At this point, it's no secret that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not the movie it could have been. Fans waited for years with bated breath for the two most iconic heroes in history to square off on the big screen; geekdom at large was anticipating an epic of suitably god-like proportions. For the movie to live up to the nearly tangible cloud of hype hanging over it would have been nigh impossible but no one expected the film to be as ill-received as it ended up being. To quote Wonder Woman in the latest Justice League Teaser, what we got was "more less" rather than "more more."
That's not to say that the film was a completely meritless exercise, as it definitely had its highlights. Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck were welcome additions to the universe launched in Man of Steel and both brought a sense of gravitas and weight to the proceedings. Affleck practically steals the film with his powerful yet world-weary take on the caped crusader. The issue then was in the fractured, porous narrative that failed to capitalize on an otherwise interesting thematic centerpiece: how should the world react to a god-like being? The theatrical cut is filled with incomplete narrative threads that ultimately leave the audience head-scratching more than hand-clapping. In addition, like Man of Steel before it, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice collapses into a cacophony of effects in its final act that, while visually spectacular, are ultimately hollow.
The Ultimate Edition inserts about 30 extra minutes of footage that was left on the cutting room floor, and while it doesn't salvage the final act from being an optical orgy, it does give the narrative a much needed sense of structure and progression. What's most curious about this extended cut is not necessarily the question of why these scenes were cut, but rather why other scenes made the theatrical in favor of these scenes. A lot of the final fight scene could have been trimmed down in order to make room for scenes that, in my opinion, contribute immensely to the narrative and create a far greater sense of understanding of character motivations, not to mention improving the character development of both Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
In the theatrical cut, the character of Clark Kent is an angsty afterthought, left to pick at morsels of scenery that only barely sit above filler. He argues with Perry, he gets upset at the TV a few times, and he demonstrates a disturbing lack of recognition of Gotham City's most famous public figure. In contrast, the Ultimate Edition Clark Kent spends much of his time researching and just generally being an actual investigative reporter. He may still be shades darker and more brooding than we'd like, and demonstrates little to none of the endearing clumsiness characteristic of Clark, but he at least feels like a real person here who does more than stare sullenly at the TV.
Similarly, Lois Lane is given far more to do in unraveling the threads of mystery surrounding her desert adventure, ultimately leading her to uncover Lex's role in the situation. As we see her put together the pieces and peel back the layers of deception, not only does she hew closer to the intrepid, intelligent, indefatigable reporter from the source material, but we as an audience also come to understand Lex's plan far more than we ever did in the theatrical cut. The Africa prologue is explained in far more detail, in addition to many other sequences that were confusing and indecipherable in the theatrical cut (the woman testifying before the Senate, why Superman was unable to see the bomb in the wheelchair, etc.).
While not every scene added in this Ultimate Edition feel necessary (see the inexplicably numerous scenes of Metropolis v Gotham football games), a lot of it would have significantly lifted the narrative to a far more intelligible level, cushioning the landing ever so slightly as the film dove into a rough sea of scathing reviews. Overall, the Ultimate Edition reveals not that the 3 hour cut was the film we deserved, but rather that there was a much better (and far less spectacle-heavy) 2 and a half hour film in there somewhere. Here's hoping Justice League and Wonder Woman take note when they reach the editing stage.