Review for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)
I finally got around to watching Man of Steel last year, and found much to appreciate about its more realistic take on a world’s reaction to a Superman. In that respect, it was following in the footsteps of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. True, the boy scout nature of the Superman story doesn’t sit quite as well in a dark and realistic paradigm, but the film does ask some questions, especially about the nature of saviours and humanity’s reaction to them, as well as the consequences of titans destroying cities in their epic battles, seemingly uncaring of treading on the ‘ants’ that dwell in them. A lot of people saw this as a weakness in Man of Steel, but by the time I did finally see it, the trailer for Batman V Superman had come out, and it looked as if the sequel would answer these questions. That made me more favourable towards Man of Steel. Then Batman V Superman was released, and the reviews started coming in. Which is why I’m watching it now, long past its sell by date, when the Blu-ray was occupying a supermarket bargain bucket. Actually there are 2 Blu-rays, as this release also contains the Ultimate Edition, half an hour longer than the Theatrical Version, which I’ll watch first.
18 months have passed since the battle of Metropolis, when Superman and the forces of General Zod tore the city apart in their conflict. Metropolis has started rebuilding, and the world is trying to come to terms with having a genuine saviour in humanity’s midst. Just what are Superman’s motives, who does he answer to, can he even be trusted? For Bruce Wayne who saw firsthand the effects of Superman’s presence on the Wayne building in Metropolis during that battle, the answer is clear. Superman is a threat to humanity, one that he will deal with. That possibility seems remote, until a wealthy industrialist finances a salvage operation to one of the crashed Kryptonian ships, and uncovers a mineral with remarkable properties. But Lex Luthor has other schemes in play as well.
It’s a quick and easy section to write, as Batman V Superman gets the crystal clear, and pixel perfect transfer of a recent film. The 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer can’t be faulted and neither can the Dolby Atmos English track, even if I could only play 5.1 out of the 7.1 channels of the core track. The blurb on the back of the case is somewhat error strewn, as in terms of audio you actually get DD 5.1 English Audio Descriptive, Spanish, Italian, Thai and Mandarin, with subtitles in these languages, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Icelandic and Norwegian. Once again, the world of Superman tends towards the dark and desaturated, meaning Batman looks more at home in this movie. The action is impressive, until that point where it becomes a CG animation, and the impressive surround audio really drives the film well, even if the music score is all over the place, never quite picking a tone, or developing a consistent theme.
You get two discs in a Blu-ray Amaray, one on each inner face. There is also an Ultraviolet code for a digital copy of the film, which is valid until the end of 2019.
Disc 1 boots to an animated menu, where you will find 10 featurettes looking at the making of the film, with interviews with cast and crew, behind the scenes footage (with too much green screen), and clips from the film. In total they run to 118:46 and are presented in HD. There is also a Save the Bats featurette running to 4:37, which offers a little eco-friendliness.
Batman vs. Superman with Lex Luthor pulling the strings; that could have made for a hell of a movie. You didn’t really need more than that. Alas this is less Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, as it is the DC Universe movie, with Wonder Woman front and centre on the Blu-ray cover. Now, much as I love her action sequences towards the end of the film, easily my favourite aspect of the climax, the story doesn’t need Wonder Woman or her alter ego Diana Prince. And we also take a breather two thirds of the way through to look at some files on Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash, the kind of thing that if necessary, should have been left for a post credits coda. If this film did one thing, it did get me jazzed for when the Wonder Woman movie makes it to Blu-ray. It didn’t enthuse me about Batman and Superman, which is a shame given the name of the film.
The problem is character or rather lack of it. Suffice it to say that I was wholly unmoved by the climax of the film. The film might have addressed my questions lingering from The Man of Steel, but not in ways that made a great deal of sense. Superman/Clark Kent is trying to understand his place in the world yet his actions lack consistency, boy scout one minute, and vengeful god the next when his girlfriend is in danger. Then there’s Batman/Bruce Wayne, a character that I thought might be interesting given that he’s older than most of the screen Batmans that we have seen. He’s grizzled, more cynical and less hopeful. But Ben Affleck plays ‘Grumpy Bloke in a Suit’ Man instead of Batman, with no qualms about killing or torturing the bad guys, and just as careless as Superman when it comes to collateral damage, albeit on a smaller scale. The less said about Lex Luthor the better, portrayed with a breathtaking lack of charisma, and more like a teenage prankster.
Even with these warped versions of Batman and Superman, in this cynical vision of the world, there was room for an interesting movie, the battle of man against god, but this film tried to do too much, setting up the DC Universe with an abundance of character introductions, and throwing in Doomsday as the ultimate villain, resulting in a climactic CGI slugfest, and wasting in half an hour a character that could and indeed should have driven an entire feature film. Now let’s see if the Extended Version makes any difference...
Half an hour of extra footage does indeed make a difference. It’s not going to suddenly redeem a lacklustre movie, and many of the complaints that I have about this film do still apply. It is still dour, lacks passion, lacks the comic fizz that dark films need to lighten the mood, and much as I enjoy Jeremy Irons’ turn as Alfred, his finely honed sarcasm is not enough to balance the dark and depressing side of the film. It’s also still hamstrung by needing to sell the whole DC Universe thing, and once again, even though I do think that Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is the best thing in this film, she really doesn’t need to be in a movie named Batman V Superman.
But what the Ultimate Edition does with its extra half hour is that it fleshes out and develops the characters. The added and extended scenes really bring weight to what both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are going through, Wayne’s need for revenge, and Kent’s ambivalence about being a saviour figure. It also has a clearer path for the characters that builds up to their inevitable confrontation. It feels more natural in this version, less contrived. Finally the whole plot arc of Lex Luthor’s manipulation of events to add to their antagonism is better delineated as well, beginning with the Africa scene right the way through to the end. It’s so much better that I appreciated Lex Luthor’s character in the Ultimate Edition in a way that I didn’t in the Theatrical Cut. It also doesn’t hurt that the UE fills in a rather glaring plot hole.
The Ultimate Edition can’t redeem a disappointing movie, but it can make it watchable, and brings this film on a par with Man of Steel. But they really need to bring a sense of fun and of colour to the DC Universe. These are called comic books after all.