Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition) [BLU-RAY REVIEW]

Batman V Superman Ultimate Edition (Images via Warner Brothers.)Director: Zack Snyder
Production Company: Warner Brothers
Genre: Action/Adventure; Noir/Comic Book
One Sentence Synopsis: The dark knight of Gotham takes on the revered savior of Metropolis
Series: DC Cinematic Universe
Release Date: July 19, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of violence
Running Time: 182 minutes
MSRP: $24.99
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Reviewed by: Reverend Leviathan
Final Score: 5.0 Moons (out of 5)

Brilliant Moon Award

After witnessing the death and destruction that took place during the battle between Superman and General Zod, Bruce Wayne becomes more and more suspicious of the red-caped crusader.  Can Superman really be trusted?  What if he turns on the human race?

As the months after the destructive battle slide by, his suspicions grow darker and darker.    For if power tends to corrupt, than how could the God-like power Superman wields not corrupt him absolutely? Who could stand up against him?    The only way to be sure is to leave his retirement as the Batman long enough to forge a weapon capable of ending the threat Superman poses.

Amidst the carnage of the Batman going on a vigilante rampage, he leaves in his wake many who find his methods cruel and fascist, with might making right.  Amidst the pain and suffering, what can Clark Kent make of this Batman of Gotham?  Clark investigates the Bat’s form of justice, coming to believe the only person who can force him to relent is his own super-powered alterego. As the two find themselves colliding with one another in a head to head game of mutually assured destruction, their true enemies watch with delight.

Content

Backstory

Although the theatrical release of Batman V Superman (BVS) is considered a financial success (because its worldwide take was $872 million, which is over 3 times its $250 million production budget), it wasn’t the juggernaut Warner Brothers had been anticipating.  The lack of Avengers-like numbers was largely due the fact that BVS received a Rotten Tomatoes score (which represents the percentage of critics that would recommend a film) of around 30% and had a fanbase with very mixed reactions, who didn’t go back to rewatch the film in theaters or tell their non-fan friends to rush out and watch it.

We first got an inkling that there might be some divided opinions on the theatrical release within Warner Brothers when they actually announced the release of an Ultimate Edition with 30 minutes of “extra footage” and an R-rating BEFORE the theatrical version of BVS debuted.  (Normally, studios don’t announce anything about a Blu-Ray or DVD release of a film until long after the film is released in theaters.  They certainly don’t tell you that, essentially, a better version of the film will be along in six months–as it could almost seem like you’re telling audiences to skip the theatrical release of your film and wait for Blu-Ray.  Or, like Zach Snyder had a clause in his contract that said that, if the studio didn’t release his version of the film, Warner Brothers had to announce when his version would be available BEFORE the theatrical release of the other film.)  

After four long months, we finally got to see the release of the Ultimate Edition which restores the film to the edit Snyder had originally signed off on (and which was reported to have received a standing ovation from WB execs when it was first completed).  Now that it’s out, many critics who actively hated the theatrical version are apologizing to Zack Snyder and very vocally expressing favor for his TRUE cut of the film.

Theatrical Cut

Beginning where Man of Steel ended, I thought the writers did a great job tying these films together by making Bruce Wayne present in Metropolis (which, in the cinematic universe, is now separated only by a bay, rather than a good thousand miles as was inferred in the comics) to witness firsthand the destruction that Superman is capable of.  That’s where the tension really seems to begin.  What adds to this is that Bruce Wayne is not the only one who is questioning Superman, but a lot of the American people, the media and the government, putting Clark Kent at odds with himself, wondering if he should continue to try and do good–or if it would be better to just leave humanity alone.

