4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince assemble the Justice League: Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Flash (Ezra Miller), Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa).
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“ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE”
4K Ultra HD; 2021; R for violence and some language; Streaming via HBO Max
Best extra: 24-minute “Road to Justice League”
HOW OFTEN do movie fans force a Hollywood studio to re-edit and re-release the original theatrical cut of a movie?
They weren’t happy with the third installment of Zack Snyder’s DC Universe trilogy “Justice League” that hit the multiplex in the fall of 2017. They demanded Warner Brothers scrap the Joss Whedon edit, and finish the original by Zack Snyder. The campaign was relentless.
Snyder had filmed 100 percent of his version, as well as set up two versions – a rough five-hour edit, and a three-and-a-half hour director’s cut. But when tragedy hit Snyder's family in the spring of 2017, he and his producer wife Deborah stepped back from the picture. While they grieved the loss of their daughter Autumn, 20, Warner Brothers asked writer/director Joss Whedon to complete the film.
Part 1 – “Don’t count on it, Batman”
Warner didn’t like Snyder’s version anyway. They felt the tone was too dark, predicting “Justice League,” like the previous "Batman v Superman,' would underperform at the box office and with critics. Whedon had a good track record with “The Avengers” film and long-running “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series. He added 80 new script pages, and spent $25 million and several months reshooting “Justice League.”
Whedon gave the film a much lighter touch. It only ran two hours, using a fraction of Snyder’s original footage. The original score from composer Junkie XL (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) was replaced with a new score from Danny Elfman (“Men in Black,” “Corpse Bride,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”).
But when “Justice League” premiered in 2017, it was a box-office disaster, and fans were furious. At first, Warner denied the “Snyder Cut” existed, though in the end, they had to ‘fess up. Eventually, Warner allocated $70 million so Snyder could complete his vision, adding more visual effects and several minutes of new footage filmed during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“I’m excited for fans to get to see this giant, four-hour movie that’s completely singular to their investment. If you followed the first two movies, this movie really kind of takes you into an immersive scope and scale.” — Zack Snyder, director
Searching for the half-human Arthur Curry
Warner marketed the U.S. release as an exclusive HBO Max offering back in March. Its debut was a bit more complicated in Europe and Asian countries, but still available online. The long-awaited “Snyder’s Cut” received largely positive reviews from critics hitting a 71 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while fans pushed the favorable rating index to 94 percent.
The new edit restores Junkie XL’s original score, Superman wears his radical black suit, Steppenwolf returns, Darkseid’s part gains new significance, the Knightmare sequence from “Batman v Superman” revisits apocalyptic threat, and Jared Leto’s Joker makes an appearance along with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. DeSaad and other characters who were cut – Elinore Stone, Ryan Choi, Martian Manhunter and Iris West – are now in place. In addition, Snyder removed the cheap humor and excessive one-liners of the 2017 version in favor of Chris Terro’s original dialogue.
From our perspective, “Snyder’s Cut” tells a more cohesive and engaging story broken into six segments. There’s an unnecessary, 20-minute epilogue just before the end credits, but overall, you’ve got to admire Snyder’s willingness and determination to finish what he started nearly a decade ago with “Man of Steel.” He has given fans a stunning climax to his DC trilogy.
As E-commerce continues to expand globally, “Snyder’s Cut” was released on a two-disc 4K set in the U.K. which we purchased. No date has been announced for a possible U.S. release.
Terrorist attack in London
Steppenwolf gets the first anicent Mother Box
Snyder has completely reshaped the norm by framing his version in the old-school square-shaped 1.33:1 aspect ratio. TRUE 4K mastering delivers jaw-dropping visuals, which were captured on traditional Super 35 film, with one scene from an 8K digital camera. This is only a guess, but the ongoing FX shots are more likely in 2K. Total FX rendering time alone would have easily taken more than a year.
Overall clarity is superb – especially the details on actor’s faces – since the framing is so much tighter compared to the super widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Exterior scenes filmed in Iceland are striking. A light wash of natural film grain is evident from start to finish, and the film is split onto two 100 gigabit discs to maximize the best possible picture and sound.
HDR10 (no Dolby Vision) grading is monochromatic, with desaturated color. HBO Max provides a bonus B&W version. It’s not on disc, but that’s an easy fix engineered by dialing color to zero. The blacks are very deep, with plenty of detail in the shadows. Highlights are also striking, while mid-tones show plenty of detail.
The eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack is nice. It's balanced from front to back, with effects and music cues from Tom “Junkie XL” Holkenborg going to height speakers. A number of songs are included in this cut: two from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “There is a Kingdom” and “Distant Sky”; Rose Betts' cover of Tim Buckley’s 1970 “Starsailor,” and a traditional Icelandic song “Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu.” Allison Crowe’s cover of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah” plays over the closing credits. It was Autumn Snyder’s favorite song. There’s plenty of thundering bass response when the Mother boxes are active and in battle scenes.
Part 2 – “The Age of Heroes”
The “Road to Justice League” featurette provides a number of backstories. Snyder credits the fan community for rising up and demanding his edit: “Well, I only think that because of the promise I’ve made them over the two other movies, it has created this movement that said, ‘We need to know how it ends.’”
The director says his involvement with the DC world started with his love of Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” as well as “Watchmen,” which came out in the late 1980s. Both influenced him “a great deal in, one my love of DC properties, and [two] DC as the home of deconstructive, subversive comic books.” He likes that directors Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams made super 8 movies as kids with his neighbors, noting they made a remake of “Apocalypse Now.” “It was always super ambitious,” he says.
At that time, Snyder wanted to be an artist and attended Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in London and the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Afterward, he made TV commercials and music videos for 10 years. That’s where Snyder started to hone his visual language, which translated to his first movie, “Dawn of the Dead” (2004). “It was a natural evolution for me,” he explains.
Part 3 – “Beloved Mother, Beloved Son”
There are additional interviews with the cast and crew from British actor Henry Cavill (Superman), Ray Fisher (Cyborg), Ezra Miller (Flash), producer Wesley Coller, and Snyder’s wife Deborah, who says, “Zack is as much of a fan as he is a director. He loves comics and loves these characters.”
Snyder describes his filmmaking technique that begins with reading the script. He then looks at the scenes, talks about the scenes, and begins to create the scenes. He sits down and starts to storyboard, moving from page one to the very last page of the script. The process takes two to three months to complete. “In your mind you’ve shot the shot, so when you actually go to film it, you’re a little bit more comfortable,” he says.
The actors talk about how they just step into his drawings. Snyder also loves to put what he calls “straight-up Easter eggs” in almost every frame and almost every scene. “There’s some sort of double meaning that could be 'Star Wars,'" or Caravaggio, or anything he finds inspirational.
“All those things are slightly subversive, but definitely with the goal of making sure that the movie has a deeper impact. And I think that the fans that connect to that, they take it to heart, and they make it their own. It becomes as personal to them, as it is to me.” — Zack Snyder
Since a US 4K disc is in question or possibly months away, it might be time to make your first European Amazon purchase or use another UK site such as Zavvi.com. The copy we got from Amazon UK took only three days to get here, but the shipping was over $20. Zavvi’s shipping was under $8, taking eight days to get to California.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer