Blu-ray Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ultimate Edition

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Without a doubt the most polarizing superhero movie in recent years (perhaps ever?), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stormed theaters in March with a gargantuan $166 million opening weekend. That one king-sized weekend ended up representing fully half of Justice's eventual $330 million domestic total (it fared well globally, with $872 million worldwide). The huge drop in its second weekend of theatrical release, followed by a rapid cooling in the weeks after, delivered a clear message: vast swaths of moviegoers planned to wait for video. Now it's here, with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's Blu-ray that offers both the theatrical cut (151 minutes) and a new "Ultimate Edition" cut (182 minutes). Go for the long version—it's a bang-up blast of entertainment that is more coherent and compelling than its shorter counterpart.

Contrary to popular consensus, I quite enjoyed Dawn of Justice in theaters. Yes, it's a messy, sprawling film. But its somber tone and sense of gravitas provided a welcome contrast to the generally sunnier Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I love, but those films' style and tone are threatening to become a cliche all its own). Henry Cavill has grown into his role as Clark Kent/Superman (though he receives startlingly little dialogue to work with). Ben Affleck is an enormously appealing Bruce Wayne/Batman—delivering the best performance as the character since Michael Keaton. The flinty rivalry between the titular characters plays out believably, with Batman making a convincing case that Superman is a potential menace to Earth. In case anyone still wonders how the mortal Wayne can possibly combat Krypton's favorite son, keep in mind Supe's Achilles heel: kryptonite. 
Batman v Superman Henry Cavill (380x214).jpg The extra 30 minutes in the "Ultimate Edition" actually enhance and expand on the plot in meaningful ways. Forget about the hyped-up R-rating this cut has received. Aside from a bit more CG blood splatters, there's not much here to elevate the film above PG-13 status. But that's just fine, considering that the extra footage expands on a number of plot elements. Superman's rescue of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in the desert early on is given far greater context. Jena Malone, not present in the theatrical cut, is on board as a character named Jenet Klyburn (not all that interesting, truth be told, unless they're planning bigger things for future films). More notable is the expanded prominence of an African woman who advances the narrative that Superman is a deadly, dangerous, unlawful presence in the world. Lots of smaller touches also help make the "Ultimate" cut a more rounded version of the film.

Warner's Blu-ray delivers everything one would expect of a modern, mega-budget franchise tent pole. The standard Blu-ray looks awesome, though it must be noted that Dawn of Justice is also available in Blu-ray 3D and 4K UltraHD packages. The standard version includes two BDs, one with the theatrical cut and the other with the "Ultimate" cut, plus a DVD. Audio is rockin' as well, presented in room-filling Dolby Atmos (defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, which is what I screened in). 
batman v superman BD (300x380).jpg The extra features may not, at first glance, appear to be much. But the series of 11 well-produced featurettes totals just over two full hours of material. Make no mistake: the typical superficial, self-promotional tone of most major studio permeates. But these are uniformly interesting for fans of the blossoming DC Extended Universe. Of all the topics focused upon, "The Warrior, the Myth, the Wonder" (21 minutes) scores points by delving into Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman. "The Empire of Luthor" is another highlight, spotlighting Jesse Eisenberg's unique take on the iconic Lex Luthor. Great stuff and well worth the time for fans.

The much ballyhooed showdown between the two most iconic comic book heroes of all time that climaxes Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice probably should've been enough. But director Zack Snyder doesn't leave well enough alone, saddling his film with an additional climax involving Lex Luthor's self-engineered "Kryptonian deformity." Of course, without that particular episode we wouldn't have seen much of Gadot's Diana Prince, who will be back in her own film in summer 2017. Yes, the seeds of other future DC Comics-based films have been shoehorned into Dawn of Justice rather inelegantly, but the sprawling ambition of this project becomes part of its appeal. The movie tries to do too much, but the "Ultimate" cut clarifies quite a bit. For the negative buzz and go in with an open mind.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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