Author’s Note: This article will mainly draw from the recent release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I will go into spoilers with this one, so if you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you watch it before reading this article. The article starts with a short review, and then the main topic.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice…the movie everyone had been waiting for. Proposed as the sequel to Man of Steel back in 2013, fans clamored at the idea of finally seeing not only Batman and Superman on the same screen for the first time in cinematic history, but also Wonder Woman in her cinematic debut.
Man of Steel had left a bad taste in a majority of Superman fans’ mouths (myself not being one of those people; I never had a MAJOR problem with the film, even though it had a few flaws). Instead of seeing a bright, hopeful adaptation of Superman, they received a darker, more Nolan-esque rendition of the famous DC Comics hero. Add that with the destruction of an entire city and a hero doing the unthinkable (killing General Zod to save a family), and you’ll definitely have upset fans on your hands.
But then DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment decided to do the unimaginable: instead of going with the suspected Man of Steel 2, they decided to throw Batman and Wonder Woman into the mix, a ploy to create a cinematic universe much like Marvel had done for a successful eight years now. Two years after the announcement, fans waited for any glimpse into the anticipated project. There was a much-talked-about teaser trailer, and a few details released about the film, but not enough to get fans amped.
And then the Comic-Con trailer was released.
This trailer was easily my favorite trailer of 2015, even more so than the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens. This trailer was not only edited beautifully, but it hit on all the points that fans were waiting for: Superman being put on trial for his “crimes” against Metropolis, Batman struggling with what to do about Superman, Lex Luthor playing his game of chess in order to take out the man of steel, Wonder Woman’s glory moments, and the main event: the title fight between Batman and Superman.
So the movie begins, and moviegoers are presented with these words on a white background: “Metropolis – the world is introduced to the Superman.” I honestly love that tagline, mainly because I love the quasi-realistic, sociopolitical approach to these stylized films. We see Bruce running through the streets to his corporate building. We see his despair in the destruction as he hugs a little girl, watching Superman and Zod battle in the sky. And we’re introduced to his motivation in “taking him out.”
But then the film takes a sudden shift…eighteen months’ worth of a sudden shift. And that’s where the film begins to go downhill for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Batman v Superman, but not in the sense that you might be thinking. I loved seeing these heroes share a screen together. I loved seeing the DC trinity on screen, battling as one. I loved seeing Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck play opposites in a battle for what’s right and wrong. I loved the political montage in the middle of the film where people discussed whether Superman was a threat to humanity or a Jesus figure. I also loved Wonder Woman, obviously.
But I didn’t care for a lot of the movie, either.
I didn’t care for the fact that there was a lack of characterization across the board. Alfred, although played charismatically by Jeremy Irons, is nothing more than someone for Bruce to go back and forth with whenever we get the Batman scenes; Diana Prince barely talks for the majority of her time in the film, and we don’t even learn her name until the battle against Doomsday (another story within itself).
Lois is robbed from development since Man of Steel, and the writing still pits her in situations where she falls into the damsel in distress category. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, while interesting to watch on screen, is withdrawn in himself, barely revealing his plans through subtle hints. Of course, we know that his main goal is to take out Superman, but where do we go from there? Let alone the fact that the actual “Batman v Superman” part of the film is nothing more than an obligation for Clark to talk to Bruce so that Lex won’t kill his mother, instead of the philosophical battle that most of us imagined before going into the movie.
There’s more that I can say about the film, but I didn’t intend to write a full review on it. I plan on waiting until the ultimate cut to give my final thoughts. But from what I saw in the theaters, I took this much away from it: Batman v Superman is like an unfinished puzzle that’s missing the pieces to pull the picture together. It’s like trying to write an award-winning essay for the SAT in under thirty minutes, as my friend Rose would say. It’s a film that could’ve easily been two films instead of one. It’s a film that’s more than likely been tampered with by a company that’s trying to desperately compete with a successful superhero franchise instead of trying to flesh out a world methodically and carefully.
But why did it have to be that way? The film took three years to complete, and after all the testing, writing, careful planning, and re-writes, how was the final theatrical release still riddled with so many errors that it received a thirty-three percent on Rotten Tomatoes and highly critical reviews from critics and fans, many of whom have probably lost faith in a DC cinematic universe?
That’s where the majority of this article is focused.
About a month before the release of the film, a document from Warner Bros. was leaked online revealing that there would be an R-rated ultimate cut of Batman v Superman. This instantly sent fans and curious critics into a frenzy. While many harkened back to Deadpool’s success as a sudden move to push out R-rated superhero films, it was soon revealed that the ultimate cut had been rated months prior to the Merc with a Mouth’s proper cinematic debut.
