Ok. Alright. So now it’s all making sense. I’ve posted 2 articles about this movie already, both times essentially apologizing for the thing. Now I don’t have to do that anymore. Here are the biggest and best changes/enhancements given to us by the REAL version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:
1) Lex Luthor’s grand plan.
The Lex character has been a hotbed of controversy since the trailers for BvS surfaced a couple years ago. He’s younger, he’s weirder and now he’s the Doomsday creator. That’s all still in the movie. However, the desert sequence / Superman incident in Africa is now fully realized as one of a many-pronged attack against Superman. The mercenaries, instead of shooting all the soldiers and motorcycling away, burn the bodies. And at the same time, it’s revealed the CIA has an entire mission – and 2 full teams – focused on these “terrorists,” which Lex uses to his advantage. His mercenaries kill every witness, then when the CIA shows up in the aftermath, all they know is that everything is on fire and that Superman was there. That’s it!
There’s no question as to WHY they think Superman was involved. In the theatrical release, the soldiers were shot by Lex’s mercenaries. So it was a whole weird thing where Congressional hearings were taking place… I guess because everyone thought Superman shot the soldiers and flew away. It didn’t make sense. Obviously, right? Superman has no need for a gun.
It becomes clear throughout the film that Lex has manipulated absolutely everything around this event. I believe he was responsible for getting Lois Lane her media credentials, that the CIA then piggybacked on. Why? Because Lex knew Superman would arrive to save Lois. And that’s exactly what happened.
Quick note on Jimmy Olson. I realize some people are annoyed, angry even, that Jimmy was a throwaway character added for the sake of shock value. But, didn’t they gender swap that character in Man of Steel? Isn’t the Jenny Olson character at the Daily Planet the same character? It’s what I thought when I saw Man of Steel and it’s what I continue to think now. She’s still there, evidently not an intern anymore, but rather some kind of copywriter, or editor. Perry White yells out headlines to her at least once. I’m no newspaper man, but from what I think I know, the articles are written by reporters, but the editing and headlines are done by the editors prior to publishing. I’m happy to be corrected on that belief if I’m wrong. Point is, the Jimmy Olson character still exists at the Planet as a young lady named Jenny Olson. That makes Jimmy Olson, CIA agent’s death much much more palatable to me. Not that I was that undone by it to begin with.
Back to the plan. So, the desert sequence was there to frame Superman, and the Congressional Hearings happen. Lex recruits Scoot McNairy – victim during the Zod attack and crumbling of Wayne Financial’s building – to testify. Unbeknownst to Scoot though, is that Lex built his shiny new wheelchair around a lead-lined bomb. Get that!?! LEAD-LINED. Superman couldn’t see the bomb!! So it’s no longer that Superman is Super-crappy at his job, but that everywhere he goes, Lex orchastrates death in his wake.
There’s a running theme in BvS about consequence. Doing good has side effects, the same as doing bad. And no matter how powerful you might be, you just can’t control every outcome in every direction. I discussed this in my last defense of the movie. Batman seems to know this already and has taken it upon himself to bear the consequenses of his actions. As a result, people die. And rather than let them live to kill more people in the future, Batman doesn’t focus on saving every punk who shoots a mini-gun or missile at him. Superman, on the other hand, is just now realizing that there are sometimes bad results, even from doing the right thing. It’s part of his arc.
After the bomb goes off in the Congressional Hearing, Superman also no longer flies away. He helps save some survivors before going off to the mountains to think about what “doing the right thing” really means. Especially when he has a PR war being waged against him by a guy willing to kill massive numbers of people for no other reason than to make it LOOK like death follows Superman like a shadow, it’s not always clear to the public what “good” he’s doing. In such a cynical world, can Superman stand for good? It’s a relavant question and one that I don’t know the answer to.
But wait, there’s MORE!! Lex is also setting Batman up. He knows Batman & Bruce Wayne are the same person, just as he knows Superman’s secret identity. So Lex has also been intercepting Scoot McNairy’s victim’s fund checks (from the Wayne Foundation) and is returning them to Bruce with notes about how he “Let his family die.” It happens that Bruce opens that one just as the bomb goes off in Congress. Little does Lex know that the Flash has recently time-travelled back from a possible future to warn Bruce that he’s “right about Him. Fear Him.” So really, it doesn’t matter to Bruce/Batman if Superman is doing good now, today. 20 years down the road, people can change, mostly by compromising their beliefs. He’s apparently witnessed this several times over since first dawning the cape & cowl, and for Batman, Lex’s manipulations are only a part of the big picture of what Superman stands for and the danger he could pose to humanity.
