman flies in to rescue Lois. The theatrical version pretty much jumps into Congress blaming Superman for this, for some reason. What was cut out was the black ops team leaving before Superman arrives, a woman supposedly from the village saying she saw Superman kill everyone, and then her getting taken out by the black ops team. This sequence fills in the plot hole of just why Congress was coming after Superman.
The other major subplot involves the man that Batman brands early on in the movie. Clark Kent is investigating what is happening with this prisoner, and hears from everyone that the brand is essentially a death sentence. The criminal gets transferred to Metropolis, but still ends up getting killed in prison. This turns Clark Kent against the Batman, because he doesn’t like the irresponsibility of his actions, knowing what will happen to the criminals that he brands.
But that’s just the extra stuff in the Ultimate Edition. What about the rest of the movie? I supposed I better talk about it as well. I will admit that Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is weird. I don’t hate it, and I think that we’ll see a more traditional Luthor if he shows up again, but the portrayal is distractedly different from what we’re used to seeing. It’s like someone had the idea that since everyone loves the Joker so much, that Superman’s main villain should act similar to Batman’s. And that’s wrong. Superman is different than Batman. Superman’s villains should be different. But at least the motivations were still there. Luthor is acting in what he believes to be the best interest of humanity. Of course, how that equates to him creating the Doomsday monster is unknown. Well, I know how he does it. He gains access to Zod’s ship. It’s the why that still ponders me. Why would he unleash this alien monster on the world? Is it because he didn’t get his way with the Batman/Superman fight he set up and went with plan B? Did he think that he’d be able to control this monster? That’s still a question, but it’s a small question in my mind. And yes, Doomsday does look a bit silly at first, but there are evolutions that he goes through, and ends up looking alright.
Next, there’s Batman. I liked Ben Affleck’s Batman, and thought he was fine older Bruce Wayne. I liked that they went with voice modulator to get the Batman voice, rather than trying to repeat the Bale growl. The interactions between Alfred and Bruce/Batman were also well done. It was nice to see the dynamic between the two after they had been fighting the fight for many years. With Jeremy Irons, you had an Alfred that seemed more like a partner than just the butler that fussed over Bruce’s injuries. It reminded me of the Alfred from the Batman Earth One series. That Alfred was more of a bodyguard than a butler. I can easily see this Alfred as having a similar background.
And then there’s Wonder Woman. I think Gal Gadot is a wonderful Wonder Woman. In this movie, just get a sampling of what she’ll bring. There’s just enough of characterization to establish the Wonder Woman that we’ll see in the Justice League movie. I’m assuming we’ll see a slightly different version in her solo movie, as that will be set in the past, and will be her first interactions with the outside world. There were also glimpses of Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash, but nothing other than a tease really.
Buried within this movie is an interesting exploration of how people view Superman. You get a lot of the “savior” aspect by people that he actually saves. But then there’s collateral damage as a result of his battle with Zod, and it’s actually this collateral damage that drives Bruce/Batman’s fear/hatred of him. If you get caught up in the destruction, then any good that he does is lost on you, because only the bad has impacted you.
There are a couple story items I want to talk about before wrapping this up. The first is that Batman does rack up a body count in this movie. This angered many people, as they clung to the belief that Batman doesn’t kill anyone. And in the comics, that’s generally true. But it gets blurry when you get outside of the comics. Maybe no straight up killing in the movies, but some definite instances of letting people die. In the most recent video game, Batman Arkham Knight, it’s a bit unbelievable that no one would die, after you run them over in the Batmobile. But in this movie, it’s pretty blatant during a chase scene. Batman uses machine guns, at one point drags a car full of people through the streets and slings it at another car full of people. He also jumps the car through the back of a semi-trailer, definitely taking someone out. So, is this something Batman should be doing? I don’t know. The “no killing” rule is a great, heroic thing to aspire to, but how many other characters are held to that same standard? Is it even reasonable to expect that out of Batman? I really don’t know, but it does sound like a good discussion topic.
The next bit of story I want to talk about is the Apokolips scene. Bruce is in the cave, trying to decode some files, and then suddenly we’re transported to a desert setting, with a large Omega symbol burned into the ground, ruins in the distance, and large columns of fire. A comics fan should recognize this as Apokolips, home of Darkseid. But they don’t do a good job of explaining that. Batman seems to be leading a rebel type group, and are ambushed by soldiers with Superman patches. Batman is captured, and is confronted by Superman. Superman says that she was his world, and he [Batman] let her die. Then Bruce wakes up and is greeted by the Flash who is traveling in a portal of some sort. He tells Batman that he was right about him, and that she’s the key. And then Bruce wakes up again. Now, what just happened is that Flash went traveling through time, and a “time echo” of the future, or a possible future, traveled back with him. None of this is explained. The view is just left wondering what the hell just happened. And it is a jarring scene. The best thing to do is to consider it a dream, move on, and don’t think about it again.
At this point, I would recommend staying away from the theatrical version of the movie, and just always watch the Ultimate Edition. My fear is that Warner Bros. learns the wrong lesson from the critical bashing that this movie got. I feel like the problem was that they took what should have been a 3 hour movie, and tried to get it down to 2.5 hours. That’s a huge mistake. The movie is long is a more acceptable complaint than the movie doesn’t make any sense. We’ll see moving forward. My hope is that as Geoff Johns becomes more involved, when there is studio involvement, it’ll now be by someone that gets the characters, and isn’t going to be swayed by the latest fad.