[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and its Ultimate Edition.]
It's a question that we won't bother asking (for fear of the truth), but one that every comic book movie fan can truly grasp: what's more entertaining - watching a superhero blockbuster tell its dramatic story... or the tiny nods and fan service that gets the diehards leaping out of their seats? Luckily fans get to enjoy both, and in the case of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, a brand new version of the movie means even more easter eggs and hidden comic references to spot.
The extended, R-Rated director's cut released digitally as part of the "Ultimate Edition" of the film includes a TON of differences (read through our entire list and breakdown here), most of which add up to a version of the movie that is more polished and focused. So knowing how many fans - and critics - will be dying to see the version of the story Zack Snyder wished to tell, we've searched for the easter eggs that were the first to fall on the cutting room floor.
Whether it's more comic book nods, references to Snyder's previous work, or other DCEU properties, we're giving you all you need to know in our look at Batman V Superman: 15 New Ultimate Edition Easter Eggs.
Director Zack Snyder let the cat out of the bag regarding Jimmy Olsen's (Michael Cassidy) role in the extended version of the movie, naming himself before being executed by an African general. But he's not the only character from DC Comics to get a namedrop in the sequence - or even in reference to the same character. When Jimmy drops dead, it's revealed that the CIA is monitoring the interview via satellite - sending troops on the ground in for damage control. The operative in the field who takes point is referred to only as 'Python' - and the man who was killed dubbed 'Talon.'
Normally we would write off these monikers as placeholder code names... but seeing just how in-depth the easter eggs and references go in the rest of our list, the choices seem too perfect to be coincidental. For starters, the figure known as 'Talon' was introduced by Scott Snyder as part of the acclaimed "Court of Owls" storyline that drew eyes to the "Batman" comic series in the New 52. And the desert-camo-ed 'Python'? Well, he's a DC Comics villain too. Who just so happened to make his debut in - wait for it - "Sandman."
When the action jumps from the fallout of the Nairomi incident, it heads immediately to Gotham City as two officers take in a football game in the comfort of their patrol car. This scene is packed with easter eggs, but we'll start with one of the cleverest. When the radio squawks alerting them to a call, it refers to the duo with the designation "Delta Charlie Twenty-Seven." Comic book historians and call sign enthusiasts will know that "Delta Charlie" signifies "DC" - as in DC Comics - with "Twenty-Seven" a fairly blatant reference to a specific issue.
Since DC took their name from the most successful book they published, "Detective Comics," you can guess where this one is headed: Issue #27 featured the now unforgettable debut of the masked vigilante known as The Bat-Man.
Make sure to look closely at the actual football game being watched for not one, but two easter eggs. It's not the game, or even the fans that hold the secret, but the players on the sideline along the bottom of the screen. One player is inexplicably holding up a massive photo of what looks to be President Richard Nixon (possibly signaling the quarterback to attempt yet another touchdown pass?). He's an unusual sight in the shot, and impossible to miss, just as he was in Zack Snyder's Watchmen; a story in which Nixon himself didn't know when to quit.
Take a quick peek beside him, and you'll also spot the only number visible on the Metropolis bench: 52, the now-mandatory nod to the 52 parallel worlds in the DC Multiverse, as well as the company's New 52 universe.
The easter eggs with the police officers don't end there, either. In the theatrical cut the two only appear in the shadowy abandoned building where Batman makes his debut. But in the Ultimate Edition, the introduction provides enough time - and enough light - to see their names clearly. We present Officers Mazzucchelli and Rucka - named for comic artists/writers David Mazzucchelli and Greg Rucka. Mazzucchelli would be best known to those in Gotham as the artist behind Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One." Rucka, on the other hand, should be just as relevant to the beat cops of the city thanks to his run on "Batman" following the "No Man's Land" arc, before co-creating the "Gotham Central" series and most of its cast. Two different talents pivotal in shaping the world of Batman and Gotham that comic fans now enjoy, and now seeing their shout-outs fully restored.
