In case you didn't already know, there are two cuts of the movie: the original two-and-a-half hour long film that was in theaters, and the three hour extended version released with the original cut on home video and home media. I saw the theatrical cut opening day here in the United States after having traveled the same day for the coming Easter holiday. The theater I watched the movie in was very cold, me and the family I dragged along being able to see the exhalation of our breath in front of us. We stupidly had not thought about the weather conditions ahead of time, so we were wearing no jackets or coats over ourselves. It was a large room we were in to watch Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, possibly because we paid the extra charge for 3-D, which we rarely do. The atmosphere and cinematography of the movie is also of a cold nature, and seeps from the film into your bones, or maybe I was just imagining that bones part because the cold air around me fit so much with the film. Months later, on retrospection, we kind of, because of the cold air, got a bump up from 3-D to 4-D with no extra charge!
Now, onto the movie itself. After having watched two versions of the film and reading the thoughts of numerous people, I think it suffice to say that the movie will more than likely end up either on your Hate List or your Love List. It kind of depends on whether you are able to adjust or not to the film you were expecting turning out to be another kind of beast. I for sure was surprised by a number of different things. One thing I am worried about while making this review is spoilers. I end up doing it all the time in other reviews without noticing until I've already done it, but there is so much event nature to this movie, where if you don't know what is going to happen it can have an even bigger impact on your film-watching experience, more "shocks" to pound over your head, as these are numerous. With spoiler areas, I'll try to provide little detail. This is a different world than you most likely think you are entering into. In the world of Batman, the character already has a lifetime of crime-fighting behind him, while the legacy of Superman is relatively small in length, though not in the number of things Kal-El has been able to get done in that period of time. Because of the length of Batman's tenure in Gotham City, he has gone through a lot, and his past is littered with tragedies, which has changed his thought process and attitude. Alfred the butler in this incarnation is much more actively involved in Bruce's exploits via advice, technology, and communication. Just like Bruce, he's a bit rough around the edges as well, though he acknowledges irony and drama when he sees it. Hmm. Irony. Alfred is played by Jeremy Irons. As a butler, he probably irons his master's clothes as well. There are a few instances in the movie where the word "iron" can be seen written or etched into something in the background, either in small letters or medium. But I'm getting too much into the whole name thing again. Superman's world is also different in that it also is pretty dark. Lex Luthor here is not the one that we are used to. He talks a lot, is a fidgety mess, goes on and on talking in his own circuit, and after having listening to his speech at a banquet/party of his own creation, I would be quite surprised if he hasn't been admitted to a psychiatric hospital sometime in his life before. People who aren't paying too close attention to the movie may mistake him for the Joker or the Riddler. I know my aunt did. This is also in a time before Lex is bald, like Gene Hackman in Superman: The Movie. Another BIG difference is that in the DC Extended Universe of which this movie is now the second installment of, there are troubles from the Middle East and in Africa, like in our own world, and there are conspiracies and terrorism threats all around.
The theatrical cut has moments of plot holes, but they aren't exactly plot holes, as it actually feels like there are small pieces of the movie missing here and there. ...Which, in fact, there are. The Ultimate Edition fills most of these in, raising my score a bit further up. However, there are some things that need mentioning. Even the Ultimate Edition is not perfect. First, it is three hours long, but feels like four or five. Do not attempt to watch the movie if you are not willing to invest the time and energy. Because this movie is a chore. The critics say the film isn't well-made, but I beg to differ. Every step of the way this movie is well-made. But it is still, nevertheless, a well-made chore. There is a thick part of the film that is exposition, quips, and unnatural speech made to make specific points. These points are probably the movie's biggest strength, the way they are delivered its biggest weakness. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor is so unique and inspired, but boy would his performance and the rapid amount of dialogue his character is given be a turnoff for most folks. The film has a rich quality, but this Lex is a richness of a different sort, and we are given so much of it, with no warning. Then we switch back to how the rest of the cast is moving along, and the switch is another thing to blindside us, some of what they are talking about to explain what is going on in certain areas of conversation being difficult to discern, in both versions of the film, the Ultimate Cut giving a little more time for things to register.