So what influenced an ultimate cut? Snyder provides an answer for that.
“We call it the Ultimate Cut because to me it’s a deeper dive into that world and there are storylines in there that get fleshed out by the longer version…there was some sort of interstitial stuff that surrounds the story, that kind of finishes some of the ideas that we also trimmed back.”
So what might be included on this ultimate cut?
“There’s a little bit of action, there’s a little bit of violence that we trimmed out for the MPAA that we put back…[t]hen there’s a little bit longer ending, sort of the ending sequence, and the opening of the movie.”
Mind you, this will also be the cut where we finally get to see who Jena Malone portrayed in the film before the scenes were cut. Honestly, the ultimate cut sounds like a promising ordeal, if not a curious one. I’m still holding out on hope that it’ll clear up some of the problems with the film, but if its only thirty minutes extra, it can’t really work a miracle.
But it begs the question that I had after watching the film and I’m sure others had too: Why not just release the ultimate cut if it would’ve fleshed out the story more than the theatrical release did? Snyder explains that the extra violence was whittled down so that they wouldn’t toe the MPAA’s R-rating line, and that releasing a three-hour movie would be a risky move on Warner Bros.’ part. But why not release it? Maybe I’m just being too hopeful and I’m not really thinking about the logistics, but it’s something I’ve been wondering about for a few days now.
If the film took nearly three years to make, then an ultimate theatrical release sounds like a slice of heaven cake. Also, given the fact that this is Batman and Superman sharing the same screen, three hours of a brewing war would’ve been amazing. Imagine being at Comic-Con, watching that trailer for the first time, and then Zack Snyder revealing that the film is going to be three hours long. To some people, that may sound daunting, but for this guy, I would’ve sat in that theater seat, refusing to use the bathroom or get snacks until the credits started rolling.
There have been ultimate cuts and extended versions of movies before. It’s nothing to call over a few friends and marathon to extended Lord of the Rings trilogy from morning till midnight. Snyder even released a director’s cut and an ultimate cut of 2009’s Watchmen. And even though J.J. Abrams said that The Force Awakens wasn’t getting an extended cut, I’m sure fans would’ve definitely paid to see a longer version.
All this to say, in this day and age of pop culture, the days are soon dwindling where fans won’t be satisfied with a longer version of a movie, especially if that longer version explores world-building, character-building, and further developing the overall plot of the movie.
I can see why the studio might’ve been nervous in releasing the Batman v Superman ultimate cut. The DC Extended Universe is still a new project, already in the shadow of Marvel’s gargantuan successful cinematic universe (not even including the television universe and the Netflix sub-universe).
Fans have been warring back and forth on the internet whether DC Comics should even bother in building a film franchise. Even some of the projects announced in the DCEU slate haven’t been as successfully hyped as their Marvel counterparts (not a lot of people are interested in a Shazam film, while others are still interested in a fourth Iron Man film).
But while Marvel has its fair share of hits and misses, now should’ve been the time for DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. to take a risk and see where it takes them in the future. If the ultimate cut would’ve provided fans with a fuller story that was promised three years ago, then it should’ve been released sooner than its proposed July 16 release date.
I know it must sound like I’m putting all hope in the ultimate cut, but it’s mainly because I really wanted to see Batman v Superman succeed more than what it’s currently doing in the box office and among fans. It hurt to see beloved characters handled so poorly in a race to match Marvel’s massive universe. I’d rather watch a three-hour movie with a full story than a two-and-a-half-hour movie missing the necessary pieces to make it convincing, compelling, emotional, completed, and satisfying.
I want to see the DC Extended Universe succeed. Not only is it nice, healthy competition for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but DC Comics is full of beloved characters that have helped shaped pop culture for the better. I’d love to see Clark and Lois get married. I’d love to see the Batfamily stories—the death of Jason Todd, the son of Batman, a Killing Joke prequel, or something of the like. I’d love to see the Gotham City Sirens. I’d love to see the Teen Titans. Heck, I’d love to see a Crisis¬-esque, Flashpoint-esque storyline. I want to see it all.
Like I said, I loved Batman v Superman, but not in the sense that you might be thinking. I’m sad that it didn’t do as well as I wanted it to. If the Ultimate Cut does not do too well, then all hope rests on Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, two films I’m still super excited to see, despite the cloud of judgment surrounding the internet and critic circle. Here’s to hoping the DC Extended Universe gets back on the right track.
Be sure to check out Suicide Squad, landing in theaters on August 5, 2016.