Director Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice had a variety of problems, many of which could be narrowed down to sloppy storytelling which attempted to shorthand a number of plot points. So, a director’s cut restoring nearly 30 minutes of footage should at least marginally improve the film, right? Unfortunately, it only improves the film around its margins, leaving and even amplifying many of the film’s inherent problems.
The first sequence to benefit from the addition of material comes at the opening of the film, where Lois Lane is meeting with an African warlord for an interview. Previously, audiences had only the film’s closing credits to tell them that the photographer-revealed-to-be-a-CIA-agent who accompanies here is Jimmy Olsen. Here, Michael Cassidy’s character specifically introduces himself as “Jimmy Olsen,” and within moments he’s getting a bullet in the face. Which can pretty much be read as Snyder’s contemptuous feelings for the character.
But there is some good added to this sequence as well. Additional shots here are the first step in making clearer the whole “framing Superman for killing these villagers” plotline that was a confusing, truncated mess. Other scenes that help further this storyline include more footage of the woman who testified in front of Senator Finch’s (Holly Hunter) Superman congressional committee and all of the cut scenes featuring Jena Malone as a scientist who gives Lois some vital information about the mysterious bullet she recovered from the village massacre. Of course, while it adds some clarity to this subplot it also raises new questions. Why was the CIA involved when this is all revealed to be part of Lex Luthor’s overall plot to pit Batman against Superman?
Another plotline that gets a boast form additional footage is Clark’s investigation into Batman. We get to see more of him acting as a reporter, which is good because previously the film underused the character of Clark/Superman, frustrating as he is co-headliner here. Unfortunately, the movie continues to insist on portraying the way Perry White’s running of the Daily Planet offices is exactly the opposite way it would be run in real life.
But the fact that much of this footage goes into making the film’s subplots more comprehensible merely points to the fact that the the screenplay was indeed overloaded with too much story. A script this labyrinthine that it needed almost three hours of footage to approach comprehensibility only indicates that there needed to be some serious streamlining during the script writing process.
But for all the cosmetic improvements the added footage fixes in terms of some storytelling lapses, the problems with the film’s broader strokes go unaddressed. Tonally, the film is still too dark for a movie about a character who is trying to represent hope to the world. The “Knightmare” sequence is still a confusing mess of conflicting intent. The insertion of the extra footage is that it pads out portions of the movie to the extent that it winds up sidelining Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman for an even longer time now. When she is supposed to be a figure of mystery throughout most of the film, her elongated disappearance from the narrative becomes a problem. The film still raises philosophical questions that it refuses to answer. Snyder’s heavy-handed Christ and 9/11 imagery remain. The film still argues Lex’s point that Superman is a god over men. Story flow is disrupted by the needs to set up future solo superhero films in the franchise. Et cetera, et cetera.