Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX Review
A new look, a new ratio, and the superior R-rated longer cut - after the success of Zack Snyder's Justice League maybe there's no better time to reassess the deeply flawed Batman v Superman.
Revisiting Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel Trilogy" puts a lot of things into perspective. That's not to say that each and every entry isn't flawed - they all still are - but the gift of hindsight actually works wonders for this frequently studio-hobbled saga, particularly in what is now likely the closest we will ever get to Snyder's original vision for the films. After Whedon's Justice League, the DC game was largely over. WW84 and the passable but ridiculously expensive Birds of Prey were but the nails in that coffin. Yet the unthinkable has happened, even for people who positively hated 2017's Justice League. Snyder released a 4-hour cut of the movie, the majority of which being footage that nobody had ever seen before, and rekindled interest in the franchise.
And, crazy as it may seem, Zack Snyder's Justice League has actually made the trilogy - as a whole - somehow work better. You see both of the first two entries - Man of Steel and Batman v Superman - go off the rails for the most part in the final act. Man of Steel's superb two-father build-up across the first two acts appears utterly at odds, both thematically and tonally, with its city-destroying punch-em-up finale. And yet Batman v Superman's entire premise - indeed, likely its whole, meticulously crafted, first half - is founded upon the Independence Day-levels of destruction seen in the last hour of Man of Steel. Without that, Snyder would have been unable to build his two titular titans to the point where you can genuinely see them facing off. Batman's bitter, ageing vigilante, concerned about this super-powered alien from above, and the fact that nobody on earth could stop him if he went off the rails. Superman's all-powerful god frustrated that his repeated acts of miraculous rescue are being reframed due to collateral damage or political and public concern, and targeting Gotham's violent vigilante who he feels is the real villain that people should be focusing their attention on. None of this would have been possible without the reframing of the end of Man of Steel - where Superman saves the entire globe from being terraformed by Kryptonian tyrant, General Zod - from the point of view of a helpless Bruce Wayne, who is at ground zero in Metropolis as the towers come down, and can but see two unstoppable gods punching each other through buildings with no concern for the loss of life on the streets below.
You can now see the whole trilogy, as it was arguably meant to be seen
Of course, Snyder finds great foundation in his clear source material - Frank Miller's seminal The Dark Knight Returns - pages from which are veritably brought to life on the Big Screen. Even introducing Wonder Woman into the fray was reasonably well handled, with a distinctly James Bond vibe (the score, the Aston, the party, the spying, and the femme fatale) as a superb Ben Affleck nails his take on both a grizzled, bitter Wayne and an incredibly bulked-up Batman, curious at this Amazonian goddess who always appears one step ahead of him, but cynical after previous encounters that are cleverly alluded to (Catwoman). No, where everything goes off the rails, as with Man of Steel, only twice as damagingly, is in the final act, with Snyder now shifting gears to try and get the entire story to The Death of Superman nailed in under an hour. Superman v Doomsday should have been epic, and devastating in equal measure, not a confrontation with a weird CG mutant who looks not that far removed from The Incredible Hulk's Abomination. Doomsday demanded his own movie - hell, the DC Animated Universe ended up adapting it twice, with the second version afforded even more breathing space in the form of a two-part The Death of Superman followed by its conclusion, Reign of the Supermen. No, cramming in Doomsday was a terrible decision.
And yet, with hindsight, watching the devastating beginning of Zack Snyder's Justice League, you realise what he was building for here, in much the same way as what he was building for with the end of Man of Steel. This is Superman's arc, and the echoes of his fall are literally felt in the opening scene of Justice League, defining and directing the journey that evolves and actually triggering the entire narrative. Sure, this doesn't take away from some of the mistakes made along the way. Eisenberg is an appalling choice for any version of Luther, basically playing it with his trademark manically annoying freneticism dialled up to 11, which is a fatal flaw when he's supposed to be the puppet-master behind the whole plot. He grates so much that his whimsical accompanying score is more likely to have you reaching for the fast-forward. And really these characters each warranted their own solo introductions, rather than the backdoor piloting of Wonder Woman and eventual dismissal of any solo entry for this particularly intriguing take on Batman (Please, please, let HBO Max do something with Affleck's Batman, and bring back Jeremy Irons' tremendous Alfred too!).
But the surprisingly brutal, distinctly R-rated three hour Extended "Ultimate Edition" Cut, with its expanded IMAX sequences that reach Zack Snyder's Justice League heights in terms of their new 1.43:1 aspect ratio, is certainly a step up from the appalling Theatrical Cut, and better even than the previous 2.39:1 version, particular having finally seen Snyder's "Endgame". The benefit of hindsight is that you can now see the whole trilogy, as it was arguably meant to be seen, and if you can step past the justified criticisms, you may find yourself on a journey that is ultimately pretty damn epic, an ocean away from where fans were back in either 2016 or 2017. Watching Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Extended IMAX and Zack Snyder's Justice League will hopefully remind people why there's no longer any shame in being a Marvel AND DC fan.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX 4K Video
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX comes to US 4K courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, with presumably an identical release to the upcoming UK 4K edition. This Ultra HD Blu-ray release, gifted that rare - at least in terms of movies heavy in VFX - native 4K rendition, and remastered to adopt colour timing in-line with Snyder's latter Justice League as well as expanded IMAX sequences, is utterly, utterly reference.
The disc presents a 3840x2160/24p BT.2020 image in the dual aspect ratios of widescreen 2.39:1 and expanded 1.43:1 for a number of core IMAX sequences, and uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HDR10.
We reviewed the US 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX on an LG 55B7 Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD OLED TV with a Panasonic DP-UB820EB-K Dolby Vision HDR10+ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
This new version of Batman v Superman is utterly spectacular
Already a stunning Blu-ray release, and 4K release, Batman v Superman, in its superior, longer 3-hour Ultimate Edition, has yet another shot at the title with this remastered version. It sports the same excellent, immaculate attention to detail, showcasing wartorn landscapes - both desert locales and cityscapes, dusty and battle-damaged, with every last iota of detail brought to the fore. Texturing is devastatingly good, with the detail even surviving some of the occasionally hefty dust/grain slathered atop without it getting too noisy. And the IMAX sequences? Wow, not only are they largely utterly unnoticeable in terms of shifting aspect ratio, but they're also amidst the best images ever mastered for the format, with the intro just a teaser for the latter sequences; the Knightmare sequence given an even grander, more epic dystopian feel, and the titular clash opened up in all its glory.
Many balked at the aspect ratio choice for Justice League, even though it undeniably expanded the height and scale yet maintained Snyder's eye for perfect framing. However, whether viewers loved or loathed the choice, at least that was consistent, giving you half a chance at getting used to the ratio choice. Batman v Superman's new IMAX edition is arguably even more audacious in its positing of shifting ratios - it almost would have made more sense to just frame the whole thing in 1.43:1 - but that's only on paper. In reality, you won't notice. What you will notice, is just how spectacular these new IMAX scenes look, just how much more of the image you can now enjoy (much like on Justice League, it's not simply a case of cropping, but often one of zooming in and framing too).
HDR and WCG - particularly with this new 'look' that Snyder has gifted the film - give it a new lease of life too, with a wonderfully deep richness to the tones, and some tremendous highlights around the edges, playing golden browns and seedy yellows, cool blues with twinges of green and those searing red "heat ray" energy blasts. Yet it's more than just that, every single shot looks different. Richer, more decadent, and more refined, fitting in much closer to the look and feel of Zack Snyder's Justice League, which should make a back-to-back watch with the incoming 4K release of that unexpected gem even more impressive. And, hell, maybe even that shifting aspect ratio makes sense now - going from Man of Steel's 2.4:1 to Batman v Superman's mix of ratios, to the full 1.33:1 of Zack Snyder's Justice League only seems like a logical progression. Whatever your watching preference, rest assured, this new version of Batman v Superman is utterly spectacular.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX 4K Audio
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice IMAX 4K Blu-ray release affords what is almost certainly the exact same Dolby Atmos High Definition 3D object-based immersive audio track that has been around ever since the original Blu-ray release, let alone the first 4K release, and there are no complaints about that: it's a tremendous, utterly reference experience, booming with LFE bombast and yet driving dynamics and pin-point precision at every turn. Fabulous.
