Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Ultimate Cut Blu-ray Review
Tell me, do you bleed?... You will.
Ultimate Cut Review
Despite the landmark event that was 2012’s The Avengers, there’s something undeniably seminal about pairing up DC’s two biggest hitters.DC’s attempt to jump straight to the end game of Marvel’s meticulously-structured and painstakingly established MCU, i.e. their equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers, is as much of a flawed mess as you might have expected. Somewhere in here is a good film; perhaps not a great one, but certainly a good one. Maybe even two good films or, crazy as it might seem, three. DC have done a full reverse-Hobbit, taking the material that was used to make two of DC’s (and, indeed the comic universe’s) greatest tales featuring their two greatest characters – Batman’s The Dark Knight Returns and Superman’s Doomsday saga – and forging it into a clumsy combo that robs either story of any significant impact and further feels little more than an utterly cynical, commercially-driven decision to introduce the Justice League in the most contrived way possible immediately. I almost feel sorry for Snyder; given his strikingly faithful adaptations of Frank Miller’s 300 and Alan Moore’s Watchmen – especially the latter in its Ultimate Edition, which is easily Snyder’s finest (four) hour(s) – it may be that he started off with the good intention of just making an at least semi-faithful, updated adaptation of the defining Batman vs. Superman confrontation in Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, but the studio had other plans.Indeed there are huge swathes of Miller’s comic panels brought to life in this movie, enough to make a movie in its own right (particularly in Snyder’s longer, more coherent and better-plotted but still flawed 3 hour Ultimate Cut) and that’s what we – and the source material – deserved. Instead, this is a kind of best-of-both worlds affair which ends up wasting the epic stories on contrived connections (“Martha”) and throwing pointless CG villains into the fray just so weave yet more wanton destruction. Batman v Superman’s final act is so at odds with its first act that you have to wonder whether the entire production didn’t just get derailed midway through the shoot by a moronic studio executive. Despite these painful flaws, perhaps even more obvious on repeat viewings moderated slightly by the improvements of the longer cut (which certainly better establishes the motivations of Superman and Luthor), there is undoubtedly something undeniably epic about finally getting to see two of the greatest comic book characters (in many ways greater than anything in Marvel) face off. It’s a mess, but it’s a milestone too, and if you can look past the problems of the former, perhaps you will be able to appreciate – particularly in its longer, more complete form – the benefits of the latter.
Picture QualityIrrespective of which cut you choose to watch, Batman v Superman looks outstanding; marrying an almost incalculable number of effects shots into a surprisingly film-like final product, which is suitably gritty and murky – far more Batman in tone than Superman – and leaving the seamlessly integrated extended cut footage precisely that.
The 1080p/AVC-encoded 2D presentation, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, is near-reference quality. Detail is outstanding, picking up on the distinguished but weathered look that Wayne sports, the intricacy of Superman’s costume, the detail on Batman’s armoured suit (or desert apparel, for that matter), with every last texture and nuance within the environment coming to life. Even the darker sequences – of which there are many – stand up exceedingly well under scrutiny. Certainly, at least in 2D, Batman v Superman, looks outstanding.
Batman v Superman looks absolutely stunning
The 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D presentation, framed in the same 2.40:1 ratio, benefits from some of the best post-converted 3D work implemented in an age when conversions and natural 3D features are almost indistinguishable (we’re a long way from Clash of the Titans here). Snyder’s stylistic choices – obviously with 3D in mind – lend themselves well to impressive and interestingly innovative use of the added dimension, with the immense effects work jumping to life in this realm, and everything from droplets of rain to scattered pearls falling almost out of the screen.
There’s some tangible depth, and a strong roundedness to the characters and objects within the frame, lending the whole feature a far more immersive feel. What’s telling – although not wholly unexpected – is the fact that the Extended Cut doesn’t get the same 3D upgrade. Unsurprisingly, given the cost (at one stage it was almost half a million a minute for 3D conversion) you can see why we don’t get the option here, but ultimately it’s disappointing nonetheless, particularly given the fact that the extended cut is the preferred, more coherent and complete experience, all of which leaves Batman v Superman’s theatrical 3D presentation – despite its merits – little more than a demo gimmick.
