In “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.
Although Batman is given top-billing, 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' is really a sequel to 2013's Superman reboot, largely following the aftermath of the events seen in that blockbuster. Picking up just moments after the Man of Steel battles General Zod to save Earth from extinction, the Zack Snyder directed picture opens with a surly, gray-haired Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) running towards the chaos rather than away from it. This affords audiences an interesting point of view and new perspective on the destruction that essentially killed thousands. With Wayne expertly weaving between giant pieces of concrete debris in the hopes of saving as many innocent lives as possible, we watch the mayhem from below and quickly understand Wayne's outrage, which slowly evolves into acerbic hatred. Arguably the most surprising and impressive part of the production, Affleck does a superb job as the aged and embittered Dark Knight, walking around with a permanently etched furrow between his eyes. His anger for Superman develops and ferments over the course of the film, and Affleck aptly provides poignancy and sympathy to the Bat's cause, a rage that's been brewing since his parents' death.
Meanwhile, Superman (Henry Cavill) is made to answer before the U.S. government for his part in the destruction of Metropolis. The overzealous Junior Senator from Kentucky June Finch (an excellent Holly Hunter) keeps suggesting throughout that there should be some regulations put in place. Many fans have griped over this aspect of Chris Terrio ('Argo') and David S. Goyer's script, reasonably complaining it adds a much too serious element to a film based on a comic book. While it's true this a darkly brooding and overwhelmingly somber adaptation of the last son of Krypton, unlike anything moviegoers have seen before, I personally like the deliberately downbeat sentimental melodrama because it's a logical progression of the first movie. Unlike other superhero films, Snyder and company show there are ramifications to the heroic acts committed by beings with superhuman abilities. Being darker and bleaker, DC Comics wants their cinematic-universe franchise to be dramatically different from Marvel's by having their characters confront real-life issues and having them struggle internally.
Especially after the disastrous events in Africa where he once-again saves Lois Lane (a pleasing Amy Adams), the Kryptonian is forced to face the consequences of his decisions while also feeling the wrath of a faultfinding society that reminds him of his foreignness. And our godlike hero who can't be hurt by any man-made weapons, not even an atomic bomb, is actually pained by the people's distrust of him. Not only does he continue to fret over his existence and place in an imperfect, uncaring world, but he also anguishes over where he's accountable to the deaths caused around him. Snyder's Superman is not the perfect boy scout and symbolic figure of national pride. He's a flawed and damaged hero capable of mistakes and having to live with them. It's a sentiment shared by Affleck's Batman, though he hides it in the deepest cave of his psyche and turns it into the rage necessary for fighting Gotham's criminals. Interestingly, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot in an outstanding breakthrough role) seems to also understand this when she states she stopped participating in human affairs long ago. That is until now.
What brings her out of hiding in 'Batman v Superman' is a monstrous creature that feeds off energy, which comic book fans will immediately recognize as Doomsday though it's never directly identified as such. Gadot's entrance as Wonder Woman is hands-down the production's best moment. It's an awesomely thrilling highlight that sees her saving Batman while the bombastic percussion of tribal-like music roars on the screen, reminding us of her Amazonian roots and sends chills down my arms. The ensuing clash itself is just as over-the-top and grandiose as we'd expect from a film of this caliber, but the real joy is watching Wonder Woman battle the monster with a child-like grin as though she was really loving the challenge. A significant change from the comics — of which there are many — is Doomsday's origins being the result of Lex Luthor (an excessively manic Jesse Eisenberg) messing with Kryptonian technology. Luthor's obsession with destroying Superman is only hinted at but never fully explained, and that's not the only time the filmmakers sprinkle hints throughout. Aside from introducing other Justice League members, Snyder alludes to a sequel that will have our heroes battling Darkseid in Batman's "Knightmares," which, if done correctly, is guaranteed to be an even more apocalyptic war than what we've seen here.
