Review: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice Poster

You know, this was the first Batman movie I hadn’t seen at the cinema since Batman Returns. I was put off by all the negativity, the blatant fanboyism, and the fact that Man of Steel was such a dull mess. That’s right, I may have suffered Batman & Robin, but I wouldn’t suffer this. C’mon -even without seeing the trailers, it was obvious that Batman and Superman would make up, buddy up, and then take out some common foe. Yet, hot on the heels of Marvel’s R-rated superhero release, Deadpool, director Zak Snyder (300) chose to release an ultimate uncut edition too. It’s his definitive vision of the story, he says. And so, like Rocky or some other boxing movie character, I chose to step into the ring one last time. I’m a glutton for punishment.

BvS starts as MoS ends: we’re in Metropolis, and Superman (Henry Cavil – The Man From Uncle) and Zod are smacking each other around. Only this time, we’re on the ground. We’re seeing the destruction on a personal level. Buildings are falling down and there’s glass everywhere. People are dying and shit. But it’s okay, because here comes Ben Affleck (Daredevil) in a helicopter from Gotham City to save the day. See, Affleck is Bruce Wayne, who is secretly Batman, a masked vigilante who chose to fight crime dressed up as a bat after his parents were murdered when he was a child. This is loosely explained during the opening credits and the billion previous Batman films we’ve all seen.

So Wayne has popped over from Gotham (now it’s across the bay apparently – they don’t really explain why two massive metropolitan hubs are suddenly right next door to each other. But it makes it convenient for loads of shit that happens later). He immediately jumps into some SUV where he drives to Wayne Tower. As he arrives at his office, Zod and Supes smash into a nearby high rise. Then they start lasering stuff with their eye-beams, and this cuts Wayne Tower to pieces. It collapses into a massive cloud of dust. Wayne bravely storms into it. It’s eerily reminiscent of 911 footage right after they fell down.

screen shot 2015-12-03 at 5.10.56 am

It’s a total mess on the other side. Thankfully the children are all safe. But some dude, Wallace Keefe (Scoot McNairy – Monsters), has his legs trapped under a massive rock. Bruce lifts it up, and he’s pulled away to safety, but Wayne has that look on his face when he sees the damage as if to say “your legs, guy, they’re gone”. Moments later, Wayne saves a child from being crushed by more debris. He asks where her Mommy is. We all know she’s dead under Wayne Tower. He embraces her as he looks up with utter hatred in his eyes as Superman and Zod fight on. Terrible, terrible vengeance will be had, oh yes. Just not right now.

18 months later and Superman is still dividing opinion across the globe. There’s a massive monument to him in Metropolis, but other people don’t like him because he’s an alien and so fourth. He’s still got the hots for Lois Lane (Amy Adams – The Fighter) too. In fact, he comes to her rescue when some dangerous reporter-business goes wrong; she’s in Africa, speaking to some warlord about why he’s being such a bastard, when her photographer, Jimmy Olsen, is outed as a CIA spy. Olsen is executed, and Lane dragged into a basement. However, the mysterious merc contractor with a badass scar across his face, Anatoli Knyazev (played by the real-life scarred face Callen Mulvey – 300: Rise of an Empire), and his buddies start killing the warlord’s men. They then burn the bodies and escape on the same bikes used by Chuck Norris and his Delta Force.

Superman appears to save the day (or Lois) of course. But, as we find out later (Spoilers), it’s all been a trap to set up Superman as some giant alien shit who kills who he wants. All those burned bodies? His fault. Some crying woman even appears on TV to blame him. She’s not real, but secretly an actress paid off to smear Superman in the press. Who is paying her? Well it’s obviously Lex Luthor. I mean, seriously, you’ve seen the trailers right?

Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg – Zombieland) is a young billionaire who hates Superman. Why? Erm…well because he’s more powerful than him? He’s got bigger muscles? I don’t know…really, but he hates him. There’s lots of Daddy issues with Lex, so maybe that has something to do with it. Anyway, he’s found a massive chunk of Kryponite on the other side of the planet, but political type Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona), who wants Superman to be accountable for his actions, is blocking him from allowing it to be shipped to the US. It’s kind of weird, because on one hand she’s anti-Superman, but then on the other doesn’t want Luthor to create a weapon that can potentially kill him. It also doesn’t explain why Luthor can’t just smuggle it in like any normal super-villain either. But it’s all cool, because the Government gives him access to the crashed Kyrptonian ship and Zod’s body to play with.

batman vs superman lex luthor jesse eisenberg

Meanwhile, Batman is in Gotham investigating a mysterious crime ring (which again, surprise surprise, turns out to be Luthor). He’s also developing a pretty steady hatred for Superman. He’s having crazy Orwellian nightmares about him taking over the world and shit. So he’s got his cool butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons – Die Hard 3), building him an anti-Superman suit. As an aside, Alfred’s presence is a bit odd. He’s some much needed comic relief, cooing over Wayne like some old Mother. But Wayne doesn’t exactly live in a mansion anymore. In fact, Wayne Manor is a decrepit ruin. Instead, he lives in a modest glass house on a lake. Alfred doesn’t shave either (odd for a butler), and only looks moderately older than Bruce Wayne too. In fact, there’s a moment where Bruce Wayne makes Alfred a coffee! Maybe there is something more to this relationship. We do see Affleck in bed with someone at one point (you only see a leg, not a face). With all the furor with everyone wanting the two male leads in the new Star Wars to get it on, it makes you wonder if DC are shooting a head of the curve…

Batman, who has prowled the streets for about 20 years now, has turned to branding the criminals he fights. When thrown into jail, these Bat-marked goons are sought out and murdered…for reasons. It’s not really explained why they’re killed so readily. Maybe it’s because he makes them blab about their plans? But seriously, it’s Batman, you’d spill the beans if he was asking. Clark Kent gets wind of all these shenanigans whilst he’s in Gotham reporting on a football game. Because he’s secretly Superman, he gets a boner for Batman, and starts investigating. Perry, (Laurence Fishburne – Predators), isn’t happy, as no one cares about the Bat-guy. That isn’t about to stop Clark though.

Ironically, both Wayne and Clark meet at one of Luthor’s swanky parties. There’s some verbal sparring, with Wayne (obviously) defending Batman, and Kent (obviously) defending Superman. If these guys were something like, you know, a serious investigative journalist, or the worlds greatest detective, they might just realize who the other guy really is. Seriously, if Kimmel can figure it out, anyone can.

During the party, Wayne gets eye-balled by some eye-candy who turns out to be the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot – Fast & Furious 6). She nicks one of his secret computer hacker-thingys he’d planted in Luthor’s server room. But no worries guys, she gives him it back at the next high-class party. She too is after something (a photograph) from Luthor. However, all the files are encrypted so she doesn’t get anywhere. Lucky for Wayne he has the Batcomputer which does all the hard work for him. Once he’s got access, he finds out that Lex is bringing in the Krypotonite tonight. Time to suit up!…in the Batsuit now. Not his tux.

The bust goes wrong though, and Batman has to chase down the Russian merc in his Batmobile. Sadly, we’ve gone from the “tumbler” to a suped-up go-cart with gatling guns. This seasons Batmobile is so forgettable, that you couldn’t even get a savant to draw it in any form of details after the 5-10 minute car chase. It’s not George Clooney’s open-topped Batmobile terrible, but it’s close.

Batman vs Superman face off

Batman is close to getting what he needs, but then he spots Superman just hanging on a street corner like a pimp and decides to try and run him down. Yeah, hit & run is a perfectly viable option as the Caped Crusader sees it. Sadly, he bounces off Superman and they face off. Superman is all “you’re retired now, I’m the new sheriff in town, I see that Bat-light again and you’re dead” etc etc. Batman has the balls to ask “Do you bleed?”. Seriously. Do you think he’s gonna ask that shit to Wonder Woman later in the movie? I don’t think so.

