Batman v Superman is the very definition of a divisive film. There is one completely undeniable fact though: it’s long. Clocking in at 2 hours and 31 minutes, it is officially the 2nd longest comic book movie of all time. What’s remarkable – or troubling, depending on your opinion of the movie – about that figure is that despite all that running time, director Zack Snyder’s multi-pronged story still feels like it’s missing huge chunks in the narrative, especially during it’s opening act as we seem to just constantly jump from one event to another without proper transitional flow.
And that’s because Snyder and editor David Brenner left a massive amount of footage on the editing room floor. How much footage? According to Brenner during an interview with Pro Video Coalition, Snyder’s original pre-edit cut of the film was a whopping 4 hours plus!
WARNING: Some minor SPOILERS ahead!
“In the script there were more story lines than you see in the movie today. That was probably our biggest editorial issue in trying to get the cut down to a reasonable length. For us, the trickiest section was the beginning of the film, until the point where Bruce Wayne tells Alfred the truth about what is on the “White Portugese” [sic] ship… the truth about his plan. This moment set into motion everything until the end of the film really. Until that point the movie was always tracking many solo paths, some intersecting, some not. Finally in this scene, the paths fork into one road.
In the script there are more subplots than you see in the movie right now. Also in terms of building this beginning we had to move things around. In the script, Lex was introduced much later, but we found that in watching the movie – because he’s such an important player, it was best to set him up sooner. Plus, his presence has so much energy, a twisted comic energy that boosted the film. Generally, BvS was a unique challenge in that we had not one but two protagonists, each with an alter-ego. So there was Clark Kent, Superman, Bruce Wayne and Batman. And then surrounding them are Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Wallace Keefe (the guy who loses his legs when Wayne Tower falls), Perry White, Martha Kent, Holly Hunter’s character (Senator Finch), and still more characters orbiting them.
It was a lot to juggle. So the plot lines of a couple characters had to go. These people are currently in the movie but we don’t track them, and it’s okay. What’s kind of fun is that we went back and did an extended cut where we put a lot of this stuff back, and we refined it into the same rhythm as the theatrical release. So what was once a nearly four-hour cut with absolutely everything was ridiculous – ended up being about a three-hour cut, once all these added story lines were refined with the fat was cut out.”
The extended cut he’s referring to is the upcoming R-rated Ultimate Edition that is set to be released on Blu-ray in a few months time. We’ve already seen one of the scenes that will be included in the Ultimate cut with a recently released deleted scene which actually explains a very big and confusing plot point.
This begs the question though: Wouldn’t it have been better for screenwriters David Goyer and Chris Terrio to rather take another pass at the script, tightening up the film’s wayward plot strands to rather allow for the inclusion of more narrative-critical beats, before Snyder actually started filming everything and everyone in sight?
Not that that would have been a definite assurance that Snyder would have been more economical with his directing though as Brenner reveals that he had a similar experience on Man of Steel.
“I remember being a little worried. Three and a half hours, okay, that’s fine for a movie of this size, the way Zack likes to work. This was more daunting. But we cut down ‘Man of Steel’ from about 3 and half hours, I knew we’d get this done.”
“Zack knew that on “Man of Steel” we addressed a lot of script questions in the film editing. So he was confident we could do it again.”
Frankly, that is probably not the best damn way to approach a movie that has the burden of setting up an entire shared cinematic universe! Either way, what’s done is done now. And to be honest, I was already quite intrigued by the Ultimate Edition of Batman V Superman as I really felt that underneath all the plot holes and weirdly nonsensical story/character beats there was indeed a better movie to be found, where the narrative actually matched up to the great action. Guess we’ll find out if that’s actually true when Batman v Superman hits home release on July 16, 2016.
Last Updated: April 19, 2016