A leaked IMAX scene from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice suggests that the Ultimate Edition was originally set for a theatrical release. Even before the theatrical debut of DCEU's showdown between their two most iconic characters, a longer, R-rated cut of the film had been classified, promising a deeper experience for fans down the line.
The Ultimate Edition eventually came packaged with the Blu-ray and added an extra 30 minutes to the film, including deleted scenes and extensions of certain beats. While still incredibly divisive - it's the same base film, Martha and all - it's overall considered a better version of the movie, filling in several narrative gaps and providing a clearer arc for Superman in the first half. It now appears, however, that Warner Bros. originally had bigger plans than just a home video extra.
An IMAX version of the Ultimate Edition's Knightmare sequence has emerged online, which you can watch below. You can see the squarer IMAX framing in the video, which presents a greater scope of the Darkseid-ravaged world and can be verified by the video's poster. This, however, is interesting as there would be no need to make an IMAX version of the extended footage unless there were plans to screen it in the format in cinemas, implying that at one point Warner Bros. were planning to have a re-release that took in the premium format.
The Knightmare sequence has Bruce Wayne mentally time travel to a desolate future where Superman runs around violent and unchecked, a vision/dream/other that's the result of The Flash making a misjudged time jump. The scene is mostly unchanged in the Ultimate Edition, but there are a few noticeable moments that give it away and can be seen in IMAX ratio in the above clip; shots showing the convoy's entrance into Batman's compound and the armed guards inside the school bus.
Technically Dawn of Justice got a small theatrical release for lucky fans the week before the Blu-ray came out, but none of the showings were in IMAX, meaning this clip won't have come from the work done for those events. Even if it was just a test, it nevertheless suggests there was once the notion of putting the longer Dawn of Justice on the big screen.
It would seem probable that the original plan was to put the Ultimate Edition in cinemas after BvS had wrapped up its initial run but before it arrived on home video, allowing audiences to revisit the film. This is a tactic used by several big releases - twice in the case of Avatar - and would explain why so much effort was put into the director's cut and why it was classified so early.
Obviously, this never came to pass. Why is unclear at this point but it likely has something to do with the film's overall negative critical reaction seeing it quickly become regarded as one of the worst films of 2016. A high profile re-release is only going to result in more bad publicity, whereas a "for the fans" home video option keeps it focused on those who like the film. We're unlikely to get official word from Warner Bros. but will keep you updated on any more IMAX footage that surfaces.
Update: The IMAX ending of BvS' Ultimate Edition has now also appeared online, which you can watch in its 13-minute glory below.
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