Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Extended Cut Review
Batman v Superman is a terrible movie. Its tone is disjointed, its plot is incoherent and stupidly overcomplicated with subplots to set up other movies and franchises, and the actors are not allowed to emote at all due to bad David S. Goyer screenwriting and Zack Snyder’s utter failure to direct the film any way other as if he was making 300 again. Unfortunately, some people still defend the film and are convinced that the film’s problems are not the fault of the filmmakers, but the studio who cut out approximately 30 minutes of footage from the theatrical release to make it a more manageable 2 ½ hours (which is still too long, but I digress). Anyway, out of a combination of a desire to be fair to the movie and its fans, a morbid curiosity, and an excuse to write out my feelings about this film in some form, I decided to review the 3 hour extended cut home release. Did the extra scenes improve the film? Read on to find out.
In case it wasn’t clear from the intro, I didn’t like the theatrical cut of the film. It was too long, joyless, boring, incoherent, and mangled the characterization of some of my favorite fictional characters. Outside of one good Batman scene and some laughs due to pretentious scenes resulting in unintentional hilarity, I got no joy out of my experience watching this in the theater. I won’t go into any more detail about the theatrical cut and will simply direct readers to Kora’s review on the site. Suffice it to say, I was more than willing to expect a better film when it wasn’t cut to pieces, regardless of how terrible I think David S. Goyer and Zack Snyder are as a writer and director. Sadly, having watched the 3 hour extended home version, I can say pretty decisively that, with one or two small exceptions, the editors did this film a favor.
Spoilers for both the theatrical and home releases ahead
The biggest change to the film is that the African woman speaking before Congress about the disaster in Nairomi which involved Superman turns into a subplot where we learn that the woman in question was bribed by Lex Luthor to lie to Congress and then monitored by KGBeast (Callan Mulvey) to make sure she didn’t change her story. This plot includes scenes where Henry Cavill is allowed to be charming as Clark Kent and actually act like a reporter as he seeks her out for an interview in Gotham and then starts learning about the brutality of this universe’s Batman. Unfortunately this subplot basically becomes a plot cul-de-sac because instead of discussing legitimate issues with Superman’s portrayal and behavior in this film and the previous one, it simply creates another link in the never-ending problems with this film’s Lex Luthor, making him more omniscient and brilliant only because the script can’t explain how he learns or knows anything. Furthermore, the character is killed off and never mentioned again by anyone. So it doesn’t really add anything and it detracts from the film actually discussing problems with this incarnation of Superman.
The extended cut also adds both an explanation that the bomb Superman couldn’t see was encased in lead so he couldn’t see it even if he had been looking and a brief scene of Superman helping get injured people out of the Capitol Building after it explodes. The Superman helping people scene is nice, and it might make sense that he feels sad here, but he’s always sad all the time. As such, there’s no contrast in tone so the scene just feels empty and hollow. Also, you would think saying the bomb was encased in lead might clear up the plot hole of Superman not stopping the bomb, but, based on Superman’s other powers that the film makes clear that Superman has, it doesn’t really. If I may borrow a joke from Futurama…
Other changes include a scene of a prisoner getting killed in prison by other prisoners because he has a Bat-brand (don’t get me started on how stupid that is) and some added cameos and small extensions of scenes. The prison killing and some extra blood in fight scenes and pointless swearing are what give this film its R rating, but none of it adds anything and the swearing in particular feels jarring and out of place. There were also more talking head cameos (including a really pointless, unfunny bit by TV comedy host Jon Stewart that made me really sad) and further Justice League member references that are entirely pointless overall. The added scenes don’t change what the film is in any real way. It simply spackles over some of the minor holes in an attempt to distract you from how fundamentally broken this entire production is.
Even with the extra 30 minutes added to the film, all of the core problems still exist and some are more exasperating given the extra length. Jessie Eisenberg’s performance is still insufferably annoying throughout and his character, Lex Luthor, is still omniscient with no explanation and his plans and motivations are still incomprehensible, which is unforgivable considering his actions seem to drive EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of this plot. Henry Cavill and all of the other actors in the Superman storyline are wasted due to Goyer and Snyder apparently being incapable of finding anything for them to do. Batman’s character arc still makes no sense and the “Martha” scene will still go down in history as one of the most embarrassingly ridiculous and abrupt character heel turns in cinematic history. The entire climactic fight scene with Doomsday and DC’s big three is an incoherent, jumbled mess that is often difficult to see due to the dark lighting and constant explosions. Superman’s death is lame, pointless, emotionally hollow, and undone almost immediately. Lois Lane’s reporter subplot is extended and adds nothing else to such a pointless part of the story. All of the dream sequences are pointless, pretentious, and often flat-out preposterous. The Justice League teases and cameos are crowbarred into the film and still incredibly awkward and unnecessary, adding a lot of unnecessary length to both versions of the film.
The extended cut also highlights another problem both Kora and I had with the theatrical film: certain characters are named characters in the film for no reason other than so the director can kill them for emotional impact. Jimmy Olsen gets an additional scene where he says who he is and that he is a photographer before he is unceremoniously killed off. Mercy still dies pointlessly having neither done nor said anything. KGBeast has a few more scenes, but there is still no reason for him to be KGBeast other than the fact that he is Russian. Also, in a weird reversal of the same problem, the extended cut includes two short scenes featuring actress Jena Malone. When it was announced that her scenes were cut, people were speculating that she might be Barbara Gordon given her resemblance to the fictional character. It turns out this isn’t true. She’s just an intelligent, bookish, sardonic forensic analyst who isn’t Barbara Gordon, just a nameless plot device. This feels like nitpicking, but I cannot express how irritating this is to me personally.
Having seen both versions of the film, and the extra features for the home release, I can say definitively that this film is bad, regardless of which version you watch, and that the current creative team is the absolute wrong group to adapt these characters. My proof of this is that the extra features include scenes of the actors screwing around on set where we get to see a number of things that are absent from the film. One, Wonder Woman’s costume has all the traditional colors visible even though you can’t see them through the film’s emo filter. Two, Henry Cavill is smiling, joking, and having engaging conversations with Ben Affleck in the Batman costume. Three, the features include extended explanations of the major characters that I actually agree with. NONE OF THAT IS IN THE FILM ITSELF! Batman v Superman is a fascinating failure, but it is still a failure and the extended cut just means you get to watch the fiery 10 car pileup careen through a circus tent full of philosophy majors boring their audience for an extra half hour.
The extended cut of Batman v. Superman changes a few things, but does not fix any of the core problems with the film. Ideological discussions become plot cul-de-sacs, named characters say who they are before being unceremoniously killed off, and the number of pointless unengaging cameos for Justice League characters or political talking heads is much greater. Batman v. Superman is a fascinating failure. It's up to you whether you want to gaze in wonder at its failure for 3 hours or not.