‘Batman v Superman’ Editor Reveals the Film’s Original Epic Runtime

     April 18, 2016

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The currently-in-theaters runtime for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice stands at two hours and 31 minutes, and an extended “Ultimate Cut” will roll for an additional 30 R-rated minutes when it’s released on DVD/Blu-ray later this year, but both runtimes pale in comparison to the original cut. It’s an editor’s job to trim available footage down so that a more coherent and concise movie can be found, but in the case of Batman v Superman, the original cut was nearly four hours long. That’s a lot of trimming.

In an interview with Pro Video CoalitionBatman v Superman editor David Brenner talked at length about his work on films of all sizes. Regarding the WB/DC behemoth, Brenner revealed that the much longer original version had to be cut down substantially, but also mentioned that the process really wasn’t very different from his work on films with less footage and smaller budgets:

As always there was too much originally shot, so there were a lot of choices to make to get the film to play. Sometimes things don’t work out as well as they might have on the page. Sometimes they didn’t on the page either! So no matter what the budget or scale, as the editor, you’re just trying to get the story and characters to work.


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Image via Warner Bros.

Brenner, who also edited Snyder’s Man of Steel and will be editing the currently shooting Justice League: Part One, also commented on the director’s preferred method of addressing potential problems with the script:

Zack knew that on “Man of Steel” we addressed a lot of script questions in the film editing. So he was confident we could do it again.

Also revealed in this interview with Brenner is the fact that the original cut had even more subplots than those on display in the final cut of the film. Some SPOILERS follow if you haven’t seen the film yet:

In the script there were more story lines than you see in the movie today. That was probably our biggest editorial issue in trying to get the cut down to a reasonable length.   For us, the trickiest section was the beginning of the film, until the point where Bruce Wayne tells Alfred the truth about what is on the “White Portugese” [sic] ship… the truth about his plan. This moment set into motion everything until the end of the film really.   Until that point the movie was always tracking many solo paths, some intersecting, some not.   Finally in this scene, the paths fork into one road.


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Image via Warner Bros.

 

In the script there are more subplots than you see in the movie right now. Also in terms of building this beginning we had to move things around. In the script, Lex was introduced much later, but we found that in watching the movie – because he’s such an important player, it was best to set him up sooner.   Plus, his presence has so much energy, a twisted comic energy that boosted the film. Generally, BvS was a unique challenge in that we had not one but two protagonists, each with an alter-ego. So there was Clark Kent, Superman, Bruce Wayne and Batman. And then surrounding them are Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Wallace Keefe (the guy who loses his legs when Wayne Tower falls), Perry White, Martha Kent, Holly Hunter’s character (Senator Finch), and still more characters orbiting them.

It was a lot to juggle. So the plot lines of a couple characters had to go.   These people are currently in the movie but we don’t track them, and it’s okay. What’s kind of fun is that we went back and did an extended cut where we put a lot of this stuff back, and we refined it into the same rhythm as the theatrical release.  So what was once a nearly four hour cut with absolutely everything was ridiculous – ended up being about a three hour cut, once all these added storylines were refined with the fat was cut out.


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Image via Warner Bros.

Be sure to head over to Pro Video Coalition for the full interview and much more on the lengthy version of the film that Brenner had to cut down. And for more on the results of those editing choices of Batman v Superman, in a recent interview with MTV, Jesse Eisenberg commented on how they may have affected Lex Luthor’s story arc:

It’s a very complicated mythology that I was able to wrap my head around while we were filming, but I think there were certain editorial choices that I was not aware of that they put in retroactively.”

If it’s more Batman v Superman stories you’re interested in, be sure to check out some of our recent coverage provided at the links below:


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