Lex then orchestrates bringing in kryptonite to Metropolis, specifically so Batman can steal it and take down Superman. It’s all part of the plan.
Meanwhile, Lex is having the Russian mercenary, KGBeast, arrange for the Bat-Branded prisoners to be killed while in jail. Again, in the theatrical release, it seems this is some kind of throw-away about how it’s a death sentence to have the brand, but we’re never really told why. In the Ultimate Edition, it’s made clear this is just another of Lex’s machinations; an effort to paint Batman as a killer with no concern for the law or what’s right. Clark sees this while he’s investigating the “Gotham Bat-thing” but has no way to know it’s anything but Batman breaking in and killing them himself. One of the deceased’s baby-mamas tells Clark straight up, “The only thing (Batman) understands is a fist.”
The plan continues, but unfortunately goes a bit off the rails by the last act. The creation of Doomsday…. This is one part of Lex’s schemes that I’m not totally clear on. And I’ve been watching this version and trying like hell to understand. So, if the set-up is ‘Batman uses kryptonite to take down Superman, and Doomsday is the back-up plan’, why cut it so close? Would he have been able to stop the monster from being born if Batman had succeeded? Was it only because Batman failed that Doomsday was completed? Further, if Lex was learning from the crashed Kryptonian ship about the larger cosmic threats out there, why eliminate the only guy on Earth that could possibly defend the planet? What was the end-game there? I’m thinking that Lex using a bit of his own blood in the genesis chamber that birthed Doomsday, maybe he thought that would protect him somehow? It sure didn’t seem like it, since the very first thing Doomsday did was hurl a massive punch right at Luthor. Thankfully for him, Superman was there to stop it.
I guess ultimately, it worked. Superman died killing Doomsday. It’s just, how could he have known that would happen? If not for Wonder Woman and Batman, Doomsday surely would have won that fight, no?
The Lex Luthor character is much more fleshed out in the Ultimate Edition. His plan takes time to coalesce. And man, is it thorough. Lex tells Superman, “I don’t know how to lose.” And before Doomsday meets his… well.. doom, it almost works. Just what the plan was if Doomsday HAD won? That’s not clear. Nor is if Lex actually communicated with Steppenwolf or Darkseid, or was simply being taught of their existence by the Kryptonian archive. We’ll see if that comes to light in future movies.
2) Sentor Finch is no longer a boneheaded puppet.
This is all tied to the “Superman incident” in the desert. In the theatrical cut, she is holding hearings about whether Superman should have oversight or should answer to some government entity, seemingly believing that Superman had, in fact, gone to the desert, shot everyone with a gun and flown off. When the bomb went off, it had no other apparent point than to look like Superman was involved somehow. But, in the Ultimate Edition, she’s not a blind fool. She wants a “conversation” about this stuff – having heard a testimony from one of the women from the village in Africa. Of course, that villager turned out to be just another of Luthor’s schemes. Sen. Finch learns about that and is ready to expose Lex Luthor for having set the whole affair up. More than that, she personally tells Lex she won’t be played and won’t be allowing him to import the kryptonite rock from the Indian Ocean. Her death – and the jar of pee – hold much more weight when it’s clear she isn’t some moron who can’t parse fact from fiction. The hearings themselves seem more relavant; all the disparate plot threads converge as that bomb (that Superman COULDN’T SEE) goes off and Superman looks to be somehow at fault, even though we can see that it’s all been a set up from the very start.
Before, when the desert sequence made no sense, and the hearings didn’t seem necessary, it felt like this whole bit could have been eliminated and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference in the story of BvS. Now, not only does it seem VERY necessary, but Senator Finch losing her life – and the ability to expose Lex Luthor – make for a great first half of a complicated movie.
