Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, and Amy Adams
2016 has seen a very contentious year in fandom. We just finally passed the great Ghostbusters war of the Summer. The big battleground in this hateful year has been the output of DC films. This week will see the end of the years DC output when Suicide Squad comes out. And boy oh boy, is that already causing some stirs and controversy in and of itself. From the soft skull fanbabys trying to get Rotten Tomatoes shut down because the reviews for SS are bad (smart move guys) and the reupping of “Critics are Marvel shills” schtick these idiots spit out in a Tourettes like spasm similar to the calls of Benghazi from right wingers, we have hit another peak of stupidity that will end quickly enough. It always does, as these shit mongers never impact anything in real life. And it all started with the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A movie that was received like garbage and unleashed a tidal wave of antagonism from all sides that it just bummed everyone out. So much so that WB shook everything up in their exec stable. As someone who liked the movie (review of mine here), I was fine with the idea that things would change course. They promoted Geoff Johns to the head cheese in the DC filmiverse, giving comic fans a sense of hope. So the Post Johns world would end with SS. But before we get to that final, already divisive chapter, there was a detour back to BvS.
Anyone who saw the movie back in March, positive or negative opinion of the movie, could tell that the product we got was edited like an absolute piece of shit and that it was a hobbled product. WB was so clearly afraid of the movies potential failure and tried to make an edit that relied on Batman/left Superman in the dust. In the attempt to try to capture as many screenings a day, they released an absolutely muddled movie that could confuse even the most dedicated comic fan. In my experience, I could see the movie they wanted to make. It felt like watching the first rough edit of the movie. Something they throw together and work from to make the movie more cohesive. This shouldn’t have been the thing we were shown. And it wasn’t supposed to. Weeks before the release of the movie, we got the news that an extended cut would come out with 30 extra minutes of footage inserted back in. And then the Monday after the disastrous release of the movie in theaters, they released a small clip that already added some more clarity to what was going on in a part of the movie. The July release of the Extended Cut was something that a good deal of people were interested in, to see what could have been. And now that the movie has come out, we got the answers. While it isn’t some drastic improvement that makes it a completely different movie, the product is a much more clear and concise and well tuned version of what we got that it’s infuriating we didn’t get this movie in March.
The biggest problem with the movie we got in March was a severe lack of clarity. The editing was garbage and anything we needed to understand the basic story they were telling was excised. I’m not one to get all up in arms about tone when it comes to a superhero movie. Grim or fun, I don’t care as long as the movie is good. So those who get all dick twisted about the grim aesthetic aren’t gonna be won over by this extended cut, because it certainly doesn’t lighten the mood. If anything, the movie is even more grim and serious. And that’s all because the elements they took out were vital elements that explain a good deal of what is happening and why. It just so happens to those things are dark.
The most vital aspect of the movie that helps this movie out is added Superman stuff. In the theatrical cut it felt very much like there’s a Superman sized hole in this narrative, and not by design. We never get a real sense of why he is willing to fight Batman. It’s vague and makes the inevitable showdown feel a bit hollow. Here though, we get Clark actually going into Gotham to look into this Bat character. He interacts with some people that get to him, showing Clark that Batman leaves a bloody trail in his wake. Loved ones left behind. And it’s in this segment that we get much needed clarity on the Bat branding. We never really know why it’s a death sentence for those that are branded. Here, it’s only used on certain criminals. Only those that are connected in some way to the “White Portuguese” that Bats is hunting. So when they get busted and branded, they get killed by the KGBeast and this leaves a trail for Batman to follow in his hunt. At once it adds to the continued descent of Batman, edging closer and closer to finally becoming the bad guy. And it also gives Clark the motivation to stop Batman. Because now we see, through Clarks eyes, that Batman is a hypocrite. His crusade to stop Superman because he feels like Superman is a danger to those around him, due to collateral damage wrought in the Battle of Metropolis, rings hollow. We get it and it’s a good motivation, but with Batman we see that it’s really just the descent of his mind, the world having finally beaten him down that he’s gonna break bad. Seeing some citizens of Gotham afraid of Batman despite not being criminals, with one even saying “There’s a different kind of mean in him, and he’s hunting” really lends credence to the idea that Batman is kind of a villain here. So the movie actually crafts a well conceived ideological battle for the two heroes before they realize their wrongs and come to battle the true enemy.
