Features and Columns · Movies

The Shocking Revelations of The Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition

You won’t believe what happened when we sat down to watch Batman v Superman’s ultimate edition director’s cut.
Batman V Superman
By  · Published on June 28th, 2016

Here we are again talking Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This didn’t go well the first time, if you recall. Even then, as I was using terms such as “dumpster fire” to describe the theatrical release of Zack Snyder’s extra-long Justice League preview, there was this sneaking sense that the forthcoming Ultimate Edition might be interesting. Or at least, more coherent. Or maybe it’s R-rating was earned with more wanton violence, an epic F-bomb rant from Batfleck, or even some non-blurred Amy Adams in a bathtub. Any of that would have been, at the very least, interesting for a $250-million dollar superhero movie.

With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition dropping on VOD this week and DVD/Blu-ray next Tuesday, I decided to give BvS one more shot to bring about a Dawn of Interest, let alone Justice. In the 3-hours and change spent watching this new cut and the bulk of its accompanying special features, I’ve learned a few things.

1. It’s more obsessed with the thuggish spirit of Gotham

One of the background threads of BvS is an assignment given to Clark Kent by Perry White to cover a Metropolis vs. Gotham college football game. It’s an assignment Clark ignores because he’s busy being right about Batman killing people, but it’s also one that has some thematic ambition in the extended cut. In an extended version of Batman’s first scene, we see the two cops who eventually find the branded bad guy sitting in their car watching the game. A pair of ESPN broadcasters (Sean McDonough and Tom Luginbill) cameo to comment on the fact that Metropolis’ team is running up the score on Gotham, which leads to a fight on the field. “Gotham City, you know how they feel about their football team,” explains McDonough. “Things may get ugly in the city tonight.” It’s all an effort to further convey the oppressiveness of the San Francisco-to-Oakland relationship of Metropolis and Gotham.

A further drumline for “This is why Batman kills people,” loudly proclaiming that it’s “because his city is rotten and filled with people who are mad about football and poverty.”

2. Jena Malone role was inconsequential

For all the rumors about actress Jena Malone playing someone interesting – like Barbara Gordon or any other recognizable figure from DC Comics history – her actual part didn’t matter. The Ultimate Edition puts her name in the credits, then proceeds to show us that she plays a S.T.A.R. Labs technician who helps Lois Lane figure out that the anti-Superman bullets used in the desert were made by LexCorp.

She shows up again later as Lois is piecing together Lex’s plan to set up the big fight between Batman and Superman to affirm what the audience has already been told. On the whole, Lois’ travels to the desert, her dealings with the government, and her investigation into Lex’s nefarious plans make more sense in the extended cut. But the same can’t be said for Lex’s plan. It’s still dumb.

3. Jon Stewart is still hosting The Daily Show in the DC Cinematic World

In a new establishing shot before Bruce and Diana Prince have a conversation about trust while looking at The Sword of Alexander, we see the kitchen of the museum where The Daily Show is on TV. Jon Stewart is in the middle of a rant about Superman not being considered American. As he cites Superman’s color scheme and the fact that 1/3rd of U.S.A is his emblem, it’s clear why it was cut: these jokes aren’t funny by any standard, least of all Jon Stewart’s.

4. Clark Kent is the real detective

In the extended cut, we see Clark Kent following leads on the Batman case. He tracks the branded criminal to a prison in Metropolis (I think, this part isn’t particularly clear), but only finds him after he’s been stabbed at the behest of Lex Luthor’s goons. It’s all a lot of tire-kicking to make Clark out to be a deeply concerned citizen rather than an absentee employee of The Daily Planet.

5. The anti-Superman media bias is more pronounced

In one of the special features on the release, Zack Snyder talks about there being three main characters in this movie: Batman, Superman, and The Media. The third one is interesting, as it’s not quite as prominent in the theatrical cut. In the extended edition, The Media is far more present and locked into the Superman paranoia. To the extent that there’s a CNN report involving protesters burning Superman in effigy like he was a Pride flag at a Westboro Baptist Church Sunday picnic. It’s all part of the storm of perception that drives Superman to do some very un-Superman-like things in the film, like be anything but the shining beacon of hope for all mankind. It’s Snyder’s take on how the modern media would treat a figure like Superman. And while it still feels off-brand for the character, it makes a little bit more sense.

6. Jimmy Olsen introduces himself, is a stranger to Lois

Much was made about Jimmy Olsen (played by Michael Cassidy) showing up for a matter of moments before being gunned down in the desert. It’s a weird way to treat a beloved member of Team Superman. In the extended scene, we witness the moment when Lois is introduced to Jimmy, whom she does not recognize. It’s an even stranger sequence that expects us to believe that Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane have never met and he’s just been assigned to her on a hugely important mission. This explains how she didn’t know that he was a CIA agent. It’s also fueling theories that he wasn’t the real Jimmy Olsen at all. Real, fake, or otherwise, it’s all unnecessarily confusing. Why not just call him “Tom Gonnadiesoon” and be done with it?

7. No one says no to Lois Lane

Following the bombing at the Capitol Building, Lois goes to the apartment of bomber Wallace Keefe (played by Scoot McNairy) and is allowed to just look around like it’s not an active crime scene. It’s made fairly clear that she’s got connections with Metropolis PD, but it’s also strange that the place isn’t swarming with Feds. Nitpick aside, it’s the reason why she’s there that makes for good comedy. She inspects Wallace’s fridge to find that he’s recently been grocery shopping. Clearly he didn’t know he was going to die. Clearly it was Lex Luthor all along!


8. There’s no reason for this version to be rated R

Theorizing about The Ultimate Edition’s R-rating was one of the few fun things about Batman v Superman’s theatrical run. Would we get a flashback to when Jared Leto’s Joker killed Jason Todd, as per the suit hanging in the Batcave’s armory? Would we get some new scene that is just too violent for a PG-13 superhero flick? Would the bathtub scene get far more explicit and finally answer the Kryptonite condom question from Mallrats?

None of the above, as it turns out. There are slightly extended moments of violence, including a few extra shots in Batman’s warehouse fight that are cool. Maybe a few liters of CGI blood was added. And there was a prison stabbing, the brutal details of which happen mostly off-camera. Beyond that, there’s nothing in the Ultimate Edition that screams “R-rating.” Prior to the film hitting theaters, that was the big selling point. One that absolutely doesn’t pay off.

9. The film is more coherent, but the changes are slight

The big selling point of the Ultimate Edition following the release of the film in theaters was that perhaps it would be more coherent. Maybe Zack Snyder really was the victim of a studio that wouldn’t let him put a 3-hour superhero movie in theaters and his bigger, longer, less cut version would have all the grace and logic that his shorter version lacked.

It’s true that the extended cut makes more sense. Lex’s plan is fleshed out a little better, Lois’ investigation is easier to follow, and Clark’s Batman paranoia is far more realized. None of this makes the film more enjoyable though, at least not for someone who didn’t like it the first time around. It’s possible that if you loved the regular sized BvS, you’ll dig the supersized version, as well. It’s basically the same movie with a few longer scenes (most of which are in the first hour). There’s a better flow to the first hour – it plays less like an assembly of deleted scenes and more like the setup of a real movie – but everything that happens in the film’s nonsensical back half is exactly the same.

Was I optimistic that I’d like the Ultimate Edition better than the theatrical version? Not really. But I was willing to give it a chance. Perhaps there was something in there that would be a revelation. There wasn’t. Like most movies, the extended cut is just a longer, fleshier version of the theatrical cut. This ain’t exactly Blade Runner, after all.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)