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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Ultimate Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) movie poster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Theatrical Release: March 25, 2016 / Running Time: 153 Minutes (theatrical), 183 Minutes (ultimate) / Rating: PG-13 (theatrical), R (ultimate)

Director: Zack Snyder / Writers: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer (screenplay); Bob Kane, Bill Finger (Batman creators); Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster (Superman creators)

Cast: Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Laurence Fishburne (Perry White), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Holly Hunter (Senator June Finch), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Scoot McNairy (Wallace Keefe), Callan Mulvey (Anatoli Knyazev), Tao Okamoto (Mercy Graves), Brandon Spink (Young Bruce Wayne), Lauren Cohan (Martha Wayne), Michael Shannon (Zod), Kent Shocknek (Himself), Vikram Gandhi (Himself), Andrew Sullivan (Himself), Charlie Rose (Himself), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Himself), Soledad O'Brien (Herself), Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/The Flash), Dana Bash (Herself), Carla Gugino (Ship Voice), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Nancy Grace (Herself), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman), Erika Erickson (Herself), Anderson Cooper (Himself), Brooke Baldwin (Herself), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Thomas Wayne - uncredited), Jena Malone (Jenet Klyburn - Ultimate Edition only)

Buy Batman v Superman from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD 2-Disc DVD 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD
Amazon.com-Exclusive Collector's Edition Combos: with Batman Figurine with Superman Figurine

Marvel Studios kicked the superhero film up to another level with The Avengers. That 2012 release, which became the all-time biggest blockbuster not directed by James Cameron, teamed up the iconic characters that had starred in their own films over the previous four years and had excited comic book readers and cartoon viewers for some fifty years before that. DC Comics' answer that same summer -- the final installment in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy -- did not have the same global impact. Nor did the next summer's DC offering,
Zack Snyder's Superman reboot Man of Steel, which drew mixed reviews and fell short of the genre's benchmarks at the box office. Rather than following that up with a straight sequel, Snyder, DC, and Warner Bros. Pictures give us Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the first live-action film to bring the two all-time biggest DC Comics personalities together.

Batman v Superman is designed to usher in a new age for DC Comics, which has lagged behind Marvel since the turn of the millennium with everything but Nolan's trilogy. With their fast-growing schedule of unidentified movie releases, DC and Warner are clearly upping the ante, hoping to keep Marvel's pace with a cinematic universe of their own. There is reason to believe they can, having had plenty of success in print, television and animation. There is also reason to doubt, as some fatigue for the genre must be in the process of setting in. Batman has been at the center of DC Comics' greatest film success of the past thirty years, from the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher era to Nolan's dark reinterpretation. This film gives us yet another new Batman, starting with the umpteenth iteration of the traumatic childhood incident that made him who he is.

After young Bruce Wayne is orphaned, we jump to the present day and get the perspective of a white-templed, 40-something Wayne (Ben Affleck) of the destructive showdown between Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod from Man of Steel's climax. Wayne/Batman isn't crazy about Superman, whose bespectacled alter ego Clark Kent continues to write for the Daily Planet, where he receives blowback for his hard-hitting reporting proposals. Kent's girlfriend and co-worker Lois Lane (Amy Adams) finds herself in danger pursuing a scoop in war-torn Africa, where Superman has to save her in an act of heroism that leaves casualties and invites criticism.

Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) get real close to one another to battle in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

Batman isn't Superman's only detractor. There's also Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a twitchy, stringy-haired young Jolly Rancher enthusiast who is haunted by his late father. Luthor uses his wealth to get his hands on Kryptonite and on General Zod's corpse. He has plans. The biggest is setting up a fight between Batman and Superman, something much of the film seems to be building up to.

As usual, Snyder takes great interest in providing action. It is loud, it is frantic, and it eats up much of the theatrical cut's excessive 150-minute runtime. Where Snyder and his two screenwriters (young Argo Oscar winner Chris Terrio and DC Studios veteran David S. Goyer) fail is motivation. We never understand or buy into Batman's reason for wanting to take down Superman, nor even Luthor's specific plans for arranging this epic fight aside from the fact that he is a maniac.

Nonetheless, the big titular fight arrives, with Batman seemingly outmatched at first, but coming around to prove his might. The two powerful vigilantes throw one another around until the conclusion you anticipate happens with all the grace you expect from the guy who directed 300. Another hero is introduced in Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), a young lady with a mysterious ancient past who gets her own guitar theme to complement Superman's oft-repeated two-note riff. When it looks like Luthor will lose, he unveils a monstrous force that only gets stronger when shot. This is not a movie that will end quickly, quietly, or subtly.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor as a twitchy entrepreneur with a full head of stringy hair.