3) Clark Kent
Clark gets more time to investigate Batman, thereby giving the audience some notion that he has a problem with Batman operating the way he does. It’s no longer one quick talk with Perry White about “Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman!” Clark learns that Batman has recently become more active, he’s become more brutal, and he seems to be branding dudes then killing them once they’re imprisoned. We get a sense that wasn’t part of the theatrical release that Clark isn’t ok with Batman’s methods. Like Lex Luthor’s meticulous plan, we get fed, bit by bit, reasons why Superman will need to fight Batman during their penultimate battle instead of struggle to simply talk. That, in turn, helps reconcile the vs fight in the last act. We also see Luthor sending photo messages to Clark at the Planet, much the same way Bruce was receiving those checks; with little notes on them painting Batman as a bad guy. And finally, we get more context for the event where Clark and Bruce meet for the first time. We find out Lex had arranged for Clark Kent to be assigned to the event. It’s why I think Lex arranged for Lois lane’s media credentials at the beginning and it’s all those little things that add up. When the audience cares more about Superman, and we spend more time with the character, his sacrfice at the end means a WHOLE LOT more.
4) Lois Lane
She still tosses the kryptonite spear down a stairwell, then inexplicably realizes she needs to get it back. But how would she know that? This is nit-picky, but it doesn’t make sense being that she doesn’t know exactly what the monster is that the Trinity are fighting. One could argue that because of the activity at the crashed Kryptonian ship, she ASSUMES it’s kryptonian. That’s about the best possible explaination I can produce. I was watching a group’s video (Superhero News on youTube) just after the Ultimate release and they posited that much of the movie seemed reverse-engineered. Like this: We know we want Doomsday. What if Lex creates him? We need to get the kryptonite spear back into the fight after Batman & Superman make up. What if Lois gets it? And that sounds pretty plausible – Make Lois continue to matter at this point in the story. Whether that’s completely successful or not, much the same way we care more about Clark Kent, when we see Lois’ dogged determination to uncover Luthor’s grand plan, I would argue she becomes much more relavant to the story, as she is one of the very few who really understand that Superman is a good person trying to do good things. We need that for 2 reasons: 1) So we can find out how deep the Luthor rabbit hole goes and 2) because the notion that Lois is Superman’s #1 connection to humanity and love really shines. Again, making his ultimate sacrafice at the end that much more powerful.
4) Zack Snyder.
Boy was this guy raked over the coles after the release of the theatrical BvS. There wasn’t a whole lot of real news around the movie before release. Mostly specuation. But one thing we heard was there was a screening at WB for execs that received a standing ovation. That was about 6 months before release, and got many of us fans very excited. Then came whispers a few weeks before release that there was concern. Nobody knew what was true and what was pure speculation. The studio & everyone involved were all utterly silent. And of course the film was met with just HORRIBLE reviews and reaction almost across the board. I personally don’t know a soul who liked it the way I did. And it all came down to one thing: Zack Snyder is all style, no substance. He needs to be FIRED!! He RUINED Superman already and now, Batman is ruined!! Get him AWAY from our favorite characters before Justice League becomes the new Sucker Punch!!
Well, now we can say with some authority that those execs must have seen the Ultimate Edition during that mysterious screening. Because this movie was GREAT.
I’ve been a person who believes in thinking positively and hoping for the best in people, even when the odds are stacked against them. I happen to really like the visual style in Snyder movies and think they work wonderfully for this type of heightened reality where costumed heroes roam among us. The CGI is generally seamless (Doomsday notwithstanding) and the Ultimate Edition is a meticuously crafted story that really needed the extra context provided by the restored 30 minutes.
This isn’t a perfecct movie. I’m not sure combining the Death of Superman with The Dark Knight Returns makes sense. And based on some of the reactions I’ve seen and discussed with people, it may have been wise to release a couple solo movies – MoS 2 & Batman – before BvS. That’s not the way it is though. The makers of BvS put together a very comic-centric story and blended it with some real-world-like events and in a way, it just seems like audiences weren’t quite ready to be thrown in head-first into the deep end of a brand new cinematic universe. I LOVE it. But really, the truth is much of BvS didn’t make sense to a large portion of the viewers. Do we need to have it explained WHY Batman is so brutal? Do we need to have Superman exist in such a cynical world? I say YES. Give me MORE!
If you saw BvS and it didn’t make sense, give it one more shot with a fresh, open mind. If you skipped it because you heard it kind of sucked, watch the Ultimate Edition. It’s definitely not your parents’ Superman or Batman. But boy is it gutsy.
Get your Bat-belts fastened and turbines to speed because this DC Extended Universe is suddenly looking great! By the end of 2017, we’ll have Wonder Woman and the Justice League movie in all their glory. Im psyched!
Dylan can be found online @DylanMadd and at MaddKingdom on YouTube.