I honestly can't think of another example where an Ultimate/Extended or Director's Cut of a movie has been so hotly anticipated. With the theatrical release of Batman v Superman being so utterly divisive among critics and fans, this mysterious Ultimate Cut that was also rated R by the MPAA had quite a lot riding on it for the people involved making it. Would it reinforce the alleged ineptitude of Zack Snyder as a director gone wild, or would it vindicate him, and his vision for the DCCU? Fans were eager to know. Did WB save what they could from Zack Snyder? Or did WB interfere with Zack Snyder's take for Batman v Superman?
Let's get one absolutely pivotal detail out of the way first. The Ultimate Cut was not a knee-jerk reaction to the rocky reception of BvS. The Ultimate Cut was happening a long time before the theatrical release of Batman v Superman, so it was not an attempt to ameliorate the critical reception of Batman v Superman in any way. I don't want to go through what I've already said about the bulk of Batman v Superman again. You can read my review of the theatrical cut here if you want to. That covers my general feelings of the movie, albeit of a neutered version. This is about what the Ultimate Cut brought to the movie. This wasn't some extra couple of minutes footage 'gimmick', this was Zack Snyder's intended version for release.
Suffice to say that there are plenty of rumors surrounding Batman v Superman too. One being that Zack Snyder stressed the importance of making BvS a three and a half hour epic, which WB agreed to, but then they backtracked on their deal two months before release and forced Zack to cut over 30 minutes out of the movie. But hey, at least Zack Snyder didn't pull a Josh Trank. WB seems to like messing with Zack Snyder's movies too, they have a history of it, and in every case Zack Snyder's full vision has been far superior to what WB has decided to put in the cinemas. There's a lesson to be learned in there somewhere WB!
In this sense I find that Zack Snyder is fast becoming like Ridley Scott. In so far as a significant portion of their filmography have been compromised by weak studio mandated cuts of their movies, only to be reevaluated in a better light when the intended versions see the light of day. And this is really what annoys me about all these different 'cuts' and 'versions' that magically appear after the theatrical release has finished its run, of course. I've written about why I loathe this practice of releasing multiple 'cuts' here. The point being is that as consumers we're paying full price to see a movie, the least the studios can do is present the fullest and purest cut of the movie in the best possible format for us. That is the entire point of going to the cinemas in the first place.
I don't shell out money to see 90% of a movie, I shell out money to see the entire movie in the best format available. That's the experience that the cinemas supposedly offer, not so. I've heard some people say that they couldn't screen the full cut of the movie because it ran for over three hours, a running time that Imax couldn't accommodate, but this is simply not true. Avatar famously had a lot of obstacles to overcome with Imax and the restrictions James Cameron faced regarding its running time because of it, but this was back in 2009. In 2012 another James Cameron movie got an Imax release, this time it was Titanic, clocking in at a lengthy 195 minutes. The shorter theatrical release of Batman v Superman had nothing to do with the limitations of Imax, and instead had everything to do with greed. Ironically I would bet money that had WB released this R rated version of Batman v Superman, it would have made more money than the PG version did. But on to the movie itself.
If you read my review then you'll know that my biggest problem with Batman v Superman was the choppy editing, the pacing, and thanks to the PG rating, the restrictive intensity of the violence. All of these issues were resolved in the Ultimate Cut. The narrative flows much, much better. Thirty minutes is a lot of movie to gut in under two months, and you could feel it in the theatrical release, but not anymore. That issue has been rectified. The pacing is much more comfortable and there's a lot more dialogue. Not just from Superman, but from everyone. It does bring a lot of things into clarity and makes the movie feel more complete.
I've never had a problem with a taciturn Superman, but I know some people did. However there's a lot more Clark Kent in Batman v Superman, one who does some actual reporting and tries to fight for the little guys without using his fists. I remember hearing that WB ordered that more Batman be included in the movie, but I think what happened is that they cut more Clark Kent scenes out to allow for more Batman, which sucks. I thought they were going to shoot some additional scenes for Batman, but that's obviously not what happened. Instead they took a scalpel to Clark Kent's screen-time.
The Clark Kent scenes of him investigating Batman added a lot of understanding to their conflict. The Ultimate Cut, as Zack Snyder intended it, does feel much more like a Superman movie than it does a Batman movie. I suspect this was an edict that came down from management. Include more Bruce Wayne/Batman and less Clark Kent/Superman. This is what happens when philistines are in control of creative projects. The director turned out a much more balanced movie than the studio did.
