- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

One man’s obsession to challenge a god turned into a massive exercise in depressing, often oppressive eye candy for movie audiences earlier this year.

The film drew a massive box-office return, currently over $800 million, but critics and too many fans hated what director Zack Snyder did to showcase DC Comics’ Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel’s first appearance together on the silver screen.

Hoping to make even a modicum of amends or more thematic sense to the original meandering maelstrom, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ultimate Edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, $35.99, 182 minutes) now arrives to the Blu-ray format.

A new cut of the film extends the opus by 30 minutes and delivers a more coherent final product and what I hope was truer to Mr. Snyder’s original vision.

Viewers get three hours to digest a fairly thorough plot introducing the budding relationship between these pop-art heroes. The film pays homage to the sequential-art staples of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and the massive “Death of Superman” story arc from the 1980s.

Specifically, after 20 years of pummeling Gotham City’s nastiest criminals, billionaire Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck) finds a new target across the bay in Metropolis to deliver his brand of justice.

An indestructible alien named “Superman” (Henry Cavill) exists with apparently limitless power. Although he has sworn to protect the planet, that is little solace to Mr. Wayne after the last son of Krypton nearly destroyed Metropolis 18 months earlier, killing thousands of humans (and some of his friends and employees) in a battle against fellow alien Gen. Zod.

Obviously anyone with that much power and blindness to his own collateral damage is a potential menace, and Batman develops a way to stop him after watching Superman supposedly wipe out an African village to save Lois Lane (Amy Adams).

Meanwhile, the petulant tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) also wants to stop Superman and will set loose a monstrous plan to defeat him. Only the might of Batman, Superman and the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) will stave off Luthor’s threat that could wipe out both of our heroes’ cities and potentially the planet.

What I took away from this new cut of the film, sorely missing from the original, was a much-appreciated exposition that explores Batman and Superman’s motivations in the universe and why they are even fighting.

Equally important, we get a much better understanding of why we should feel empathy toward Superman and his fragile state of mind while under assault by the public and a U.S. Senate committee for the deaths of civilians.

Also critical is a much better exploration of the loving relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. We clearly see that she is not just a damsel-in-distress but, through added scenes, she is Superman’s ties to humanity, along with his mom Martha.

Finally, viewers also get a much better understanding of the full manipulative powers of the clearly psychotic Lex Luthor, a man consumed by daddy issues. Even better, we understand what brute in the DC Comics’ is partially pulling his strings.

The digital transfer is stunning and delivers a crisper and brighter look at the complex cinematography of Larry Fong. The thrilling action scenes — including a car chase with the Batmobile, Batman’s epic rescue of Martha Wayne and the trio’s fight against Lex Luthor’s genetic doppelganger — come to life even more vividly, looking more violent than they did in theaters.

After watching the “Ultimate Edition,” I am much more at peace with Mr. Snyder’s obviously passionate effort of bringing these two super-heroic legends to cinematic life.

A second Blu-ray disc houses the original cut of the film (by all means skip it) but also the coveted extras.

Viewers get 11 featurettes, totaling almost two hours, that do a great job of deconstructing the production through interviews with many of the staff and actors, while showcasing gorgeous comic book art and adding the history of these epic characters.

The best of the bunch includes:

Uniting the World’s Finest — Mainly Mr. Snyder with Geoff Johns, chief creative officer of DC Entertainment, offer a precursory explanation and justification of the DC Comics movie universe in 15 minutes. They touch on Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg in the movies with words from the actors playing them. Then, we get a promotion for the upcoming film “Suicide Squad.” Comic art abounds with panels and covers from such stalwarts as Jim Lee and Brian Bolland, to name a few.

Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants — Mr. Cavill and Mr. Affleck talk about their characters, and viewers get a quick, 12-minute introduction to Batman and Superman’s origin in comics featuring stunning art from Frank Miller, John Byrne, Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Gene Colan, Alex Ross and Jim Lee. Mr. Snyder’s also talks, and his fan boy love for the characters clearly shows here.

The Warrior, The Myth, The Wonder — This 21-minute, abbreviated look at the 75-year history of Wonder Woman features interviews with artist Cliff Chang, writer Phil Jimenez, historian Jill Lepore, Pete Marston (son of Wonder Woman creator Charles Moulton), artist Molly Crabapple, director Patty Jenkins, and even actress Viola Davis and Margot Robbie as they discuss this definitive feminist super hero as a role model for multiple generations of fans.

They are supported with plenty of classic Golden Age comic covers of the heroine, illustrations of her various costumes over the years and scenes from the live-action TV show starring Lynda Carter.

Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile — My favorite featurette offers 23 minutes on the creation of the latest version of the Batmobile. Extreme sports commentator Sal Masekela interviews the build team led by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos and special vehicles designer Dennis McCarthy who took four months to deliver the final, working vehicle.

Viewers get a look at previous incarnations from the movies, observe 3-D models, computer-performance tests and footage of major drive tests of the new Batmobile. The vehicle boasts 550 horsepower, a monster truck transfer case and weighs 8,500 pounds.

The Empire of Luthor — A too-short, 12-minute history of Superman’s arch enemy focuses on some progressions of his design in comic books and supported by interviews with Mr. Johns, Mr. Jimenez, Mr. Snyder, and Mr. Eisenberg (who acts like a bit of an idiot admitting not knowing much of the conflict between Luthor and the Man of Steel).

I could have used more discussion on his role in comics and less scenes promoting the brilliance of Mr. Eisenberg.

Also worth noting are a trio of extras (roughly 7 minutes each) focused on the physicality of the actors, their training and the costume designs of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s great to see the amazing work put into the latest Bat suit.

Finally, if a viewer has time, dive into a 7-minute detailed look at the new Batcave, and a quick, 5-minute, technological look at the tools that Batman used to battle Superman.

The pivotal fight gets broken down to scientific minutiae offering fact nuggets such as Superman’s heat vision reaches 10,000 Fahrenheit and Batman’s exoskeleton gloves exerted 1,420 pounds of punching force on Superman’s body.

Despite the generous extras, what’s seriously missing here is an optional commentary track from Mr. Snyder and primary writer David S. Goyer to act as a post-mortem to the massive project.

Considering how divisive “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” was to the comic book fan community, some words from the maestros would have been much appreciated.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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