written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Can it be redeemed? Redemption is a core theme in hero stories and for this film that our reviewer Jacob called “aggressively mediocre,” this certainly is one film that needs that redemption. Snyder’s first major foray into introducing the Justice League’s holy trinity was met with unapologetic negative criticism; sitting at a grotesque 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics did not like this film. But while I agree (for the most part) with much of what made this film fail critically, I would not say it was damn near 30% worse than Man of Steel (sitting at a 55% on RT).
Some of the biggest complaints from critics involved the paper thin story from writers David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio, and writer/director Zack Snyder. I got the story they were trying to tell, to question the motives of an all powerful alien and also involving the redemption of a man once righteous but now so beaten down by the last two decades he embarks on a one-man crusade to destroy the Metropolis boy scout.
Where the theatrical version failed was in actually telling the story. While it’s clearly evident that Snyder does a bang-up job directing intense action sequences, how he directs scenes that require a bit more substance than “bang-bang-cue-explosion” however, leave much to be desired. While the extended version, I feel, won’t win over any of the critics… it does however flow much better than the convoluted plot of the version I saw in theaters this past March.
Information is what I felt the story lacked, fully fleshing out a few key scenes and plot points made this a much more enjoyable movie to watch. The first key scene that saw a major revision was the scene in the desert. First off, confirming that the CIA agent masquerading as a photographer was indeed Jimmy Olsen for me felt disappointing despite contributing much to the overarching universe. Also, further fleshing out why the US government thought Superman massacred those people is explained when Lex Luthor henchman Anatoli “KGBeast” Knyazev torches the men he just killed with a flamethrower, mimicking Superman’s heat vision.
While Batman’s brutality in the film left me with a sour taste in my mouth, as a comic book fan and lifelong fan of Batman, I was let down by how fast and loose they wrote their Batman. He wasn’t the Batman I grew up with. To me, Batman was the type of hero who instilled fear in his enemies but kept his humanity by adhering to his personal code of not killing. Snyder’s Batman isn’t the classic Batman, and while it was explained that his turn to a more brutal form of crime fighting was a more recent turn… this still felt like a sloppy explanation for why Batman would so brazenly kill his enemies.
Offering more context is what the extended version does best. Now, in this R-rated cut, the story felt more fleshed out and didn’t feel as disconnected as the theatrical cut. The narrative flowed better and actually made what was a fiercely mediocre picture into something much better and more along the lines of what I expected.
Jena Malone returns to the film, originally she was cut from the theatrical version and this left fans wondering who she ended up playing. There were theories that she’d be Carrie Kelly, Barbara Gordon, or any other major player in Batman’s universe. I was disappointed to learn that instead Jena Malone was cast in a largely throwaway role, helping shed some light on the bullet Lois recovered from the desert.
A number of extended and deleted scenes make up this superior cut, and I call it that because as I said before… this is the film they should have released. Though I understand the need to cut it down, it felt like Zack Snyder was trying to tell almost too much of a story… like trying to fit 3 gallons of ice cream in a 2 gallon tub. Running at just over 3 hours, this would have been too long for the casual movie-going audience. While diehard fans can appreciate elaborating on what the future of Zack Snyder’s DC Universe holds, this extended cut proves that Dawn of Justice was far more ambitious for its own good.
As far as the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is concerned, one scene that was cut that returned helped to better connect the “Knightmare” scene to the eventual Justice League film. Before Lex Luthor being captured and given his comic book haircut, a cameo from Steppenwolf (who was already confirmed to be the villain in Justice League) is shown briefly as Lex is taken into custody. This further connects the Darkseid theory and fleshes out that Lex Luthor, though flawed, feared what was eventually coming from the stars.
Speaking of Lex, many were split on Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal. Personally, I liked this take on Lex but felt it lacked the human element. The theatrical cut portrayed him as a maniac more in line with someone like the Joker or the Riddler. What the extended cut does bring back, is painting Lex to be a deeply flawed human being with an ego that refuses to bend to those he deems Gods among men. It was also further explained that everything from the opening scene in the desert to the final introduction of Doomsday was all part of his plan to make the Man of Steel bow to the whims of man.
So, do I recommend watching the extended cut? While it still felt like a joyless brood-fest, this 3 hour cut is the superior version of the film and one I will call required viewing for anyone who plans to follow the DC Cinematic Universe for the forthcoming Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman films… eventually leading to Justice League. This is a much better film, with the extended and cut scenes clarifying much of what left people puzzled by the theatrical cut. As far as redemption goes, I’d say the DC Cinematic Universe is on the right track now. Does this make up for what they gave fans in March? Not entirely, but you gotta start somewhere right?