So, like a teenage girl dumped on Prom night, he storms back to the Batcave and re-thinks things. Meanwhile, Superman has his own crap to deal with; Helen Hunt and the wheelchair bound Keefe want to bring the Man of Steel before all the people he’s inadvertently killed, maimed and wounded. But it’s a trap, and a bomb goes off, killing everyone whose name doesn’t start with Super. The world blames him naturally.

Batman, who now feels it’s his duty alone to stop the crazed Superman, breaks into Luthor’s lab and steals the Kryptonite. It’s odd that he didn’t just do this in the first place. It would have saved him a Batmobile, and loads of goon’s lives. But hey-ho, can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. With the deadly green rock in hand, he transforms it into some gas grenades, and a giant spear. Coupled with his powered armor, he’s now ready to face the Man of Steel. All it takes is for Luthor to kidnap Superman’s Mother to force him into the titular death match and to decide which broody superhero will reign supreme over the DC universe…

Apparently, this Ultimate Edition answered a lot of questions and filled in a lot of gaps that confused a lot of viewers. Now I’ve not seen the original cut, so I can’t comment on what was missing and how this new version improves on the original. What I will say (as it’s my website) is that at over three hours it’s way too long and that the pacing suffers for it. There is a lot to pack in, yet nothing much ever seems to be really going on on screen. I’m sorry, but if you can’t write a decent, understandable super hero movie that clocks in at two and a half hours MAXIMUM, you need to change the script or the story. Christopher Nolan managed it with the Dark Knight. That film was as tight as Sandra Bullocks ass in Demolition Man. It’s interesting to note that Nolan is an exec. producer on this film. I suspect he was brought in to oversea the Inception-like ending. But I digress.

While the film does it’s hamfisted best to pit the superheroes against each other, it still takes approximately two hours for the two main stars to come to blows. You can bake a cake in that time! Motherfucker, you could make a quality casserole even. To the film’s credit, the fight is pretty decent. Batman uses his technology and wits to defeat the indestructible Superman. What is disappointing is that the killing blow is averted because Superman goes all “Promise me you’ll save Martha…”. Obviously this kind of freaks out Batman as his Mum was called Martha too! Now, I never twigged this until that exact moment, but even if their names are the same, isn’t it a bit weird that Superman would call his Mother Martha? Surely, you’d say something like “Promise me you’ll save my Mum”. Wouldn’t that still be just as effective on a guy who is totally hung up on the death of his parents?

It’s kind of disappointing that their little feud ends at this point. Because they both have a Mother all is forgiven? Okay.

Batman vs Superman Fight

Now, even with that chicken-shit copout, if the movie had ended there it still would have been great. It would have been like the ending of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They could have used one film to build up and resolve the feud between Superman and Batman, before they team up in the third film (like Bucky and Captain America do in Civil War). Instead, they have to tack on another 40 minutes of Lex Luthor creating some super evil monster using his cells and and the corpse of General Zod. This “Doomsday”, is reminiscent of the hybrid alien in Alien Resurrection. And like that abomination, it serves only as a mindless creature for the super hero team to assemble and kill.

In hindsight, why not build the third film about Doomsday? You get far more ramp up time to explain how deadly he is, as well as giving Batman and Wonder Woman far more of a role in actually fighting it. To be fair, the final battle as it stands is decent enough, though laden with greenscreen and CGI. Like in Man of Steel, you stop thinking of the battle ground as actually being somewhere. It’s just loads of smoke and rubble. It could be anywhere. Who cares? Plus, the death of Superman at the end (spoilers) would have been felt even harder by the likes of the world, Bat’s, WW and the audience. Instead, he nearly died in the first film, Batman nearly kills him, and then he’s actually dead in the sequel. He’s hardly super, is he?