The machinations of the plot and motivations are better developed and explored, and as a whole the movie's just given more room to breathe. Not to sound arrogant or supercilious, but I had no real problem following the plot, you just had to pay attention and occasionally connect the dots, but the Ultimate Cut connects everything in a much more accessible way. Again, the conflict between Batman and Superman is given more of an ideological edge than it was in the theatrical cut. That's still not the reason they fight, but it gives the fight more of an underlying hatred between the two men. The entire Africa scenario was given a lot more screen-time, and is probably the single biggest addition to the Ultimate Cut overall. So for the people who were confused about what happened there and some of the subsequent consequences and reactions shown in the theatrical, there is a lot more context behind it all.
I can see why it was rated R, but it's not extremely violent either. An R rating doesn't always come about because of bloody violence, it can often be because of intense and scary sequences of violence that feature little, to no, blood. Take this quote from the late Wes Craven. "I'm a director who can do something very well but am not allowed to put it on screen. And they ultimately get you, as they did on this one, on intensity. They say, 'it's not a specific shot, it's not blood, it's just too intense.'" - Wes Craven on his conflict with MPAA censorship during production of Scream. People act like an R rating only pertains to blood and tits, but that's not it at all.
I think there was a fair amount of that thought process going on behind the R rating, but the warehouse fight was pretty brutal, and the Doomsday fight was surprisingly intense as well. There was a (relatively) nice scene where after the Capitol bombing Superman is helping to rescue survivors, and after looking at all the body-bags and charred remains, that's when he decides to bug out. It was such an effective scene, and it only went for a minute, tops. Why not keep it? The PG rating probably wouldn't allow it. It's a strange thing, because as a solitary scene, it probably could have got by with a PG rating. But when those borderline PG scenes start to add up, then even the most innocuous scenes can start becoming problematic.
The question remains. Did Zack Snyder make a genuinely shitty movie that's one of the worst comic book movies ever made, or did he make one of the most ambitious and thought-provoking comic book movies that got lost in a sea of producers and bean counters? In my eyes, it's clear that WB screwed over Zack Snyder for the sake of an extra buck, which may have inadvertently backfired on them. There were a lot of little scenes that were really quite emotional as well, like all the abandoned streets and shops in the wake of Superman's funeral. The entire nation grind to a halt. There's a lot of scenes like that in here, and a lot of dialogue that added depth, insight and motivation to all the players involved.
The titular, and much anticipated, showdown between the two comic book icons didn't disappoint in either version, but there was one particularly intense scene missing where Superman picks Batman up by clutching the Bat-Armor and tosses him aside as if it were nothing. This was a nod to The Dark Knight Returns as well. Superman then circles Batman, almost taunting him, and then launches Batman through a building. Leaving the audience to wonder in the theatrical cut where this hand print on the Bat-Armor had come from. Obviously it had to have come from Superman, but when? That reminded me of Spider Man from all the way back in 2000. Why, you may be wondering. Originally the Green Goblin was to fire more of those flying razor blades at Spider Man, and they had been upgraded. Meaning that the Green Goblin could remote control them. These inflicted significant damage on Spider Man, but the entire sequence had to be cut because it was too intense. That's why Spider Man's suit was all shredded in their fight. Hell, even the blood had to be cgi'd in post to change it to saliva when the grenade goes off.
I'm sure that some people ↑ will continue to blindly hate on Zack Snyder regardless of what he does. I don't know what about Zack Snyder seems to inspire such hatred and vitriol from some people. He's all style over substance some people say, as if one precludes the other. I certainly don't see what they see when I look at his movies, and even if I did, I like to think that I'd judge each one of his movies fairly and objectively. The Ultimate Cut isn't a different Batman v Superman movie, but it's certainly a more fluid one that feels more complete in many respects. Jenna Malone explaining to Lois Lane that the bomb was encased in lead. And that was just a single sentence, but it illuminates so much of the narrative.
As I said in my original review, it pisses me off that WB deliberately released a half-assed version of Batman v Superman when they had this much better version waiting in the wings the whole time. WB needed to put their best foot forward, and they evidently didn't. Most of all though, I feel sorry for Zack Snyder and everyone else involved. THIS is the Batman v Superman movie that they made, and it's a damn good one. For all the people crying out for Zack Snyder's blood and demanding that he be fired, you should be taking aim at the producers and the hierarchy at WB that saw fit to release a bastardized version of Zack Snyder's movie. This is, without a doubt, the BvS movie that should have been released in cinemas.
Written by - The Sentry - 26/06/2016