Author’s note: Wrote this addition to the BvS review back when the Extended Edition first came out on DVD. So it’s still a bit dated, albeit not quite as much as the original review.
Well, the Extended Cut for Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is starting to make the rounds on the interwebs. And, afterhomicidally deconstructing the movie in my 5-part review , I figured I’d take a look at this extended cut to see whether it would answer the fanboys prayers and magically make it a coherent movie. Did it succeed?
Seriously though, while there were a surprising number of scenes I genuinely did like and felt added to the movie, ultimately it does basically nothing to fix the myriad of problems with the film. There are still too many pointless subplots. It still does a terrible job of building up the titular conflict. It still has terrible characterisation, mistakes talking points for depth, a waste of a conclusion and so many problems beyond all that. The pacing is still pisspoor. I was only halfway through its runtime when I felt like the movie should’ve been winding into the third act. It maybe improved a bit in some areas but it also did worse in others. The Doomsday subplot in particular feels like the movie forgot about it until near the final act where it suddenly went ‘Oh shit, we need to set this up!’ and rushed through it. So it’s still a bad movie.
But enough about what it didn’t change. Let’s talk about what it did change. Because there are some interesting things to talk about here. Not enough to save the movie, mind, but enough to squeeze this cow for one last glass of Granny’s Peach Tea. So let’s dive right in.
Spoilers Alert (Obviously)
First of all, the extended cut handled the Superman side of things better. He’s still terribly written, overly mopey and an awful adaptation of the character, mind, but he doesn’t feel absent from most of the movie, has more screentime and I really liked some of the added scenes of Clark investigating the Batman. Three in particular. First was when he was trying to find the African lady who testified about his actions in Africa to Senator Finch (fyi said African lady has her own minor subplot in the extended cut where it’s revealed she was an actor hired by Luthor. Said subplot goes completely nowhere and is largely pointless (because God knows this movie needed more of that)). He goes to her apartment to try and find her and is told by the paranoid inhabitants about the Batman. Not only does this actually make Supes seem like he gives a crap about the human consequences of his actions (something sorely missing in the theatrical edition) but it also gives him a direct jumping point onto learning about Batman rather than just randomly deciding to investigate him one day. Of course, this scene is naturally immediately followed by an entirely pointless scene of Bruce Wayne giving advice to a boxer that, surprise surprise, actually did make it into the final cut. Because of course it did.
Moving on, the second good scene was a very small one early in the movie where Clark, having doubts about himself, phones up his mother to talk about his doubts. It’s a small scene which doesn’t move the plot forward much, but it’s one that goes a long way to helping these characters feel much more human. Certainly not enough to save them, but it’s still something. It really should’ve been left in the final product. There are enough genuinely pointless scenes it could’ve replaced.
Final scene I really liked came after the trafficker Batman branded had been murdered in prison (which is shown in the extended cut in full detail and also ended up being arranged directly by Luthor because… reasons.) Clark visits the police station after said murder and meets the trafficker’s wife and child who remind him that, even though the trafficker was a bad guy, he still had a family and son he cared for and raises questions about Batman’s judge, jury and executioner methods. Ignoring the stupid get-out clause that Luthor secretly arranged the murder, this is actually the sort of the murky moral ambiguity I could get behind and that the movie should’ve been exploring. And it’s even better because this scene is followed (after the poorly placed Perry White ‘Kansas’ scene) by Batman going on his rampage in the Batmobile, directly tying into those questions about his methods. Congratulations Snyder, that’s almost competent editing/handling of a theme! Of course, like the theatrical cut, it’s ultimately undermined by the fact that Batman post-redemption acts just as bad as Batman pre-redemption, but hey, baby steps.
Speaking of, any ambiguity that Batman didn’t totally murder some of those guys in that warehouse rescuing Martha is kinda blown out the window by the extended cut. One guy he hits with a crate leaves a fucking stain on the wall where he hit. Also, remember the guy he stabbed in the shoulder with his batarang? Well, said guy stabs Bats first in the same place when he’s down. And when Bats gets back up it’s kinda heavily implied that he stabs the guy in the same place as payback (but no, Batman totally learned his lesson about brutality after befriending Supes). It does admittedly show that that stab was non-fatal, because the guy is whimpering in terror. But the scene ends with Bats doing… something offscreen to him that may not have been (since all we hear is a scream and crunch). Which is kinda worse, to be honest. So, shockingly, the R-Rating doesn’t do much to fix the Batman brutality problems.
“Once again, I think Snyder picked the wrong Frank Miller comic as inspiration.”
Moving on, I’ll give the movie the credit that it tried to fix some of the glaring plot holes. Of course, the solutions tended to raise new problems instead. For example, in the Africa scene, Anatoli and his men flamethrowered bodies to make it look like Supes heat visioned them (I suspect this was also part of what raised it to an R Rating ’cause it was fairly brutal looking). But that just makes me wonder why Supes apparently gave zero craps about investigating any of it. I mean, people mistaking bodies shot by bullets for his work is one (stupid) thing, but he could at least write that off as people misinterpreting the scene. But when you have the scene being actively staged by someone to look directly like he was responsible, it makes it odd that he never bothers to find out who or why and instead goes after some random Batguy. Hell, he actively warns Lois off the case in one scene (which kinda made him look like a tool) but does nothing himself. Bat vigilante investigating is well and good but someone actively trying to frame you should get more attention. Speaking of, why did Anatoli only flamethrower terrorist goons to frame Supes? Why not kill civilians as well and really get the world on his case? Aside from, you know, because Luthor’s plan makes no sense.
On that note, I think the movie attempted to try and explain Lex’s courtroom bombing (aka, one of the most infuriatingly pointless moments for me in the movie ). Rather than being part of some sort of incredibly convoluted but ultimately pointless plot to somehow turn the world against Superman and push Batman over the edge, it’s implied he planned it to kill Senator Finch after the African actress lady (who I mentioned before) spills the beans about Lex’s actions to her. Of course, the problem with this implication is that he obviously arranged and set up Wallace with the wheelchair bomb long before said actress informed on him. So once again it makes no sense. The movie also tried to give the pointless bullet subplot some meaning by having Lois learn (from Jena Malone as ‘random scientist woman’) that the bomb wheelchair was made with the same experimental metal as the bullets. But what should’ve been a great combining of two minor subplots and a justification of Lois’s whole role in the movie is kinda undermined by the fact that… well… neither of those subplots go anywhere regardless. So they’re still pointless. They’re just layered pointlessness now.
“It’s pointlessness within pointlessness. BWAAAAAAAAM!
Also, as a ‘pleasant’ callback to Man of Steel, the extended cut added a decent amount of military porn that was (thankfully) missing from the original cut. The big changes in the Africa scene (aside from the flamethrowered bodies) largely revolve around a group of ‘MURICAN’ soldiers saying ‘Screw the rules’ and riding down on horseback across the desert to help Lois Lane (although ultimately they arrive too late and don’t really do anything except get practically worshipped by a bunch of (I assume captive?) female civilians in a scene that felt a little uncomfortably propaganda-ish). We also get a bunch of Apache helicopters attempting to fight Doomsday. Like the ‘Military attempts to fight the Kryptonians’ scenes from MoS, this ultimately achieves nothing, isn’t as fun to watch as superpowered people whaling on each other and is probably only there so the movie can get that US Army grant money. (Although I suppose it kinda explains why they escalated to nukes so quickly? But then again, the nuking added absolutely nothing either and was only there because Frank Millar did it, so whatever). Speaking of, the extended cut also seems to have forgotten the whole ‘avoid civilian casualties’ thing the original tried to handwave, because Doomsday flings Supes into a building that is blatantly populated (unless someone accidentally left every curtain open and every light in the skyscraper on). And, as another call back to MoS, nobody seems to give a crap.
But to sum up, most of the rest of the added material (minus one scene I’ll get to) is largely pointless fluff that was rightfully removed from the final cut. Really not much to talk about. Although there was one Watchman easter egg (which may have been in the original cut (?)) that irritated me. It’s during the Batman/Superman fight where Batman is dragging Superman and a pillar passes in front of the camera with “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who Watches the Watchmen) graffited on it. Not only is it distracting as sin (which makes me think it wasn’t in the original) but it’s also lends credence to the idea that Snyder was just trying to remake Watchmen. Which is terrible because he doesn’t understand Watchmen. But that’s a rant for another place and time.
To finish off, however, I’m going talk about the one scene that was added interested me the most but I suspect many might have overlooked. It mostly interests me because it adds a very dark subtext to a character that I don’t think was intentional but makes you look at some key moments in a very different light. The scene takes place shortly before the Pa Kent scene, when Clark is on his mopefest after the courtroom bombing. We see Clark traipsing through the snowy mountains he meets Pa at and he passes a couple of native american stereotypes. One of said stereotypes comments that Clark looks like a man looking for a place to die. Now, I suspect the intention of the scene was just to set up the talk with Ghost Pa Kent, as well as pointing out that Supes is very depressed. But, considering Supes actually does end up dying at the end of the movie, it really leads you to question whether he really actually got over those suicidal thoughts. The movie tries to play his big death scene like a heroic sacrifice, supposedly inspiring Batman and the world and Jesus Symbolism, etc etc. But, with the knowledge of that scene, plus the abundance of alternate options to avoid his death, like tossing the spear to Wonder Woman, I can’t help but wonder whether Supes was actually deliberately committing Suicide by Doomsday. Hence why he didn’t toss the spear to someone who could use it and why he actively pulled himself onto Doomsday’s spike to stab him better. Not because he was sacrificing himself to save the world but because he wanted to end his own suffering and doubts. Now, do I think this was the filmmakers intention? Good God no. To begin with, Snyder is not smart enough to do something like this on purpose and the terrible post-death scenes kinda put a nail in that. It’s obvious the movie was intending to copy Death of Superman with an added dose of Jesus symbolism on the side. But the implications it didn’t mean to convey seem infinitely more interesting. Admittedly this theory doesn’t change the fact that the entire movie/character in said movie is terribly written. But it’s an interesting angle to look at the film, inadvertent or not.
To sum up, does the extended cut save Batman v Superman? No. Not by a long shot. As I mentioned, almost all the problems are still there. A few decent scenes doesn’t change any of that. If anything, it makes the original cut look more incompetent for its poor editing judgement. Would I recommend to anyone who hated the original cut? Definitely not, unless you have some sort of morbid curiosity. It’s almost certainly not going to make you like the film any more. Does it make me more confident Zack Snyder might be able to handle Justice League?
And to brutally honest, as much as WB and people have been hyping it up, most of the added stuff in this isn’t nearly interesting enough to justify giving some sort of ‘must-see cut’ status. It’s just a bunch of deleted scenes that were understandably deleted because they didn’t add much. And the theatrical cut already has far too many of those scenes to begin with. If you want an extended cut to a Superhero movie that actually adds interesting stuff, watch DOFP‘s Rogue cut. Or maybe the director’s cut to Daredevil. Because, unintentional implications aside, this is just an added level of fat to a movie that had way too much of it to begin with.