Blu-ray Review: Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)

It would be easy enough for me to simply copy and paste my original thoughts about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS, for short) from its theatrical release, but for its debut on home video the folks at Warner have made it special with, as they call it, an “Ultimate Edition.” A marketing ploy that has seen studios milk a property for all its worth, it would seem Warner is going all out to ensure that non-fans of the film give it a second chance. The biggest draw is a director’s cut that adds an additional half hour to expand the film’s run time from 151 minutes to three hours. The extra 30 minutes look to be the answer in fixing the narrative quagmire that even ardent supporters of the film would agree had major problems.

Touted as the “Ultimate Edition,” BvS is the latest chapter in Warner’s attempt in establishing its own comic book universe populated by DC Comics characters like Batman and Superman (who need no introduction) as well as Wonder Woman, The Flash and Aquaman (all of whom who do). Feverishly following Marvel’s cash cow the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Warner and DC Comics are acting more like dogs chasing their tails than operating with a clear idea of where they want to go. Their first attempt at establishing the brand was with 2004’s Superman Returns, which failed.

The same summer Marvel introduced Iron Man to the world on the big screen, Warner released the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight. A huge success and regarded as one of the best if not the best superhero movie ever made, Nolan’s Batman was a self-contained trilogy and did not operate as a continuing story outside of the character of the Caped Crusader. And as Marvel established the characters Thor and Captain America, Warner was playing catch-up with another reboot of Superman in Man of Steel and a failed Green Lantern movie. Rather than re-introduce Batman with a singular film, Zack Snyder and the studio overseers have given us BvS, which tries to speed up the process that took Marvel years to assemble.

Still, it is evident that Warner and DC are trying to walk before they can crawl and have made a disjointed motion picture that it attempts to fix with 30 extra minutes.

The additional footage does help to a degree. In an early sequence where Lois Lane (Amy Adams) attempts to interview an African terrorist only to be rescued by Superman (Henry Cavill) when shooting erupts, we get some delineation of the parties involved in the shooting and Superman’s framing as the scapegoat for the massacre. The Congressional hearing that is later convened has a logical through-line as does Lex Luthor’s (Jesse Eisenberg) scheme to destroy Superman’s godlike reputation.

Other additions like Clark Kent’s investigation of Batman’s (Ben Affleck) acts of vigilantism in Gotham City provides character motivation where the payoff is better executed in the director’s cut. But why trim these sequences to the point of incomprehensibility and leave others untouched boggles the mind. Batman’s nightmare of a Superman-led armageddon in a desert wasteland that Max Rockatansky would be happy to call home. Huh? Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) reviewingLexCorp files sent to her by Bruce Wayne that reveal Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) – this is how you introduce future members of the Justice League? Seriously?This particular scene slows the momentum when we should be racing to the climax. And as fun as it was seeing Wonder Woman as a major bad ass in fighting Luthor’s Doomsday creation, she lurks in the background and does little to advance plot.

Dark and gloomy with maybe one or two lighthearted attempts at humor (“I thought she was with you!” Batman and Superman standing dumbstruck as Wonder Woman kicks ass.) the film is essentially a long-winded commercial of future DCU entries. Which is great and all, as the MCU films are essentially episodes leading to a season finale cliffhanger. But sacrificing the core story in favor of spectacle is not the best approach in planting the seeds for what’s to come.

Instead of expansion, a judicious editor could have tightened BvS to a more easily to digest length, ditching the genetically engineered Doomsday and subsequent super fight with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Had it stuck to Lex Luthor’s scheme of pitting the meddlesome reporter against the mysterious millionaire and the reconciliation of the two heroes (hence the Dawn of Justice subtitle) and left it at that, Wonder Woman could have been introduced in her own movie and the other members of the Justice League could have been slotted in elsewhere (think Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Hawkeye in Thor, et al.).

Zack Synder is a filmmaker that aspires to do things big and bold. While his vision often gets the better of his judgment, one can’t help but recognize BvS as a dozen eggs on the verge of cracking. Hopefully to make a great omelet that will be the Justice League.

The Blu-ray release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice comes housed in a keepcase that contains three discs (1 DVD, 2 Blu-rays) and a code for a digital download. The video presentation of both cuts has no quality loss. The colors are desaturated, as it was the intended look, including Superman’s signature reds and blues. The audio is bolstered with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, and sounds allows for a more immersive viewing experience, especially in scenes involving car-nage, gun fights, and of course Batman tangling with Superman. The musical score, a collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, is towering, emphasizing events unfolding on screen.

In terms of supplemental material, all the extras are on the theatrical cut disc of BvS. This is a bummer because, if anything, the director’s cut should have had at least an audio commentary where Synder explains the additions made and why they were cut in the first place.

If there is a common theme with the extras included it is sell, sell, sell. The most pronounced members of the EPK-style featurettes are DCU shepherds Synder, producer Deborah Synder, and Geoff Johns, plus select members of the technical team.

We get featurettes on future members of the Justice League (“Uniting the World’s Finest”); Batman and Superman (“Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants”); the design team behind the new Batmobile (“Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile”); quick features on reimaging Batman, Superman’s redesigned costume, Lex Luthor’s villainy and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman; plus the production design of the latest Batcave and breaking down the superfight between Batman and Superman.

Even with all of these features, the best of the bunch is “The Warrior, the Myth, the Wonder,” a 21-minute piece on the history of Wonder Woman. For those that know little about Wonder Woman’s place in pop culture, including comics, the TV show with Lynda Carter, and the forthcoming movie.

Regardless of what critics thought of BvS, fans still stormed theaters to make it a hit. Though if you have a movie with the most beloved superheroes of all time and it doesn’t make more than a billion in earnings you start to wonder if it a design flaw or poor execution. The director’s cut does its best to make the best of a bad situation and receives a solid audio/video presentation. The extras are mostly filler but do check out the ones on Wonder Woman and the new Batmobile, the best of the bunch.

Warner Home Video presents Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition). Directed by: Zack Snyder. Screenplay by: David S. Goyer & Chris Terrio. Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Larry Fishburne, Holly Hunter, and Jeremy Irons. Running Time: 181 minutes. Rated: R. Released: July 19, 2016.

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