Once the officers decide to actually answer the call coming in over the radio, they waste no time in getting there, peeling out of their parking space. As they drive off, the setting is revealed to be the 'Gotham Seaport,' now a rundown and abandoned portion of the city whose fate has damaged even the optimistic billboard standing beside the street. The graffiti on the sign reading "The End is Nigh" is pretty bleak on its own, but in the realm of Snyder and DC Comics, that phrase should start ringing bells the second it appears. It's the same phrase carried throughout Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' "Watchmen" by the man revealed to be Rorschach. When Snyder adapted the graphic novel to film, he made sure to include the sign exactly as it appeared in the comic (carried by actor Jackie Earle Haley). Since snyder first cut his teeth on an extended director's cut with the epic superhero deconstruction, it only seems right that a similar cut of Dawn of Justice should reveal the direct reference.
In that same shot, another easter egg can be spotted, pulling what some might view as double-duty where its references are concerned. For starters, the manufacturing facility of Ace Chemicals should be common knowledge to any Batman fans, since it's the location where an unknown criminal in Gotham's underworld took a nasty fall into a vat of acid. He survived, but came out pale-skinned, green-haired, and in a really, really good mood. It's safe to say that the version of the Joker seen in Suicide Squad will follow that same origin story, meaning this easter egg could carry even more meaning for the DCEU shared universe in the coming months.
Aside from the name and history, the version of the logo will look particularly familiar to fans of the Arkham video game series. Hard to say if it was the intention, but considering the success and popularity of Rocksteady's video game series, it's safe to assume the nod is intentional.
No need to dive too deep into this one: the address given to Officers Mazzucchelli and Rucka - where a human trafficking operation is being violently ended by Batman - is 1939 Harbor Way. As some comic historians might suspect, the 1939 is a reference to the year in which the caped crusader first debut in the pages of "Detective Comics." For those keeping track, that means that the very first scene Zack Snyder set in his version of Gotham City contained easter eggs and references to: the comic series, issue number and year in which the hero first appeared, his most iconic villain AND video game adaptation, two of the most instrumental comic creators, DC's New 52, and his previous foray into DC filmmaking (twice). Honestly, that must be some kind of record.
If there's one subplot of Batman V Superman that was completely eviscerated by the theatrical edits, it's that of Kahina Ziri (Wunmi Moasku) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams). In the theatrical version, Kahina Ziri isn't even named, only shown offering testimony about Superman's actions in Nairomi and the government's retaliations before leaving the story completely. In the Ultimate Cut, Ziri becomes a major player, helping to reveal the intimidation and lies that Lex Luthor has bought to turn even U.S. senators into his puppets.
Knowing who she's named for, Kahina really should have been able to see this coming. In the comics, the heroine known as Kahina was a friend to Aquaman, and member of 'The Others' blessed with the ability to see visions of the future (the definition of the North African name Kahina literally means 'fortuneteller'). We can't say that there's too much in common between the two characters, but given how unique a name it really is, and the level of detail other easter eggs have gone to, this one can't be coincidence, either.
Much was made of Jena Malone's role in the movie even before it was confirmed as anything more than a rumor. The Sucker Punch actress was spotted on set visiting her former director Zack Snyder, and the reports of an appearance as Robin or Batgirl soon followed. In the end, Malone didn't even appear in the finished movie (having both of her scenes cut). With the early leak of the Ultimate Cut, the mystery was finally answered: Jane Malone wasn't playing Barbara Gordon or Carrie Kelley, but... Jenet Klyburn?
You're forgiven for not recognizing the name, since Klyburn plays a truly supporting role in the comics. Making her first appearance as a S.T.A.R. Labs scientist in "Superman" #304, fans might also recognize the name from the character's appearance in the 1988 Superman cartoon series, as well. Sadly, we can't hold out hope that a superheroic turn is in Jenet's future... probably just more science.
When Ben Affleck was brought on to star as the Dark Knight in Batman V Superman, the announcement was followed shortly after by the news that screenwriter Chris Terrio (Argo) would also be joining the production to give the script some last minute polish (particularly with Lex Luthor's scenes). The writer has stayed on for the Justice League sequel, and it seems that director Zack Snyder has a sense of humor when it comes to Terrio's clean-up work on the story created by himself and David S. Goyer.
When Lois is kidnapped by Lex's men, led by Anatoli Knyazev (Callan Mulvey) - a moment that we now actually get to see in the Ultimate Cut - she is loaded into a white van against her will. Take a quick look at the van's markings, and you'll notice it belongs to 'Terrio Janitorial.' If that's not a clever nod to a last-minute writing addition, we don't know what is.