I’m sure the third film, or the Justice League movie, or whatever will resurrect him. And they’re trying really damn hard to build that Expanded Universe thing too. Whereas the Marvel movies had subtle hints, name drops and post credit stingers, BvS just rams it’s intentions down your throat – while perusing through Luthor’s files, Wayne comes across a file called Metahumans. It contains a photo of Diana Prince in World War 1. This foreshadows that movie and it’s stars (Chris Pine’s massive head nearly eclipses Gal Gadot’s). Good guy Bruce Wayne emails it to Prince, because that’s what she’s been looking for. That’s right. A digital photo. Because who wants that critical bit of physical evidence to prove that the hot babe is actual a hundred year old immortal Amazon princess? But hey, now she’s got it all digitized, she can use it as her Facebook profile pic I guess.

Anyway, in the other videos you also see Jason Mamoa (Bullet in the Head) as Seaman, the Flash and the Cyborg in other videos. But it’s like a five minute preview of “what’s coming up in the next two years”. It isn’t subtle. It’s this kind of blatant fanboy pandering that makes my eyes roll.

Even for a three hour movie, you’re still left with a lot of head-scratching incongruities. Like why is Perry so angry at Kent for following up on the Batman story? It’s literally on the front page of every other paper we see. In fact, why doesn’t anyone seem to know about Batman? He’s been around for twenty years. The film skips between an assumed knowledge that Batman has been around for a long time, to total fucking ignorance. “The Bat-man? Who is he?”. Make your mind up please.

Why does Superman ramming the Krypto-Spear through Doomsday’s back kill it? Surely it would do more damage by keeping the evil rock inside the monster? Speaking of this, there’s a great bit of referencing to this moment right at the beginning – the Wayne’s have been to the cinema to see Excalibur (which is weird, considering Bruce is like eight years old at the time – seriously that film is gory as hell, and has a brother/sister sex scene between Helen Mirren and Nigel Terry). At the end of Excalibur, Arthur get’s impaled on the spear of his son, Mordred. He then jams Excalibur (the sword) into Mordred’s throat, causing him to cough up loads of phlegmy blood all over his Dad. Maybe this is why Bruce Wayne is so messed up. However, this is how the film ends. Sort of. Superman impales Doomsday. Doomsday then stabs Superman. They’ve just got it the wrong way round I guess.

Batman vs Superman Superman Henry Cavil

Let’s continue: why doesn’t Batman create actual bullets of Kryptonite instead of some gas and a massive, cumbersome spear? Why doesn’t Clark Kent just use his x-ray vision at the party when Bruce Wayne buggers off downstairs? If you want, you can pick this movies to bits. I’ve got better things to do, but the above thoughts actually sprung to mind whilst watching.

There are some positives we can take away, however. Superman actually saves some people this time around. We get a little montage of him doing some good early on. I also like how Lex Luthor uses politics and the media to defeat him. It has shades of how Dr. Manhattan is driven away in The Watchmen. It’s all very clever, all very modern. And maybe Lex and Wayne are right – Superman is ready to kill when he finds out his Mother is at risk. He also has a weird day-dream that his Dad, Kevin Costner (Prince of Thieves), is still alive. Maybe he isn’t the perfect defender of Earth everyone wanted. Instead, he’s as conflicted and brooding as ever. Even more so than Batman.

And kudos for having the balls to actually kill off a main member of the team. The Avengers are getting really stale because we all know that everyone is going to survive at this stage. Marvel are too precious. Here, Synder has had the sack to murder Superman in a pretty brutal (yet heroic) way. That will all count for shit when he magically comes back to life, like Jesus, in the next film. But for the time being, thumbs up.