I don't know if, by the religion I hold myself to (Christianity), God would be offended by this exclamation, the compulsion to say this is so ripe, but Holy Mother of Jesus, Zack Snyder put his body and soul into this production! God Almighty, what was finally the cue for him to stop?! I understand this is the film setting up the Extended Universe and laying the groundwork for future installments, but who beside comic fanboys is going to understand all these allusions he thrusts into the audience's face in a manner of importance? I myself have never read a single DC Comic, I only having experience with a moderate handful of Marvel's Spider-Man and the sub-DC Comics series Dragonlance (not having a comic book store in the small city where I live), nor watched any of the animated television shows, and would have been completely at a loss to explain some things in the plot if I hadn't exposed myself over the years to looking up random DC Comics characters on Wikipedia to notify myself of their existence; or to have familarized myself to one popular storyline through the engaging book The Death and Life of Superman, which it turns out actually has a little bearing in the movie regarding a few characters and concepts, but not in entirety, and it's the only story from the comics that I am really familiar with, so don't jump to saying I spoiled anything. (Yep, that was a run-on sentence.) A famous miniseries of comic books titled The Dark Knight Returns is said to have been an inspiration for parts of Batman v Superman..., which I'll leave for the reader to finding meaning for on his/her own. In order not to echo the Marvel Cinematic Universe by putting hints of the future after the end credits, the DC Extended Universe plans to incorporate that sort of material into the regular layout of its films and supply even more Easter eggs and goodies through extended editions. I give the Marvel Cinematic Universe this: It introduces people to the characters and subtly sneaks stuff into the background. Post-Man of Steel, so far with Batman v Superman... and Suicide Squad in the DCEU it appears as if the writers and studio, Warner Bros., are very eager to explode with this other world they have imagined, possibly because they want to rival Marvel Studios, but also possibly because there is an elite team of comic book fans at the helm who have trouble containing their imagination and energy, Warner Bros. taking advantage of this. After having watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and reading some interviews with Zack Snyder, I do believe the second possibility is highly likely, doing damage to the DCEU's health.
Having brought the subject of Warner Bros. into this, I would like to bring up something else I have noticed with the production of four superhero films in these past couple years: two of the DC Extended Universe, one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and another from the studio 20th Century Fox. I hope this problem will not soon happen again. This problem would involve the studios; they are getting in the way of the people they employ crafting their visions completely. MCU's Avengers: Age of Ultron was originally of epic length, like Batman v Superman, but was cut down to 141 minutes for the purpose of not overstaying its welcome. Joss Whedon, the director, decided not to release a director's cut showing the film in its entirety, saying he was content with the released product. I, however, was not. I noticed several areas of the film where it felt like things were cut out; these areas were of significance to me, as a majority of them affected the pace of the film and sped through the arc of the titular villain, Ultron, not allowing the audience to feel a complete resonance with the character. Complex themes were largely left unexplored, barely hinted at. A few months later in that year of 2015 was Fox's reboot of Fantastic Four. The film bombed at the box office and with critics and the audience. This can most likely be tracked to a point in the film's production where the studio rejected the director, Josh Trank's, cut of the movie and ordered major alterations, the final product upsetting Mr. Trank enough to publicly condemn it right before it was released. Next came 2016, where the DCEU's jumpstart was pulled off in a way that hurt its two films of the year in different ways. Warner Bros. was kind enough to postpone Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice so that the filmmakers could "realize fully their vision". This gets a thumbs up from me, but then a full half hour from the completed film was taken out of the theatrical cut for the heavily marketed Ultimate Edition, hurting the performance of the shortened version that appeared in theaters by making certain plot points even more unclear, turning off critics, which influenced the box office receipts in the second week and beyond. Suicide Squad had already wrapped principal photography August of 2015, but due to one constant criticism of Batman v Superman... being directed toward its dark nature and consistency of tone, Warner Bros. told people to go back in and work on the film some more, to lighten the tone of the production. Despite the large box office total Suicide Squad would amass, this ended up being an example of a creative mistake. A great many critics, I agreeing with them, say that the first half of the film is excellent, but the second half becomes immensely muddled and inert. Changing the tone of the movie made it near impossible for the original cut of the movie to breathe, to flesh things out and be satisfying. The Extended Cut, though I have not watched it yet, is said to be even worse. This is more than likely because it deals out more of the tonal jarring and doesn't add what people expect of it to mend the project, considering the success of the Ultimate Cut of Batman v Superman....; Suicide Squad couldn't be mended because its very nature was distorted. Jared Leto complained following the theatrical cut's release in theaters that a lot of scenes his character the Joker was involved in were cut out, and this led to a lot of people, such as myself, being unable to tell how good a job he actually did in the role. His character is very poorly developed, as are a few others. Of the four superhero films brought up in this paragraph, Batman v Superman... is the only one where the original version of the film was eventually released for people to see.