There's a big surprise ending that Snyder went as far to preface with a pre-screening videotaped message that discouraged spoiling. It's not something you foresee, nor is it something you foresee as sticking, which removes the dramatic weight the movie tries to give it,

complete with bagpiped "Amazing Grace." The closing emotional manipulation at least offers a respite from the wall-to-wall action, which never has the context to mean as much as it should.

Cynical moviegoers will chuckle at the scene late in the movie that basically serves to tease the DC Extended Universe, with glimpses of Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Ezra Miller's The Flash. At least Marvel has the sense to bury its promotion in the end credits.

Affleck is fine as Batman. He underplays the part, which distinguishes his turn from those of past actors to whom he'll still inevitably be compared. It's not like there's a whole lot of room for acting in a Zack Snyder superhero movie, but Eisenberg seizes his opportunities to distance himself from Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, while really laying on thick the Superman-as-God talk. Cavill and other returning Man of Steel cast members supply consistency while not revealing anything new.

Though I knew my fellow critics wouldn't be impressed, I was a little surprised by how little they liked this film. Everyone assumed Batman v Superman was too big to be affected by negative reviews, but its front-loaded performance demonstrated it clearly was. And the years-in-anticipation battle of the century that was destined to be an all-time blockbuster ended up grossing less domestically than two out of Nolan's three Dark Knight films, all three Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, a slew of Marvel movies (even hard sell Guardians of the Galaxy), and Deadpool. Batman v Superman fell short of the billion dollar worldwide club and currently only stands sixth domestically and fourth worldwide among 2016 releases, inconceivably trailing Disney films like Zootopia and The Jungle Book.

Superman (Henry Cavill) is invited to testify before a Senate committee, but never actually gets to do so.

As important to the film as its box office numbers and critical marks was how it would be received by the discerning fanboy. Pre-release, it sported a gaudy 9.1 on IMDb, which would place it third among all films with a qualifying number of votes.
That enthusiasm obviously wouldn't hold up. But it did plummet faster than I could imagine, now sitting with a fairly average 6.9, which is beneath Man of Steel's 7.2 and around the most coolly received entries to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many have questioned the wisdom of placing the cornerstone of such a huge and costly franchise in the hands of a director who has never been widely esteemed. This film's reception isn't going to make the questions disappear anytime soon, even with Warner and DC standing by Snyder on the two big upcoming Justice League movies.

A yellow sticker on the cover of the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD edition I was sent for a review touts an extended cut with 30 more minutes. Given the film's reception, that feels more like a threat or punishment than a selling point, because even if you weren't in line with the critics piling on the hate, did you really think "this movie just needs another half-hour of content to make it better"? That's right, the "Ultimate Edition", as its onscreen titles call it, runs 183 minutes. 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 33 seconds. Which makes it the longest superhero movie ever by some 31 minutes. The second-longest? The theatrical cut of Batman v Superman.

In addition to running just over 3 hours with credits, this extended cut earned an R rating from the MPAA, so it obviously never would have gone to theaters in this form, even after the R-rated Deadpool wound up outperforming almost all superhero movies to date.

Having neither loved nor hated the film in its theatrical cut on the big, big screen, I wondered if it would be any better on a second viewing. For Blu-ray, I watched the elongated edit. Three hours at home from a couch with needed breaks didn't sound as daunting as it would in even fake-IMAX. But with sensory impact diminished, you're simply more aware of corny dialogue, poor character development, bizarre dream sequences, and Snyder and company's stunning inability to mine interest and excitement from these large, storied personalities. If anything, I think I was probably too gentle on the film in theaters, a reflection of my ability to see the good in superhero movies that are even widely deemed disappointing (like last year's Fantastic Four).

Four months after seeing the movie in theaters, the Ultimate Edition's additions aren't glaring or often noticeable, which might be a good thing if it didn't mean the movie was just so forgettable and hard to warm to. The biggest difference between the two cuts is the addition of Jena Malone as Jenet Klyburn, Lois Lane's colleague at the Daily Planet. She does some journalistic digging, but it's minor enough to make me think I just forgot she was in the movie in theaters. She wasn't.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, French, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Video Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Chinese?, Portuguese, Thai
Extras Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as 2-Disc DVD ($28.98 SRP), Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD ($44.95 SRP), 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD ($44.95 SRP), Amazon-exclusive Collector's Edition combo packs with Batman Figurine or Superman Figurine ($129.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Forgoing the aspect ratio changes of Nolan's IMAX Batman films, Batman v Superman stays 2.40:1 throughout and unsurprisingly looks pretty terrific on Blu-ray. The film has a little more grain than you might expect of such a 2016 big budget behemoth, but everything looks as it should and the images are sharp, crisp, and suitably detailed. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix is consistently loud and overbearing, but since effects often take precedence over dialogue, that much is by design and true to theatrical exhibition.

