The showman P. T. Barnum became famous for co-opting the now popular phrase “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” While no doubt referring to his controversial entrepreneurships like the American Museum at the time, the saying has gone to encompass all forms of media seeking to make a name for themselves. Getting one’s name out into the airwaves and becoming a notable figure in the public is one of the fastest ways to construct a brand name, even if that notoriety is negative.
In a lot of ways, this can best describe the situation surrounding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since its revelation in 2014, this mega-blockbuster was on everyone’s radar, as it was not only going to be the first film to feature the two comic book giants on-screen together but also launch the much-anticipated shared live-action universe of DC Comics properties, called the DC Extended Universe. Unfortunately for fans, the film ended up opening to negative reviews, with most critics targeting the overstuffed narrative and grim tone as points of particular contention. Months later, Warner Bros. released a longer version of the movie on home media dubbed the Ultimate Cut, that not only added back 30 minutes of previously cut footage but also rearranged scenes in a way that made the story flow better.
This version of Batman v Superman ended up receiving better reviews than its theatrical counterpart, with previously disillusioned critics like The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? director Jon Schnepp changing their opinion completely. Interestingly enough, though, during his discussion of the movie, Schnepp mentioned that Batman v Superman could only work in two formats: either the three-hour Ultimate Cut, or a 90-minute version, and the latter is exactly what one brave person decided to do.
Much in the same vain as the numerous Star Wars fan edits, this new iteration of the film, officially titled Batman v Superman: No Justice, follows its sub-heading to the bitter end: it removes all references and Easter Eggs to the Justice League, instead focusing solely on the thematic aftermath of 2013’s Man of Steel and the subsequent conflict with the Dark Knight. In other words, the entire subplot with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is gone, alongside any scenes showcasing the Kryptonian ship, metahumans, and Doomsday. Not only does it clock in at a total of 1 hour and 46 minutes, excluding credits, but also features some color contrast work in order brighten up the picture from director Zack Snyder’s infamous filters.
And yet, while this has been an admirably done effort from editor Reese Eans, it unfortunately misses the point of Batman v Superman, which is that it was never about Batman fighting Superman. The title was as much a clickbait attraction as it was clever wordplay that went over a lot of people’s heads. By using a “v” instead of a “vs,” the creative team behind the film was indicating to viewers that the disagreement between the two DC icons was more in the vein of a legal case than a physical skirmish. Batman represented all the fear and hatred that erupted towards Superman in the wake of the Battle of Metropolis; people who were seeking to hold the Man of Tomorrow accountable for his involvement in the urbicidal skirmish.
Where Warner Bros. and Snyder went wrong, however, was with the marketing, making the film appear to be entirely centered around the actual tactile brawl rather than the fragile atmosphere that surrounded the DC world. And sadly, Eans’s No Justice acts on this faulty advertising line, building us up to a grand fistfight finale that was only ever meant to be a climax in a much larger story. The second part of the title, Dawn of Justice, was not just a set-up for the upcoming Justice League. It was an indication that out of this dark world of political conspiracies was a sign of a hopeful future. Before Batman v Superman even came out, writer Chris Terrio was talking openly about how Justice League would be lighter due to all the harsher aspects being wrung out in its predecessor.
No Justice misses that, turning BvS into a self-contained flick that wraps-up its narrative with the archetypal “good guy beats bad guy,” in this case Lex Luthor being sent to jail for his connections to the anti-Superman crimes. The world still remains the same as it was at the beginning of the movie, the only exception being that Batman now realizes that Superman isn’t a threat to humanity anymore.
In the end, No Justice is an interesting take to watch on the controversial superhero epic, but in trying to simplify the narrative, it ironically misses the point of it, which was creating this larger sociopolitical canvas to set up a better future.
[Featured Image by Warner Bros.]