Sound QualityCas Harlow reviewed the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on a 5.1-channel setup – The accompanying Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is almost impossible to fault, it will lay waste to the average home cinema environment, decimating your living room with a barrage of bombastic explosions and thunderous super-enhanced impact. Dialogue remains well-prioritised, from Affleck’s scary growl to Luthor’s manic verbal diarrhoea, with screams and shouts afforded just enough presence across the array, almost irrespective of how crazy things get in the background.
Effects are the most impressive, spanning the entire array and carrying with them some LFE heft; bringing the powers of both lead characters to bear in your living room. The score, despite any reservations you might have – a good effort but suffering from almost the same jarring, disjointed editing problems as the film itself (probably as a result of the latter) – provides further engulfing background atmosphere and overall this is an excellent, easily demo worth track, even without accessing its Atmos enhancements.
Demo quality from start to finish this is sound design turned up to eleven
Steve Withers reviewed the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on a 7.2.4-channel setup – No one could ever accuse Zak Snyder of subtlety, whether it's in terms of his visual aesthetic or his sound design, but the Dolby Atmos soundtrack for Batman v Superman must rank as the most aggressive audio he has ever unleashed on cinema-goers. It's a sonic assault from start to finish with the sound designers taking full advantage of the object-based format to utterly immerse the viewer in the film's bloated environment. The use of bass is often overpowering with the battle between the titular heroes simply shaking the foundations with massive amounts of low frequency energy. Every punch is like a sledgehammer, every kick like a demolition ball. This is sound designed turned up to eleven.
What's amazing is that within all the aural chaos the Dolby Atmos soundtrack manages to remain so precise, with dialogue still centred and clear, even Batman's processed voice or Lex Luthor's mannered delivery. The effects are seamlessly steered around the room, creating an immersive sound field that makes use of all the available speakers, including those overhead. The bombastic score is also perfectly mixed into the rest of the audio design, weaving each character's own them within the whole. The result is a soundtrack that's essentially a series of demos scenes, one after the other from start to finish. So if you're looking for the kind of soundtrack that can justify your investment in a new immersive audio setup, this is the film for you. Just make sure you warn the neighbours before you start watching the disc.
Steelbook ExtrasThe Ultimate Edition, on the face of it, appears packed with extra features, although a closer inspection reveals that the best additional feature was arguably the Extended Cut, with most of the actual supplemental material here devoted to singing the praises of the event movie, with no commentary and little significant background into the production itself - certainly nothing revealing any of the reasons why it ended up being quite a flawed finished product. Instead, Uniting the World's Finest further advertises DC's gameplan; Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants looks at the clash between the icons; The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder looks behind Wonder Woman's mythos; and Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile explores this new CG-driven drive. There are three further shorter Featurettes on the lead characters - Superman: Complexity and Truth; Batman: Austerity and Rage; and Wonder Woman: Power and Grace, as well as a look at the Batcave and the Empire of Luthor, and a breakdown of the tactics behind Batman's fight with Superman. The disc is rounded off by an eco piece on saving bats and a number of Preview Trailers.
Lacking any commentaries or revealing documentaries, the Ultimate Edition is still packed with extras
HMV's UK-exclusive steelbook makes the package even more impressive with its innovative reversible cover - Batman on one side; Superman inverted on the other, so both can be used as 'front' covers. It lacks embossing, but is iconic nonetheless with a good use of artwork considering the paintshop montage character shots that could have been used instead.
VerdictDespite falling short of Marvel’s standards, DC’s introduction to the League is still something of a milestone, and with its insane box office results, there’s certainly no stopping this Dawn. So, in many ways, if you like these characters then it would probably be best to get on the bandwagon and take as much from it as you can. For many, whilst Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was terrible, Amy Adam’s Lois whimsical, Gal Gadot’s striking Wonder Woman wasted, and Cavill’s Superman too tortured for the character, there’s certainly at least one big reason to continue to watch this universe – Affleck’s unreservedly brutal Batman. Almost every scene with him in it (and Jeremy Irons’s Alfred) is superb.
They tried to put too much into one movie, throwing everything at the screen and hoping something sticks
This HMV-exclusive UK Blu-ray release affords us the superior Ultimate Cut; a longer and more complete, coherent affair, though still carrying with it a bevvy of flaws which simply cannot be reconciled. Excellent video (notwithstanding the fact that the 3D option remains little more than a gimmick since it is only included on the inferior Theatrical Cut) and reference Dolby Atmos audio, as well as a wealth of (admittedly shallow) extra features, leave this an outstanding demo release that few will be able to resist.
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