Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Spent the Night With Batman V. Superman

As some of you might know, yesterday marked the digital release of "Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition", and with all the buzz surrounding it and with how harshly I reacted the first time around, I decided it was time to give it another go. Bad stuff first, good (great) stuff last.

It's been said by many others, and I'll say this now: this was the version they should have showed at the theater. That being said, a 3 hour movie is still way too long, and were it not for the super unnecessarily endless third act, this movie could've been told in two hours flat. While the pacing in the first two acts of the movie has been fixed dramatically with tons of new footage and context to add to and expand the story, the third act has been left virtually untouched, which just, to put it plainly, goes on forever. Let's discuss.

This movie has like 6 different endings.

  1. Batman and Superman resolve their differences.
  2. Batman and Superman save Martha.
  3. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fight/kill Doomsday and Superman dies.
  4. Superman's funeral(s)
  5. Lex Luthor in prison being threatened by Batman
  6. The actual ending with the dirt rising on Superman's coffin.

That's TOO many endings!

If I've been sitting there patiently (and admittedly thoroughly) enjoying your movie, you can't "reward" me with 6 different endings. That's just a chore to get through. Man of Steel, conversely, had two endings: the destruction of the World Engine, and the killing of Zod. Even that is too many endings when you consider the original script had just the one ending involving the destruction of the World Engine! I get that you've got more characters and storylines here, but the whole Doomsday thing wasn't even introduced until way late in the second act, and even then, it still kind of comes out of nowhere.

The truth with this cut is that it's not going to fix some broad strokes. Jimmy Olsen is still dead (especially dead now that, in this cut, they verbally introduce him by name). Clark Kent is still dead. Doomsday was still outrageous. What it does fix, though, is just about everything else. This movie weaves a narrative logically from one point to the next, and whereas in the theatrical cut the conjoining of the Lois/Clark and Bruce/Alfred stories kind of come out of nowhere, it all fits in logically here, and you, as a viewer, get to play this game of back and forth between the two.

The biggest reason for that is simple: MORE SUPERMAN! The "Ultimate Edition" really does, in all sincerity, feel like a Batman AND Superman movie instead of a Batman movie "also featuring Superman kind of". There are some fantastic Superman moments here. There's a scene where Superman calls up his mother in Kansas, and in all sincerity tells her that he wishes things were simpler, and its this innocence of his character that is vacant from the theatrical cut and to an extent from Man of Steel. He asks her why his father never traveled, and she tells him that he never needed to travel because, in Jonathan's words, "[he] was already there". It lends reason to his ghost being at the top of a mountain! It lends reason to Clark climbing a mountain in the first place!

However, and as much as I really really don't want to refer to Zack Snyder as an omnipotent deity, this expression just lends itself to my next point: "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away." A lot of the added scenes set up entirely different scenes that just never happen, and while those scenes in and of themselves are extremely gratifying, it does leave you with a sense of disappointment when what you're expecting isn't what's delivered. There's a scene added to the Capitol Hill bombing where, after the bombing, Superman helps vacate the building of all of the victims, and as he brings the final person out and places them on a medical gurney, a firefighter thanks him. There's this look of anguish and confusion on Superman's face like he's choking back the greatest guilt he's ever felt when he looks out and sees Lois Lane in the crowd. As they make eye contact, he turns away and flies off, too ashamed to be seen by the woman he loves. The next time we see Superman, I'd expect him to truly break down and show himself completely vulnerable to Lois, but instead he gives the same awful speech about hope being dead along with his now-extinct home planet. It's a scene that, ultimately, adds nothing to the overall narrative, and could be taken completely out.

Further, with all the added Superman scenes, it really just goes to show you how wishy-washy Henry Cavill is as an actor. In certain scenes, he's fantastic, and captures the essence of both characters perfectly. Overall, though, he just comes off like a very muscular walking tree trunk. It's like he doesn't know how to turn off his ultra-masculinity and speaks every line as though he were the 1960s super-spy he played in Guy Ritchie's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." It's almost hilarious to see him acting alongside other actors, who kind of just know better about what they're doing. It could be that he's uncomfortable in the American accent, but who knows. There's one scene in particular that is both contextually hilarious, and ironically hilarious in which Fishburne's Perry White refers to Cavill's Clark Kent as a "nerd" as though he has no idea that the guy is a 230 lb hunk of super-model.

The coolest part is that there are fully-fleshed out characters in this movie that play mere cameo roles in the original cut. The woman from Africa who testifies against Superman to the Senate at the start of the movie is a full character with conflict and obstacles. She's been threatened and bribed by Luthor to say terrible things about Superman to ruin his public image, but when she realizes she's put herself and others in danger, she confesses. The guy that Batman brands at the start of the movie? That guy has an ex-wife/girlfriend and a daughter that he's leaving behind, and he knows that the brand Batman gave him will cause his death, which is then eventually orchestrated by Luthor himself.

It adds an entirely new dimension to the movie, which previously felt out of touch with its audience, that brings you further into this world Snyder has created. It's about more than just Batman and Superman, it's about the world around them and how their actions affect those people. We get to see how terrified Gotham is of Batman just like how we get to see that half of the world loves and reveres Superman. It really cements their two storylines as being complementary, rather than being coincidentally parallel.

The world of Dawn of Justice is one that just feels more real; it feels like the tone Snyder was trying to accomplish with Man of Steel by including real world shops like IHOP and Sears. In this movie though, we get to see members of our own world interact with these characters. Hell, it's a lot of fun to see Jon Stewart of the Daily Show do a piece on how Superman is undeniably American due to the fact that he wears a third of our acronym on his chest, to say the least.

Overall, I would totally recommend this version of the movie, and I'll even admit that I'm a fan of this version of the movie even though I truly despised the version I saw months ago in the theaters. It honestly impressed me with its competency to weave such a logical narrative and to actually make me empathize with all the characters (a trait that, again, just wasn't in the original movie).

That being said.. there are some alternate titles I'd like to suggest for this version:

Batman V Superman: Superman Has a Really Bad Day
Batman V Superman and the Neverending Third Act
Batman V Superman: Big Time in the City
Batman V Superman: Gothtropolis
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Wonder Woman
Batman V Superman: Jena Malone Isn't Batgirl
Batman V Superman: Blue Moon (Because Ben Affleck's Bare Ass Is In This Movie)
Batman V Superman: The MPAA Is Really Sensitive

David Harding is a movie and comic book enthusiast and contributor to the Getting Off Topic Podcast.

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