March 25 marks the four year anniversary of possibly the most divisive comic book films of all-time. While the follow up to Zack Snyder’s 2012 Man of Steel was one a highly anticipated film of 2016. The film fell flat in many eyes due to an inflated story with too many characters. Others felt that it absolutely had some issues but was an intriguing start to a bold story arc.
Quick Synopsis of the Film
Two years after Superman’s colossal battle with Zod, which devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage had left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne. Convinced that Superman is a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, all while the conniving Lex Luthor launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.
A movie that should have easily made $1 Billion not even hitting the $900 million mark is a bit disappointing. But the film was not a financial failure despite what the naysayers tout.
Per Box office Mojo
Budget – $250,000,000
Domestic Box office – $330,360,194
International Box Office – $543,274,725
Worldwide Box Office – $873,634,919
$873 million is a VERY respectable take but in a time where comic book films have become the tent-pole event films of every year anything less than a billion was always going to be viewed as a disappointment.
Almost immediately the film was divisive. A large vocal majority were displeased with the poorly edited, overly dark and overstuffed film. Others, like the gentleman sitting next to me at the premier, stood and applauded as the credits rolled.
Walking out of the theater you couldn’t help but wonder how things could have gone so wrong. This was to be “The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!” Yet what we got was a mishmash of ideas that all led, too quickly, to the Death of Superman.
Prior to its initial release it was announced that an R rated version of the film would be available on home video. This copy of the movie would have an extra 30 minutes of footage added on, a re-edit moving scenes around to flow better and finally adding more brutality to Batman’s characterization.
Those who were unhappy with the product released in cinema’s held out hope that this version would be superior.
This Ultimate Edition of the movie was received more positively than the theatrical version. Even turning many of those who disliked the theatrical cut, myself included, into fans.
While the UE version is the preferred way to watch the movie it still has a lot of negativity around it. So, this begs to ask…. What went wrong with this movie?
What Went Wrong?
First and foremost, Marketing. Believe it or not the way any sort of entertainment event is marketed will determine how it will ultimately be perceived. Warner Bros. touted a movie of epic proportions where the Man of Steel faces off against The Dark Knight. Yet, the film was essentially billionaire Bruce Wayne v Superman. Only about nine minutes of a two and a half hour film showcased the epic fight of Batman and Superman. The problem with that is nearly all marketing prior to the release had the two face to face as if the entire film would be just one big battle royal.
Secondly, the title of the film. Imagine if it was simply called ‘Dawn of Justice’. A film that would pit our heroes against each other and discovering who they really are which was/is the catalyst for creating the Justice League. Wait…. that is what the film is about. By removing the BvS moniker and readjusting the marketing to showcase the manipulation done by Lex Luthor, without a doubt fans expectations would have been that of what the film was actually about.
**The Batman and Superman names are so big that I’m sure they believed they had to put them in the title. You’d think that alone would push it to $1 billion film…. well, it didn’t**
Really though the film needed to breath a bit. Adding the extra 30 minutes in the Ultimate Edition helped drastically and help explain much of the narrative. And honestly, even an additional 30-40 would have really helped this story land even better. HELL, even breaking it up into a two or three part film would have been even best.
Since the movie’s release Henry Cavill (Superman) and Ben Affleck (Batman) have commented on the film. Both pointing out the criticisms and confusion. Henry though makes sure to explain how it was a single part in a much larger story.
Cavill: “I think it was — that movie is… it’s part of an arc for what [director Zack Snyder’s] vision was, or is, and it’s also, in my mind, fairly niche. It’s a niche style of movie within a genre and it reflects in the audience reviews and critic reviews, it’s divisive. When anything is niche, it’s gonna be liked and loved by some and disliked by others, and that’s the whole point of niche.”
Affleck: “I can understand people saying Batman v Superman was too dark, or this was outside the tone of what I’m used to seeing with a Batman story, and I think that’s a fair criticism.”
My Quick Review
My initial reaction to the movie was not positive. The convoluted and poorly edited film seemed to have very little direction. Not to mention that the build up was all about these two juggernauts facing off against each other but ultimately only getting 8 minutes of this. While I can’t pinpoint what my issues were with the theatrical cut, especially since I have only ever watched it once. But after watching and really paying attention to the Ultimate Edition of the movie my enjoyment of what Snyder gave us grew exponentially.
It’s apparent the amount of care that went into this film when seeing the poetic and religious undertones as well as the parallels and connections to Man of Steel. And while they did rush the Death of Superman story line, the real world take on how a being like The last son of Krypton would be viewed was a fresh take on this genre of film.
Music is an absolute important part in the experience for me. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s didn’t disappoint. To this day, their score is the most beautiful score to ever be put with a comic book films. It’s heartfelt, earnest and powerful.
Finally, The Wonder Woman introduction is still one of the best moments in all superhero films. That Cello and her tenacity. GAH!
The movie has its problem, mostly of being over stuffed and a bit rushed. But the world that it was building and the use of these characters was absolutely something amazing to watch. You will always find something new and interesting with every watch making the rewatchability much higher than many other films.
Man of Steel is still tops on my list for superhero films. BvS: Ultimate Edition though, is absolutely in my top 5.
Sitting back and taking a look at the larger picture you will realize this film was a bold direction to go. As Cavill stated (above)
“…that movie is… it’s part of an arc for what [director Zack Snyder’s] vision was, or is…”
We can easily point out now what wen’t wrong and what could have helped. But now, four years later, you can absolutely see how deep the movie is and realize that it is anything but your typical cookie cutter superhero outing.
I urge any of you who have not seen it since it’s release to give it another watch. Especially the Ultimate Edition.
Thanks for reading!