There is a fine line between "Batman v Superman" making-of and "Suicide Squad" promotion. Wonder Woman's looks through the decades are displayed in "The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only one of the combo pack's three discs with real bonus features is the theatrical cut Blu-ray.

The assembly of all-HD featurettes begins with "Uniting the World's Finest" (15:05),
which explores the histories and legacies of these characters and their comic universes in able to find meaning in their union and re/introductions here. It plays a bit like an extended Suicide Squad promo.

"Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants" (12:28) takes a look at Batman and Superman's shared pasts, establishing this film as what everything has been leading up to.

"The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder" (21:16) spends about as much time considering Wonder Woman as the film spends featuring her. The heroine's history in comic books and television is detailed and her upcoming standalone movie is teased.

More than two years before the film's release, the Batmobile was being tested in the Mojave Desert. Batman's armor is, uh, developed in "Austerity & Rage."

Things get more technical with "Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile" (22:46), which takes a long look at how Batman's new ride was developed and built. The individuals who designed it get into the nitty-gritty details, quite likely to your disinterest.

Next, we get a trio of featurettes exploring the film's three principal superheroes as they are portrayed here, mainly from the perspective of costume design and props. "Superman: Complexity & Truth" (7:08) pays attention to Clark Kent's sharp clothes and low-key nature. "Batman: Austerity & Rage" (8:15) comments upon Batman's armor, Bruce Wayne's brand of suave, and Ben Affleck's muscle makeover. "Wonder Woman: Grace & Power" (6:48) admires Wonder Woman's fight moves and centuries-old battle attire.

It's just Styrofoam now, but it will eventually become the Batcave. Amy Adams holds a bat upside down in "Save the Bats."

"Batcave: Legacy of the Lair" (7:12) covers the design and construction of Batman's headquarters. "The Might and the Power of a Punch" (5:15) analyzes the physics and other science of Batman and Superman's big fight.

"The Empire of Luthor" (12:33) takes notice of Lex Luthor both in terms of the character's history and his depiction here.

Finally, "Save the Bats" (4:37) looks at the production's efforts to raise awareness of a bat disease and call for bat conservation.
Cast and crew and their families paint bat houses for the cause. It's a PR move with the entertainment value of seeing Amy Adams and Zack Snyder hold bats in their hands.

The movie Blu-ray opens with a Suicide Squad trailer and a promo for digital movies. The only thing accompanying the epic R-rated extended cut Blu-ray is a trailer for the R-rated animated feature Batman: The Killing Joke, with which the disc opens. The DVD opens with trailers for Suicide Squad and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, promos for the DC All Access app and DC Season Pass, a trailer for The Legend of Tarzan, and an ad for digital movies.

The main menu shows more effort than most new Warner Blu-rays, but simply loops an unremarkable scored montage of film clips before settling on static poster art.

Joined by an insert supplying your Digital HD with UltraViolet code, the three discs share a standard blue keepcase topped by an ordinary slipcover unimaginatively reproducing the same artwork below.

This isn't your grandfather's Batman.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Batman v Superman is not the full-blown travesty that critical consensus suggests, but this much-anticipated DC Comics showdown does fall short of one's hopes with an overreliance on action and a general lack of grace. There are some interesting parts you can enjoy, but as a whole, this bloated, angsty outing is quite the mediocre superhero movie.

Warner's combo pack goes beyond expectations by including a substantially extended cut right off the bat at no additional cost. It doesn't fix the film's problems, of course, but it's there to occupy those who were left wanting more from the theatrical cut. The bonus features are many in number and substantial in content.

Buy Batman v Superman from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray Combo / Blu-ray 3D / DVD / 4K Ultra HD
Amazon.com-Exclusive Collector's Edition Combos: with Batman Figurine with Superman Figurine

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Jesse Eisenberg: Now You See Me | Gal Gadot: Fast & Furious 6 | Jeremy Irons: The Lion King
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Reviewed July 21, 2016.



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