NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for Batman V Superman.
Over one month after release, there's still no shortage of criticism for Zack Snyder's Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - and with Captain America: Civil War set to open in UK theaters this week, conversation between DC and Marvel die-hards is only going to get more contentious. We've said it before, regardless of which comic publisher-turned-movie studio a given viewer prefers, it's a great time to be a superhero fan - making it all the more unfortunate when passionate feelings turn to rancorous arguments.
Some will argue that critics were unfairly hard on Dawn of Justice, making it fashionable for fellow reviewers and casual viewers to make fun of Batman V Superman, but there's no doubt that Snyder's film fell short of what industry analysts originally considered to be record-breaking box office potential. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman on screen together should have been an easy sell - but Warner Bros.' efforts to lay the foundation for a Justice League shared universe, tell a standalone Batman and Superman story, and deliver a palatable theater runtime (just over two hours and thirty minutes) resulted in a final film that often rushed through character development to pack everything in (read our Batman V Superman review). For that reason, DC fans are keeping a hopeful eye on the studio's upcoming R-Rated "Ultimate Cut" - which will feature an additional 30 full minutes of extra footage.
Ever since the R-Rated extended edition was first rumored, and then confirmed, it has been expected that fans would get, roughly, a 3-hour cut of Batman V Superman - and now, thanks to a Swedish retail listing for the Ultimate Cut, we may have the final runtime.
According to CDON.com, the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice R-Rated Cut will be 181 minutes long (up from the 151 minute theatrical release). Additionally, the listing suggests the Blu-ray package will also feature 120 minutes of special features; though, the retailer doesn't specify, yet, exactly what will be included.
It's worth noting that while retail pages are often accurate (since listings are typically populated with specifications and details sent directly from publishers and distributors), some sellers will setup temporary pages to start collecting pre-orders before official information is available. The CDON listing falls in line with prior info of an Ultimate Cut that is 30 minutes longer than the theatrical release; however, the fact that the listing indicates the R-Rated version is exactly 30 minutes longer could indicate the retailer used unofficial specs to prep a pre-order page. That's all to say, it's likely the retail page is accurate but, until Warner Bros. releases official details, it's worth taking CDON with a grain of salt.
As for what will be included in that 30 minutes of extra footage, Snyder hasn't revealed too much but there are a few things we do know.
Even though the R-Rated cut is more violent, fans shouldn't expect an especially bloody cut. The difference between PG-13 and R at the MPAA can be very subtle - meaning that any one scene isn't likely to be significantly more violent. Snyder said as much when he spoke about the R-Rated cut, suggesting: "There’s a little bit of action, there’s a little bit of violence that we trimmed out for the MPAA that we put back. The Batman warehouse rescue, there’s a couple shots of Doomsday that were too intense. Then there’s a little bit longer ending, sort of the ending sequence, and the opening of the movie, the North Africa sequence is really much different."
Snyder's comment about the North Africa scene shouldn't come as much of a surprise to fans who have been absorbing behind-the-scenes details following release - including the revelation that the C.I.A. operative, who used Lois Lane to locate an African warlord, was actually a reimagined version of Superman sidekick Jimmy Olsen (until the character is killed moments after his introduction). Snyder had previously revealed that he intended to hire Jesse Eisenberg for the part - with the plan to shock audiences by killing the well-known character (played by a well-known actor) off in the opening act. Plans changed when Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor instead - and Snyder removed mention of Olsen in the theatrical cut to streamline the plot. Still, viewers of the R-Rated cut will get to see the scene as it was originally imagined - with an introduction scene between the character (played by Michael Cassidy) and Lois (before Olsen is summarily executed).
Eisenberg would go on to become one of the more controversial aspects of Batman V Superman - with many detractors criticizing Snyder for a convoluted portrayal of Lex Luthor (and the villain's overarching plan, motivations, as well as connection to supervillain Darkseid). Eisenberg has suggested that, while he hasn't seen the final film (he never watches his own movies), the version of Lex they filmed, prior to theatrical cuts, was much more developed than the one audiences ultimately saw. So, in addition to more violence and a Jimmy Olsen cameo, viewers of the R-Rated cut will also be getting more Lex Luthor - teased by the release of an exceptionally revealing deleted scene days after Dawn of Justice hit theaters (featuring Lex "communing" with an alien being).
The deleted scene featured finalized visual effects - meaning that Warner Bros. isn't simply including low-cost character drama into the Ultimate Cut, they're also adding sequences that, despite not making it to the big screen, still required costly post-production work. That all said, increased CGI spectacle isn't what most Batman V Superman fans are hoping to see added in the R-Rated cut. If Snyder's prior Ultimate Cut, for Watchmen, is any indication, the Batman V Superman extended edition will be an even slower burn that fills in missing pieces of character drama and story. An even longer version of the movie may not excite casual filmgoers who already found Batman V Superman to be slow at times; yet, for viewers who actually liked the movie, and enjoyed the story that Snyder was attempting to tell, the Ultimate Cut could flesh out aspects of the movie (plot holes and character) that were undercooked in the 2.5 hour cut.
It won't change the film's gritty tone or certain plot beats that critics hammered-on but 30 minutes is a lot of extra footage - and could make a tangible difference in fleshing out Snyder's characters and superhero world. Conversely, many reviewers thought Batman V Superman was already too indulgent and brooding - meaning that adding another 30 minutes might make the film harder, rather than more enjoyable, to watch.
Until we know exactly what's included in the Ultimate Cut, it's too early to tell one way or the other. Skeptics will surely claim that nothing, outside of rebooting the DC universe, can save Batman V Superman but here's hoping the Dawn of Justice Ultimate Cut delivers and offers an experience that fans will love - one that makes it easier to see (and appreciate) what Snyder is trying to accomplish.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing in U.S. theaters. Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5th, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.