Plus, while it is hardly a hard R-rating (sadly there isn’t any swearing, decapitations or tits), the violence is a step up from Marvel’s outings. Specifically, the scene where Batman saves Martha (Kent) from the Russian’s dude’s is really good. It has elements of the Arkham games (which you should play) and the stylistic impact of the Raid movies (which you should watch). Sadly, there’s only one scene like this.

In terms of visuals, the film weaves between really fucking cool, and really fucking boring. There are some nice moments of fantastic ocular glory. Most of it is lifted from the actual comics, specifically Frank Millar’s (Sin City) The Dark Knight Returns. The design of the powered batsuit. A withered Superman floating in space after being nuked. It looks slick. Plus Synder and writers Chris “Argo” Terrio and David S. “Blade” Goyer also include some pretty weird “vision” scenes too. The one where Batman dreams that he’s in Mad Max is really good. But these are fleeting moments. Somehow, the visual panache of Synder has faded with time it would seem.

Casting wise, we’re doing well. Henry Cavil still doesn’t get a chance to explore the duality of Clark Kent and Superman. But he’s given more to work with this time around. He does a lot of frowning. Affleck is good as Batman. He ranks behind Christian Bale and Michael Keaton, respectively, in the pantheon of Batman actors. Though again, like Superman, he doesn’t really have an anti-Batman persona when he’s in public. He’s not the cretinous, trust-fund goodie goodie womaniser we all love and remember. He’s just Bruce. He even remembers the name of that one employee who gets his legs crushed. I do buy into his reasoning for wanting Superman gone. The “if there’s a 1% chance he’s mental we have to take that as 100%” is self explanatory.

Batman vs Superman Wonder Woman Gal Gadot Shield

Gal Gadot – forget all the grief she got for being cast originally. She’s really good. She’s hot. Looks mysterious, and is a genuine badass at the end. She elevates this movie, and the very fact she’s barely in it means there are less chances the writers/director can mess it up. For all the over-the-top action and effects, the less-is-more approach to Wonder Woman really works well. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the ever lovable Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Again, she’s purely there as candy to be rescued. We don’t get a sense of what she wants (beyond regular Super-penis) and is sadly left as two dimensional as she was in Man of Steel.

By the way, why all the hatred for Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor? People are saying he acts too mental. But I like it. He isn’t as…focused as Spacey or Hackman were. He’s a bit quirky, sure. But for once it’s nice to see a Superman villain who isn’t trying to kill him simply to get him out of the way so they can perform an even greater evil plot. Why he wants to kill Superman isn’t really made clear, but it’s not for a want of riches or more power. Plus, he’s the only actor (besides Irons) who actually seems to be having a bit of fun. BvS is a super-serious super-hero movie, and while too much levity (I’m looking at you now Avengers) can lower the tone too much, it can’t be doom and gloom all the time.

Batman vs Superman Jena Malone

This movie needed more Jena Malone…

Overall Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of the Subtitled DC Films lacks the focus of previous Batman and Superman entries. By God it tries, and you have to respect it for attempting something a bit different. Yet, despite it’s good intentions, it still falls afoul of standard Hollywood tropes and storytelling. You won’t be surprised by anything. You’ll enjoy parts of it sure. But parts of it are genuinely mystifying, and it is really too long. Does it make me excited for the future DC mega movie franchise? Not really. I wasn’t a fan of Man of Steel, and BvS follows suit in the sense that it is somehow unsatisfying. I want to like it. I want to love it. But I can’t.

As a diehard Bat-fan, it is always enjoyable to see the do-gooder Superman get his ass kicked by the Caped Crusader. Compared to the likes of Civil War, the stakes in this fight seem a little higher too. Plus whereas before I was genuinely uninterested in a Wonder Woman film, I’m now actually curious. Even if it will feature Chris Pine’s massive dome. The world needs more badass movie heroines, and I hope Gal Gadot can parlay into that realm like Scarlett Johansson has if nothing else.

Get it watched.

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One thought on “Review: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition

  1. Pingback: Review: Wonder Woman | The Movie Bastards

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