David Brenner ACE

Size, Scope, Challenges of Zack Snyder’s Superhero Epic Made the Most Unique Editing Adventure of Veteran’s Career

In taking on the daunting task of editing Zack Snyder’s new tentpole superhero extravaganza, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, editor David Brenner, ACE, quickly figured out that he had more on his plate than ever before. Since it opened, the box-office monster has battled mixed critical reaction but clearly piqued the interest of the comic-book geek generation at the same time. 

In a recent conversation for Studio’s Podcast from the Front Lines series, among other topics, Brenner explained that the size, scope, and volume of the material — along with the massive expectations and multiple agendas being pursued — did leave filmmakers with numerous difficult choices. After all, besides telling the story of Batman’s decision to “go after” Superman, even as the ever-nefarious Lex Luthor, dabbling in Kryptonian technology, decides to stir up their mutual concerns about each other, filmmakers had other requirements to fulfill. Among them: introduce new actors in iconic roles (Ben Affleck as Batman); introduce new characters (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman); tease upcoming storylines and elements for future Justice League movies; re-imagine Batman’s origin story; grapple with reams of visual effects; and a whole lot more. 

Thus it’s no wonder that Brenner says his first cut was “longer than three and a half hours.” But he says he and Snyder “weren’t daunted by this,” because of the working relationship they established on the movie that preceded and set up this one — 2013’s Man of Steel. Instead, he suggests, they were philosophical about the process as they waded into it.

“The first thing to remember is that editing a feature is a little bit like being in a 12-step program in the sense that … you know how people talk about it as one day at a time? Seriously, this was one day at a time,” he says. “Because, if we sat down and thought about all the issues in this movie ahead of time that we were going to have to tackle, then we were going to be overwhelmed. So you think of it as a day at a time in terms of a task at a time.”

Over the course of his conversation with Studio, Brenner explained how his editorial team and department were organized, how visual effects were handled, how he and Snyder experimented and tried different things, and also some of the filmmakers’ thinking behind the presence of what he calls “Easter eggs” in the movie — dream sequences and tease elements that seem to foreshadow things that may or may not have significance in future movies. Some of those ended up being controversial as far as critics were concerned, but he insists all of them had specific reasoning behind them. 

He also explains why establishing the balance in the final cut between the stories of the two protagonists required the reduction of some “really fine performances” from some of the subplot characters in the first half of the movie. To hear Brenner’s entire conversation with Studio about the editing adventure behind the adventure, watch the video below or right-click here to download an audio-only version.