Back to the film of this review, there is an immense attention to detail, but that detail will more than likely go unnoticed to the average viewer. Some articles pertaining to the differences in the Ultimate Cut help explain different images and framing choices, many that I hadn't even considered before. Of course, one can't expect people to notice all these subtle things when they are being faced with multiple other things that are very unsubtle. Like the Christian imagery and symbolism that especially in the second half of the film shows up all over the place. The movie aims to rise above itself, is so ambitious that when shooting for the stars it doesn't notice that its path up has been wobbly and messy. There is so much attention to detail and such an aim for quality in the movie, though, that I didn't much mind the faults that were evidently on display. The filmmakers took their time making the movie, perhaps too much time, but they delivered what they meant to deliver, and that was something grand. The ending is a major muchness, but it is a muchness that I think it earned after building up so much to it through all the exposition and plot enhancing. It is probably also the most exciting and riveting ending I have seen in a superhero movie, maybe even on the wide range of film, in a long, long time. When you think the scope can't get any bigger, the film stretches wide enough and still is able to keep breaking down walls, blinding you with its passion.
I must give a shoutout to the legendary Hans Zimmer, the composer. He rocks the movie so hard with such brutal and elaborate music that it becomes the soul of the movie. I have listened to the 2-disc deluxe version of the soundtrack numerous times, and having doing this notice that there are key themes he replays over and over again in different ways that you may not at first notice. I had become accustomed to giving track titles names saying they belonged to specific characters, but in reality every one of them (excepting the "Is She We You?" track, which is clearly Wonder Woman's) also shares parts with each other, interlocking the characters together in a pattern that emphasizes the ties Lex Luthor creates between people that may have been overlooked by somebody watching the movie. Just like the movie, the soundtrack has so much depth. But, just as the movie would have been made lesser with the absence of Zimmer's music, so is his music lesser without the images of the movie to link to them, the two are so much a part of one another.
Concluding this review was going to be hard, whichever way I approached this. There is so much that makes up this film, that affects it for the better or for the worse, that not one review can hope to address everything. For instance, in the entirety of this the only actor I even addressed as far as acting ability was Jesse Eisenberg's turn as Lex, his role having affected the movie's tone and flow, as well as being the catalyst and cause of many interactions. He becomes so important that a number of the surprising ideas that are brought up come from him. News on display, symbolism, and Batman's role and story are also major contributors to what becomes like the movie's own myth and fantasy. Different decisions as far as where action picks up in these character's lives, changes in what these characters mean, and similarities to their origins or the popular views on what they stand for combine with the help of strong performances to connect with an innumerable number of other factors to rescue this movie from being the flop that many who just look at the score on Rotten Tomatoes and right off the bat say the movie must be complete c--p believe it to be. It's not perfect; there are some things that could have been better explained, the inventiveness this movie has all over it isn't always shown in a way that others can see, and the dark nature of the movie that has some ties to real world issues could be too much for some, especially considering the colossal weight it has that also ties into its length. What we have here is something unique, a vision too much for even 180 minutes to handle. It has so moved me on even a level that I don't myself understand that I feel I must give credit where it is due, and place Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on the list of my favorite films.
The theatrical cut is given 4 1/8 /5, less than than the Ultimate Cut, for its incomplete nature while still hinting effectively at what the Ultimate Cut could promise, still being able to evoke profundity despite the absence of 30 minutes. The Ultimate Cut is awarded 4 1/2 /5 for the given in this review, and for items I probably forgot to add.