A tremendous, utterly reference experience
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised in spite of the thunderous bass, sweeping score or frenetic soundscape that's packed to the brim with epic setpieces, giving clarity to Superman's considered vocals, Batman's deep, intentionally processed voice, or the fluttering RPM of this hyperactively manic Lex. The score isn't as singularly effective as, say Man of Steel, but it does well to juggle the competing themes of the multitude of characters and give them their own voice (albeit the use of Wonder Woman's signature theme starts to border on parody in the second half), and also somehow run a through-line which mostly feels cohesive, bringing the surrounds to life when the assault of action sequences aren't doing the heavy lifting in that department - the superb warehouse scene, the Knightmare flash-forward, the titular clash of titans, and the closing battle to name just a few of speaker-bursting, neighbour-decimating setpieces, all thunderously LFE-centric, making you feel every gunshot, every body blow and every explosion. Excellent.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX 4K Extras
Warner's US 4K release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX is a stripped-down, lean package which is clearly designed to compliment the existing sets that fans will already have. As such (and like the upcoming 4K release of Zack Snyder's Justice League in 4K), it doesn't bother with any second Blu-ray Disc, and therefore doesn't have a dedicated second extras disc with, presumably, the majority of the first disc taken up by the 3 hour IMAX-expanded native 4K movie presentation.
A lean package
In some respects the 'bonus' here is the very fact we're getting the longer cut with its expanded aspect ratio and improved colour scheme, but the cherry on top is an Introduction from Zack Snyder and also an Audio Commentary from him, which fans will enjoy dipping into.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition IMAX 4K Verdict
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice IMAX 4K Blu-ray Review
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a mess on its theatrical run, rushing a tale which was already attempting to cram in three disparate stories into one 2.5 hour runtime. The 3 hour Ultimate Edition at least alleviated some of the inherent problems associated with such a ridiculous endeavour, even if it's still often a case of 'making the best of a bad situation'. The reality is that they never should have undertaken a project which tried to combine so many different, legendary tales as it really didn't do the stories - or the iconic characters - justice. Nonetheless, this new IMAX-expanded version of the longer 3 hour cut, R-rated, brutal and at times very effective, gifted a colour scheme in-line with Snyder's Justice League, as well as the hindsight of having seen that end to his 'trilogy', does make it a more engaging watch. You can now see why this had to end the way it did, and you do get a better end to his tale courtesy of the new ZSJL, making this a more enjoyable middle chapter than it has arguably ever been before. Sure, it's undeniably flawed, but now we all know that and know where it's all going, hopefully it's more easy to appreciate everything that was actually achieved in this "Man of Steel Trilogy".
Worth revisiting alongside the upcoming 4K release of Snyder's Justice League with, of course, Man of Steel watched first
Warner's US 4K release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boasts an absolutely reference native 4K presentation in dual ratios, with utterly perfect IMAX sequences now returned to their full height glory. The Atmos track is phenomenal too, and an intro and commentary are the cherry on top. Fans should regard this a must-have, and those who previously wrote off the DC universe - utterly understandably - may want to consider this as a vital component in the now-vastly-improved Zack Snyder trilogy, and worth revisiting alongside the upcoming 4K release of Snyder's Justice League (with, of course, Man of Steel watched first). As such, it comes Recommended.
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