For the Blu-ray release of 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,' the filmmakers have added another 30 minutes to the already long 151-minute runtime of the box-office hit, which now clocks in at 182 minutes and is dubbed the "Ultimate Edition." Many of the extra scenes are mostly extended sequences and dialogue interactions, but amazingly, none of them feel superfluous or pointless. In fact, the extra time is a surprisingly welcomed addition because the new conversations answer several questions viewers had when walking out theaters. Most significant is seeing Jena Malone as S.T.A.T. Labs researcher Jenet Klyburn, who helps Lois Lane with researching the bullet from the Africa massacre and in discovering Wallace Keefe's (Scoot McNairy) wheelchair was lined with lead, which explains why Superman didn't see it. Best of all is that this extended cut better shows Lex Luthor manipulating all of the events leading up to the conflict between Superman and Batman. He had been nurturing Wayne's anger while feeding the public's distrust of Superman, making the character the true exploitative genius he is, guiding and steering things from within the shadows. The conversation between Batman and Lex also insinuates a connection with the 'Suicide Squad' universe since the criminal mastermind is now being sent to Arkham Asylum.
Theatrical Version: 3/5
Extended Ultimate Edition Cut: 4/5
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify the size of the content, or if the disc is dual-layered or tripled-layered, but early reports suggest this is the first triple-layered UHD100 disc released. The new UHD disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Much like the long-awaited clash between titans, the moment of truth descends from the heavens with a mostly fantastic but a bit underwhelming HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, arriving day-and-date as its Blu-ray counterpart. The blockbuster spectacular was shot using a variety of digital cameras that max at 3.2K resolution in conjunction with traditional 35mm, Super 16 format, Panavision 65mm and IMAX cameras. The elements were later mastered in a 4K digital intermediate, and for the most part, the 2160p video looks great, but the heavily stylized cinematography unfortunately doesn't lend itself all that well to the new format. Essentially, although it offers a noticeable upgrade, the movie is much too grim and dreary to demonstrate the full potential of UHD.
Much like its BD counterpart, the movie arrives with gritty, excessively bleak cinematography and a joylessly subdued appeal meant to reflect the gravely somber plot. Much of the look leans towards the ever popular orange and teal palette, which is made all the more apparent here, but colors are, in large part, heavily drained and muted. Nevertheless, the transfer, which was color graded to take advantage of the wider color gamut, displays plenty of pastel hues scattered throughout to embolden the rays of sunshine, the massive yellow-red flames of explosions and the light the night sky with the blue flashes of thunder. Weirdly, flesh tones appear very lifelike and natural, but there are a couple instances of very mild posterization and sickly-looking faces from time to time. Even so, primaries manage to peek through all the somber dreariness with accurate saturation that's slightly better than the Blu-ray. Superman's red cape is a tad deeper and bolder while the blue of his tights comes with fascinatingly metallic royal quality, and the yellow in his shield shines with a vitality that almost suggests it's made of gold. The green of the Kryptonite glows with outstanding, animated clarity.
Where the 4K presentation really shines and will convince viewers of the upgrade is the noticeable improvement in the higher dynamic range (HDR) possible only on UHD. In spite of the extremely toned-down contrast that pushes many of the visuals toward black-and-white territory, whites shine with buoyancy and brilliant vibrancy. It makes for a brighter and tad more dazzling presentation than the Blu-ray, allowing for outstanding visibility into the far distance with several exceptional, looking-through-a-window moments of the city skylines. A majority of the film is inundated in inky-rich, pitch-black black levels that penetrate deep into the screen and providing the image with an appreciable, three-dimensional cinematic quality. Dark, stygian shadows remarkably never ruin or completely engulf background information, giving viewers lots of excellent, sharp details in every scene. All of this is best demonstrated in the explosive battle with Doomsday where specular highlights along the metal edges of buildings, Batman's weapons and every time Doomsday regenerates with sparkling vividness. The blacks in Batman's assorted suits come with exceptional gradational differences in the various shades.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the freshly-minted transfer is often awash with an observable layer of grain. At times, the structure can appear somewhat more exaggerated and denser in some areas than in others. The CG action sequences are expectedly lacking and sterile while also seeming a tad softer than others. However, according to a couple sources (here and here), some the VFX rendered in 4K IMAX resolution remained true through the DI while other CG effects were done in 2K resolution and later upconverted for the 4K DI. But in either case, the overall presentation remains highly detailed with visibly distinct lines in the buildings, various vehicles and the superhero outfits. Every stitch and thread in the fabric worn by Superman is very well-defined, individual blemishes and the tiniest imperfection can be plainly made out in Batman's power armor suit, and Wonder Woman's shield shows lots of wear and tear from countless battles. Not only do facial complexions appear natural with lifelike textures, exposing the minute hairs in Bruce Wayne's five o'clock shadow, but even pores and wrinkles can be seen in Batman's jaded mask. Only issue is that the upgrade doesn't offer the sort of night-and-day difference we'd expect, except that minute pieces of debris are better detailed and crystal-clear here than on the Blu-ray. All in all, this is top-notch 4K presentation that does deliver some noteworthy and appreciable improvements.