I really appreciated how Batman was explored in BVS, with Ben Affleck’s portrayal of him being very reminiscent of the Batman Animated series in in the 90’s .  This even darker version of the character that’s been fighting crime for 20 years and, due to his own demons, seems to have actually retired prior to the events of the movie.  As he returns to fighting crime to get to the bottom of finding the weapon he needs, he sinks further into his increasingly dark, anti-hero brand of justice, which at one time causes him to darkly justify his actions to Alfred with, “We’re criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals. Nothing’s changed.”  The fact that one of the “easter eggs” in the film is the inclusion of the brutal version of Robin’s suit in the Batcave with the famous lines,  “HA HA HA The Joke’s On You, Batman,” scrawled on them is a clear indication that some version of the “Death in the Family” storyline — a pivotal event from the comics in which Joker murders Robin by beating him to death with a crowbar — has occurred in the DC Cinematic universe, further clarifying how the Batman has grown so viciously cynical and angry.

Also reminiscent of the Animated series, Alfred has a key role in what Bruce is able to do as Batman. Not relegated to a sidekick, however, he actually has a lot of logistical input on how Batman accomplishes his missions, not unlike the role that Oracle played in the comics.  Beyond that, however, he’s essentially Bruce’s godfather who’s mentored him over the years.  In that role, Alfred has clearly developed both a loathing for the Bat persona that torments Bruce, as well as a resigned acceptance that its active presence in his ward’s life will never change.

SPOILERS AHEAD (The next paragraph contains spoilers)

Snyder and his team did a good job covering both superheroes through their trials, the tension building between the two of them while Lex Luthor acts as a deranged antagonist.  All of the frustration finally leads up to the epic battle between them that the film promises and delivers.  Fortunately, a powerful bit of psychological understanding from the writing staff permits the two fighters to shelve their differences in favor of dealing with a worse threat in the form of the Kryptonian-hybrid destroyer, Doomsday.  Fortunately, they aren’t forced to fight this titan alone, being joined by Wonder Woman whose mystical origins as a demigod give them a fighting chance against the worldkiller.  (Although never clarified in the movie, Kryptonians are vulnerable to anything magic or mystical, which is why Wonder Woman’s presence is so crucial–both in this fight, but also in the eventual JLA.)  Being familiar with the comics I was curious if they were going to stay true to the extremely famous Doomsday/Superman story arc and I was not disappointed by the artistic way they explored those elements.  Overall I was pleased with how everything played out, and, in fact, found myself so full of emotion that I am not ashamed to say that I actually cried in the film.  I can’t wait to see the Justice League film next year which will continue the story–and may give insight to the visions Batman has which, according to my editor, seem to indicate at least a war with Darkseid, but could also indicate an inclusion of some of the key elements of the now famous, Injustice: Gods Among Us storyline.

Ultimate Edition

Even though I liked the Theatrical Version of BVS, the restoration of Snyder’s original edit, footage, and pacing in the Ultimate Edition were a revelation, making the storyline flow so much better and removing most of choppiness and confusion that was in the Theatrical Cut.  The entire investigation of the Batman and his reign of terror by Clark has been restored (making it much clearer why Superman’s weary of the vigilante), as have crucial details in the trial related to Superman’s involvement in stopping a terrorist group.  Additionally, longer and greater dialogue between characters give the film more emotion, power, and suspense.  Not the least of these is as an amazing conversation between Lex and Batman which gave better insight into both characters, but may well be directly referencing events from the upcoming Ben Affleck-direct prequel, The Batman.

The R rating is a natural consequence of showcasing more of the viciously brutal fighting that the Batman engages in during this dark chapter in his life–as this particular Batman isn’t terribly concerned with blowing people away with a Batmobile-mounted machine gun or viciously breaking their backs during combat (which is kind of ironic, when he’s kind of doing what Bane did to him in the comics).  This is the cut of the film that tells the greater story that people most wanted.

Presentation

This package contains the theatrical cut and Ultimate Edition on Blu-ray disc, a license code for a Digital streamed/download of the Ultimate Edition, and the theatrical cut on DVD; three discs in all. All extra features are contained on one of the Blu-ray discs.