This cut of the movie does not fix the inherent issues in Jesse Eisenbergs performance. It’s one of the few elements in the movie that is just flawed from conception, not ruined in the edit. It’s big and it’s swinging for the fences, but it’s a bit of a miss. Not helping was the lack of clarity to the plan Lex enacted. We get some vague sense that he’s been pulling strings to get these guys at each others throats, but it’s never really explained in any way. Here though, it’s really fucking clear how deep he goes with his masterminding. From the jump we get a better idea, since the Africa sequence is much better. We see what the KGBeast is actually doing. He kills the soldiers and burns the bodies to make it look like Superman had come in eyes a blazing. It’s much more clearly a set up job that feels like it was well thought out, and not just a bunch of dudes with gunshot wounds being victims of Superman like the theatrical cut portrayed (not to mention Supermans intro is so much cooler in this cut, punching out two missiles out at a distance before getting his closeup in his rescue of Lois). And stemming from this is a witness that Lex hires to frame Superman, the African woman we glimpse in the theatrical cut but who actually is given some material to work with here. She’s a mole essentially, being forced by Lex to do this to protect her family. And when she gets cold feet about throwing Supes under the bus, she’s whacked. And there’s more of Lex with Holly Hunter, where we get to see why she’s so scared when she sees the jar of piss on her desk. Here we get to see that Hunter finds out that Lex had made the woman lie about Superman, and she realizes how much of a threat he is. But with all the Lex stuff, it all comes down to Lois. Here, Lois gets a good heaping of material that was cut out and it all ties in to her investigation into what happened in Africa. From there we get to see all of the ways that Lex is plotting to throw this men into a deathmatch. We get more of Lois and she becomes integral to the plot, while also getting a better sense of the machinations of the plot. Lex becomes downright Machiavellian here, getting a sequence that feels very much like the Baptism scene in The Godfather. All the pieces come together and we see how masterfully he’s played it. Hiss performance still leaves a lot to be desired, but getting more clarity at how smart he is and even a little more details about why he hates Superman/Batman (he can’t stand not being the most powerful person on Earth). And we get a little more in regards to his rantings in the prison at the end about something coming. It’s not spelled out for us or anything, but we get a scene that shows us he is now being controlled by something. Something alien. Which is kinda good to know if you wanna lay down seeds for the next movie. Not to mention the prison scene at the end is expanded and even cooler. We basically get confirmation that Lex knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, and we see that Batman is gonna fix it to send Lex to Arkham Asylum to suffer at the hands of “some old friends”. It’s nice world building stuff and a little more character stuff too, which is nice.
There’s other things that were cut out that help to enrich the experience, but don’t fix holes the way that the aforementioned stuff does. A little detail like finding out that Lex lined the wheelchair with the bomb in it with lead to make sure Superman couldn’t see it, even at the detriment of explosive capability. We get some scenes at STAR Labs, building the world up a bit. We get some little lines of dialogue throughout, like a personal favorite being an exchange between Lex and Clark where Lex says he isn’t used to losing and Superman saying with a bit of a smirk “You’ll get used to it”. There’s two moments though that don’t clean up plot holes but just work like gangbusters for me. One is a bit of character stuff and the other is just a cool moment. The moment is one of the best Batman moments I’ve ever seen. Lex coming upon his warehouse after Batman laid waste to it and stealing the Krytonite, we see Lex come upon a security monitor. There we see a security guard get snatched up from the sky by Batman, in a blink and you’ll miss attack. It’s so cool and adds to the masterful way that Snyder handled the Batman stuff. The character moment though is one that would have shut up a lot of soft skulls saying that Superman is a cold hearted monster in this that doesn’t help people and cares not one iota about them (it’s not true in the theatrical cut, but they still said it). When the bomb goes off in the Senate hearing, it seems like Superman just leaves in the theatrical cut. But in this cut, we see him in the aftermath bringing survivors out of the wreckage. It’s such a short moment but so fucking monumental in the character of Superman that cutting it makes no god damn sense. Which just speaks volumes to the hatchet job that WB did with the edit of this movie. There’s other little things throughout that are new, but none that really need to be dived into with much detail here.
Is this a perfect movie now? Of course not. It’s still got some weird moments to it. It’s a problem that Snyder has throughout his career. He swings big and tries to reach for transcendence, reaching it at times but failing at others. Eisenberg’s performance is still odd and off putting. The movie is way too long and could have used some judicious cutting in less vital areas to make it move a little bit. The set up for future movies is still clumsy as fuck and should not even be in the movie, saved for mid and post credits status. Doomday’s design is funky. The Martha scene (need I say more). But is it the abortion that people wanna decry it? Fuck no. I found the carpet bombing in March overzealous, and now that we got a cut of the movie that fixes many problems and turns it into a damn good movie, the caterwauling is even more obnoxious. Snyder has a tendency to want to deconstruct comic icons, and I’ve liked what he’s done in that regard. Am I glad that it seems like they’re going to be heading in to more straight forward comic book heroics with Geoff Johns in the lead? Damn straight. Zack Snyder is a fantastic visualist with an under appreciated sense of storytelling. But what he did here is impressive and ballsy and not like anything else in the field. He’s not simple copying Marvel, he’s doing his own thing. If you can set aside any personal biases towards a brand or your feelings to how superhero movies should be played, this is an impressive feature. A sprawling epic that stands as a grand statement that hope shouldn’t be abandoned, even in the face of death.