The gargantuan superhero showdown goes ballistic on Ultra HD Blu-ray with the same awesomely enveloping and tumultuous Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track for those not equipped for the new codec.
The two embittered costumed heroes make quite the ruckus and mess of each other's respective cities when the action erupts on screen. With discrete directionality and excellent panning effects that fluidly move between the channels without missing a beat, battles loudly fill the room with a variety of activity surrounding the listener with debris flying and falling everywhere. The design takes full advantage of the object-based audio format, subtly but believably extending some of the debris to the space above and large chunks of concrete from collapsing buildings feel as though coming down on viewers. From helicopters and the Batwing to Superman flying in the sky and Doomsday leaping long distances, various objects flawlessly pan from the front, above and behind or vice versa without a hitch. The sonic boom of Superman's flying antics reverberate all around with thunderous realism, raindrops are heard falling overhead, and Doomsday's deafening roar echoes in every which direction. Quieter, dialogue-driven moments continue with subtle atmospherics in the sides, rears and ceiling, creating an awesomely immersive dome-like soundfield that's highly satisfying.
Right from the start, opening with the destructive clash between Superman and General Zod, the movie bursts forth with mayhem and wreckage igniting the screen as Bruce Wayne weaves in and out of the havoc across the entire soundstage. These opening moments promptly generate a wide and spacious presence with a great deal of appreciable warmth and fidelity, immediately establishing a broad and terrifically engaging sense of space. Littered with lots of background activity, from the bustling streets of both Gotham and Metropolis to the tiny fragments of debris from Doomsday's devastating reign of chaos, imaging exhibits superb distinction in the mid-range and outstanding separation across all three channels with convincing off-screen effects. The many clashes and the music spread into the front height channels, expanding the onscreen visuals into an amusing half-dome soundfield. This is joined by a low-end that provides an authoritative oomp and a palpable punch to every gunshot, explosion and violent confrontation, digging deep into the wall-rattling ultra-low depths on a few occasions (bass chart). Amid the pandemonium and the booming mayhem, vocals remain distinct and precise, allowing for every hot-blooded and passionate conversation to be heard, even Batman's guttural lines.
'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' is a sequel to 2013's 'Man of Steel' reboot, following the aftermath of the destructive battle between Superman and General Zod. After witnessing the mayhem and destruction, an angry and embittered Batman vows to stop the last son of Krypton, but Lex Luthor has bigger, dastardly plans for the two superheroes, requiring the help of Wonder Woman to bring an end to Lex's design.
This Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a great-looking 4K video presentation. Though the heavily stylized photography keeps the video from truly shining, it nonetheless offers several noteworthy and appreciable moments that should please fans. Added to that, the movie arrives with the same satisfying, reference-quality Dolby Atmos audio presentation, joined by an identical collection of supplements featured in its Blu-ray counterpart. Overall, the package is recommended for loyal fans and early adopters enthusiastic about the new format.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.