There are over two hours of special features and they are awesome! One disappointment is the lack of a commentary, as I am a total movie nerd and I love learning about the film while watching it.  However, you get a Behind-the-Scenes look at Justice League with the origin story and description of each member that appears in BVS; another Behind-the-Scenes look at BVS with the story behind the aggression that exists between Batman and Superman; last Behind-the-Scenes look at the upcoming Wonder Woman film that discusses her origin and evolution, even including an interview with the creator of the DC character.  The real villain of the film, Lex Luthor, also has an origin story.  I learned a lot about the characters through the features included.

My favorite featurette  looked at how the Batmobile has gone through different models with each Batman movie, and you get to witness the designing of the current Batmobile.  The crew takes you on their journey of comparing the past designs and attempting to make their own.  You watch as they build it from scratch, test drive it and finally place it in the film.

While I wish the DVD copy would have contained the Ultimate Edition, I know that this would’ve required them to split it into two DVDs which doesn’t make sense from a financial sense in a Blu-Ray pack.  Unfortunately, however, they didn’t even make a DVD-only version available of the Ultimate edition in their standalone DVD packages, but offer just the Theatrical version in this format.  So, for people who do not have Blu-ray players or easy access to viewing the digital version, you’re stuck with just the theatrical version.  (You do get most of the bonus features on a separate DVD in the DVD-only package, just not the Ultimate Edition.)

Gothic Fit

The dark atmosphere that exists throughout this movie makes it one of the most Gothic comic book movies we’ve had since The Crow.  A lot of the sequences take place during the night or in the rain, amidst very powerful and dark emotions.  I find that most Goths tend to be lovers of Batman, and in this film he’s going towards Frank Miller’s epic Dark Knight run in the comics (no mercy, filled with rage, and wondering if anything matters after 20 years).

Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL gave the film an amazing musical score with a lot of dark overtones, really emphasizing the struggle that goes on inside of Batman and Superman.  I personally found it comparable to the darker score that Danny Elfman wrote for the first two Tim Burton Batman films.

The struggle that goes on between Batman and Superman is the struggle that goes on inside of all of us; the night fighting the day, darkness fighting light, only to realize they are two sides of the same coin.  I think Goths will really be able to relate to the pain that both characters go through, especially with being misunderstood and misrepresented by the media and by society.

Closing Thoughts

Those who enjoyed the theatrical cut of Batman V Superman will love the Ultimate Edition and never want to watch the theatrical again!  And those who did not care for the theatrical cut really owe it to themselves to give the Ultimate Cut of this film a chance and check out this cut of the movie!

Shortly after the theatrical release of BVS, Ben Affleck was announced to be put in a much more powerful executive producer role over Justice League, causing many critics to say that this was so that “Snyder couldn’t screw up Justice League.”  Now that the Ultimate Edition is out, I suspect that our better hope is that Ben Affleck will be able to protect Snyder from whatever studio intervention carved up the Ultimate Edition into the Theatrical one.  If that happens, then the Theatrical Edition of Justice League might well be the critically acclaimed masterpiece that Snyder deserves to be credited with–and WB might finally get some of that Avengers-level ticket money their properties really deserve!

Story: 4.0 Moons (out of 5)
Presentation: 4.0 Moons (out of 5)
Gothic Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of 5)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5)

Score: Five Moons

Author: Reverend Leviathan

Reverend Leviathan is the Music & Media Editor at DarkestGoth Magazine.

He has been part of the Gothic community since his high school years. He released an album in 2008 entitled "Eden's Graveyard" and has also self-published a book, Gothlic: The Testimony of a Catholic Goth. He specializes in music (Goth, ambient, industrial, horror punk and doom metal) and independent films. You can follow him at Facebook.com/revleviathan7.

If you have questions about having your music or media reviewed or featured at DarkestGoth, you can email Reverend Leviathan directly. (Not all music or media will be eligible for coverage by DGM, due to its style or the current knowledge base of DGM staff. If your media is accepted, we are currently estimating a 90-120 day turnaround for reviews and/or other coverage, so please plan requests accordingly.)

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