batman v superman ultimate edition

Superhero stories have been violent since their inception. Even when they mean well, they’re power fantasies at their core – someone with the power to make a change fights against a broken system to bring the bad guys to justice. The golden age comics of Batman and Superman may be sillier than their modern counterparts, but they still ultimately came down to tough good guys kicking villains in the pants. A superhero tale without fisticuffs is the exception, not the rule.

And yet, the conversation over violence in superhero tales has gotten louder and more prominent in recent years, as readers and critics alike have discussed where the boundary between acceptable and too far lies. Now, a new piece of of news has tossed a bucket of kerosene on that particular debate – there will be an “Ultimate Edition” of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and it will be rated R.

This was revealed over at FilmRatings.com, where this version of film was snuggled in amongst a large group of other movies that have recently received MPAA ratings. If you follow that link, you’ll see a special note indicating this is a different cut than the version that will play in theaters and that the harsher rating is for “sequences of violence.” Considering how much violent content you can get away with in a PG-13 film, that must mean this version of the film is pretty damn brutal. It also means that we probably won’t get a scene of literally earth-shaking rage sex between the two title heroes as their brawl transforms into something completely unexpected, but hey, you’ve got to save something for the porn parody.

Here are a few level-headed notes on this matter.

First, it is unlikely that this cut only exists because of the huge success of Deadpool, which proved that R-rated superhero movies can be gigantic hits at the box office. This idea has been circulating around the internet and it’s well, just nonsense, pure and simple. The idea that Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder pulled this cut together in the past two weeks is pure folly (especially since Snyder is currently embroiled in Justice League pre-production). Plus, several of Snyder’s past films have hit home video in extended and re-edited fashion. His adaptation of Watchman is longer and grislier on Blu-ray than it was in theaters – an “ultimate edition” of Batman v Superman was always going to be a thing.

Second, this news is surely going to be music to the ears of some comic book fans, who enjoy when their heroes take a walk on the darker side. And while there have been some terrific adults-only superhero stories out there, I’ll just come right out and admit that I’m definitely uncomfortable about the thought of an R-rated Batman/Superman story on the big screen. Nothing about these characters (especially Superman) demands action so gnarly that kids aren’t allowed able to watch it. Call me old-fashioned, but I still think that superheroes serve a greater need than pleasing adult geeks – they have to mean something to the younger folks in the audience.

And finally, I have to take a moment to ponder what kind of violence could push this film from a PG-13 to an R-rating. I imagine that the super-brawling between the two heroes will remain mostly the same across versions, so there is probably something smaller and more specific at work here. There have been rumors of a flashback scene involving the Joker and former Robin Jason Todd and if you’re a comic book aficionado, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If Snyder takes that element to its natural conclusion and pulls no punches, that may be enough to push the film to the next MPAA tier.

Batman v Superman opens on March 25, 2016. You’ll probably be able to check out this “ultimate edition” before the year is over. If you can’t wait, you can watch about 10 minutes of the film right over here.

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