Lack of decision-making doomed Batman v Superman in pre-production

By now, we all know that the critical reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been poor. We also know that the fan reaction is quite mixed as well–though those who like the film seem to love the film. However, one of the most consistent complaints of the film is the choppy storytelling, and with recent news about original running times and “ultimate cuts” headed our way on Blu-Ray, one has to wonder what was going through the heads of those in charge during pre-production.

In the last two weeks there have been several rumors about the original running time of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice running close to four hours. Yes, four hours. Of course, this was the running time if everything in the script made it past the cutting room floor—which never happens. Even so, the “Ultimate Cut” of the film that is intended for Blu-Ray, is over three hours long. This all begs the question: Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to green light a script that could only tell a coherent story in three to four hours?!?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice running time is two and half hours, which is long relative to most films. However, the complaint that permeates through critics’ and fans’ reviews of the film is that the movie doesn’t unfold like it should in those two and a half hours. And if we are to believe the recent rumors of an original running time of 3 to 4 hours, this starts to make sense.

If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice suffers from a lack of developed plot lines then the absence of approximately 30 to 45 minutes of film time seem to explain a lot. But how could director Zack Snyder or Warner Bros. brass have expected anything differently in post-production when in pre-production they were thinking the jammed script they were working with was a good idea? Why didn’t anyone take a look at a script that was over 250 pages and ask, “is this going to be too long?” 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice could not have been a more pivotal film for the DC Extended Universe. It is a world-building film unlike anything rival Marvel Studios has put out there. And from the initial announcement of the film, many fans wondered if director Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. were trying to cram too much into the film. And though talking points around “unique comic book movie storytelling” were used to satiate the masses prior to the film’s release, it is clear: this film had too much it was trying to do. And with the news that this movie needed to be at least three hours long in order to preserve the integrity of the story, it only backs up the claim that there were no hard decisions made in pre-production. This was a free-for-all. One where Zack Snyder was given carte blanche and the end result was him trying to senselessly merge The Dark Knight Returns with the Death of Superman. Again, why didn’t anyone ask, “Why are we trying to combine a dystopian ‘else-worlds’ story with the Death of Superman at the start of our film universe?”

At the of the day Batman v Superman accomplished its main two goals: setup the rest of the DCEU and make a ton of money. But the fans who had waited their entire lives to see DC’s “Trinity” on-screen together deserved better. They deserved a film that was coherent from start to finish. They deserved a director and studio who cared enough for the characters that they weren’t just smashing famous comic storylines together and hoping for the best. And they deserved a film they wouldn’t have to defend for the rest of their lives. And all that could have been accomplished if just a few hard decisions were actually made in pre-production.  

Written by | Omar Hussain

Omar Hussain serves as the Publisher and Managing Editor of the Heroic Universe.

  • Carter

    Good lord. So simple. Article is on point: just have a script that is a decent length and the movie is so much better.

  • Spencer Conway

    I definitely agree with your last paragraph, but the movie really wasn’t hard to follow. Zach Snyder’s target audience was the comic book fans (which merits are debatable).

  • Beep

    Nice choice of words. Agreed. Still defending this film but sadly it could have been a tad sculpted

  • Abe Forstenzer

    Then why are my hard-core DC fan friends the ones who are the angriest about it? And note, Deadpool was also made for the fans (by fans, really), was a near-perfect depiction of the character, and did it for about 1/4 the money. BvS being fan service is simply no excuse for poor plotting and editing (as Kevin Smith and Mark Bernardin, who both work for DC, pointed out).

  • Spencer Conway

    I can’t speak for them – but for me, I was hoping that their first cinematic meeting was more iconic. At the end of the day I was let down, because this movie didn’t happen sooner, and with a bit lighter tone. BvS did not balance the light and dark dynamic that the Batman/Superman or Superman/Batman comics did so well. Other than that, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film.

  • Spencer Conway

    There were definitely some scenes that I would have removed in the theatrical cut, and added to the extended cut, like The Flash appearing in Bruce’s dream sequence, and spoiler alert – I would have waited to do the Death of Superman story-line.

    This might be an unpopular opinion, but I enjoyed BvS much more than Iron Man 3, and Thor 2. Those films deserve the overly negative critical reception.