It may already be public knowledge, since the scene in question was released online following the theatrical release of Batman V Superman, but for those who saw the film in theaters and called it a day, the addition of Lex Luthor in a pool of blood will raise some eyebrows. The scene in question - dubbed "Communion" in its solo release - follows the death of Superman, as the crashed Kryptonian ship is infiltrated by authorities who stumble upon a... strange scene. Lex stands submerged in the fluid and blood(?) released by the birth of Doomsday, "communing" with a simulated projection of a great horned beast - who soon disappears upon the interruption.
The creature has since been revealed as Steppenwolf, the villain of the upcoming Justice League movie, with those three cubes in his hands also revealed to be three Apokoliptian Mother Boxes. When placed into the actual movie, the scene is more than an easter egg: it's a roadmap to the DCEU as a whole.
The death of the Man of Steel plays out exactly as it does in the theatrical cut, but the Ultimate Edition doubles down on the epilogue, spending more time in both Metropolis and Smallville as Superman is laid to rest. For his hometown, that means a gathering of friends and loved ones - including the producer. As Perry (Laurence Fishburne) and Jenny (Rebecca Buller) arrive in the kitchen of the Kent Farm, make not of the woman leaving the scene with a meal in hand. That's no background actress, but producer Deborah Snyder. We know that Zack Snyder has already locked up a cameo in Wonder Woman, but if he found a place to insert himself into this movie, we haven't spotted it yet.
Not much time was spent on Clark Kent's childhood friends in his Man of Steel origin story, preferring to focus on the enemies and bullies he was forced to contend with. But Pete Ross, the trusted friend from the comics and Smallville was on hand, having turned from bully to pal once Clark saved his life. The character stuck around in the story, too, grudgingly telling an investigating Lois Lane where she could find a mystery man capable of incredible feats. It was a unique twist on the movie Superman, implying that there were some, possibly many people in Clark's life who would know that the man flying through Metropolis in blue and red tights was actually their former friend.
When Perry enters the Kent home, Pete (Joseph Cranford) is on hand for the funeral. Given the dress code, we can neither confirm nor deny his place in the IHOP corporate structure.
It isn't just Smallville residents from decades ago that resurface at Clark Kent's funeral, but a man of God from not too long ago in Clark's journey. In Man of Steel, Clark went to the only place a farmboy from Kansas would when trying to decide if he should reveal himself to the world (ransoming the planet by willingly going with General Zod) - his local church. In the end, Clark didn't need much counseling, since it appeared that it was Superman who had the most lasting impression on the priest, not the other way around.
Either way, Father Leone (Coburn Goss) also returns to the Kent Farm, welcoming Perry as he enters. He's also shown delivering a sermon in the Ultimate Edition, reading a portion of Isaiah 26:15-19. The Bible verse has some relevance to Superman's life and death, since it speaks of the arrival of a glorious kingdom on Earth, when the dead shall return - an event promised to happen in Justice League, with even more Biblical imagery and allegory expected.
The secret of Lex Luthor's inmate number had already been revealed in the theatrical cut, with "TK-421" the most obvious jab in the friendly back-and-forth between Zack Snyder and J.J. Abrams as they filmed their blockbusters simultaneously. But the code for the stormtrooper unlucky enough to be knocked out and replaced by Luke Skywalker is just what was left in the film. In the Ultimate Cut, there's more dialogue offered before Lex Luthor is instructed to stand with his head against his cell wall (allowing Batman to make a surprise appearance behind him).
When approaching the cell with the prison's warden, the guard refers to Lex as "Prisoner A-C-23-19-40" instead. Break down the code, and it's a reference to "Action Comics" #23 (1940). That issue, early in Superman's career, just so happens to be the first appearance of the Man of Steel's evil archnemesis, Lex Luthor.
Those are all the easter eggs, comic references, inside jokes and hidden messages we could find in the Ultimate Edition of Batman V Superman, but if you can think of any that we've missed, make sure to let us know, as we'll keep the list growing as more are found. Also, leave your pick for the best (or worst?) change in the comments below.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and its Ultimate Edition are available digitally today, June 28, 2016, with a Blu-ray release coming July 19, 2016.