Updated: Apr 5, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD copy; 2017; PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action; streaming via Amazon Video (HD), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K)
Best extra: “Road to Justice,” a history of the Justice League
WHO’S THAT guy playing the Flash?
It’s Ezra Miller, a different actor from Grant Gustin who plays Barry Allen/Flash on Greg Berlanti’s show on The CW. Berlanti and team (Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns and Allison Adler) created a popular series of TV shows, the Arrowverse, based on DC superheroes Green Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and the always shifting team of “Legends of Tomorrow.”
Change is the one thing certain about superheroes, whether in comic book form, TV or film. Creators from the books and film talk about that in Warner Brothers’ bonus features “Road to Justice,” a 50 year history of the League, and “Heart of Justice,” where filmmakers and actors also talk about their characters and inspiration. Count on fans to react with dismay every time Change rears its fire-breathing head … myself included.
Usually, like a good story, all turns out well in the end.
The much anticipated “Justice League” had more than its share of problems getting to the big screen. Director Zack Snyder (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” 2016; “Man of Steel,” 2013; “Watchmen,” 2009) had to drop out because of a family tragedy. Joss Whedon, who helmed Marvel Cinema megahit “The Avengers,” stepped in to fill his shoes. The story goes that Whedon cut a chunk of Snyder’s footage – some seen in trailers – and re-wrote dialogue, inserting his trademark snap and humor. Many fans resented it. Snyder receives full director’s credit; Whedon is listed among the writers.
Face facts; everyone involved did the best they could with what is, at best, a predictable, old fashioned comic book plot. Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) may have died in “Batman v Superman,” but like Spock, we knew he would return. Steppenwolf, a CG character voiced by Ciarán Hinds, is a flat, one-dimensional baddie; despite early triumphs, he is not going to win. And, yes, the lone wolf superheroes – Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Flash – will join together to create the DC team of superheroes. That’s what we’re here for, right?
Steppenwolf has arrived on Earth to collect three Mother Boxes, secured on the Amazon island of Themyscira, the underwater world of Atlantis, and Russia. Joined together, their overwhelming power, like Marvel’s Infinity Stones, will make Steppenwolf the ultimate ruler and he is just bad.
By that I mean really bad. He may have stepped out of the comics, but Steppenwolf looks like a facsimile of Tim Curry’s demon, Darkness from “Legend” (1985), and, oh, do we wish he had the emotional nuance. Sadly, Ciarán Hinds – a magnificent actor – was not allowed to use his talent to give Steppenwolf any personality other than loudmouth. What a waste. The villain slows every scene he’s in. State-of-the-art effects can’t save him.
The fun and charm lies in seeing DC’s superheroes team up. They’re less caustic than Marvel’s bunch, and that’s part of the appeal. Affleck’s Bruce Wayne is guilt ridden over the events in “Batman v Superman.” Wonder Woman is coming out her own self-imposed isolation; it’s been decades since Steve Trevor’s death. Victor Stone is both angry and bitter over his transformation to cyborg through his father’s use of Mother Box technology. Aquaman has his own people to take care of. New to the superhero-biz, Barry wants to make friends.
Famous co-stars – Amy Adams as Lois Lane, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, Jeremy Irons as Alfred – are pretty much walk-ons except for Adams. Her connection with Kal-El/Superman is authentic and endearing.
Well, this Warner Brothers transfer to 4K and Blu-ray looks good all the way around. It was primarily shot on 35mm, with abundant digital (5K), and finished in 2K. HDR and Dolby Vision are quite good. Color is rich, primarily jewel-toned in reds, blue and gold, and deliberately sparkly. Australian costume designer Michael Wilkinson has a lot of fun talking about the silver lining of Superman’s blue suit, which provides extra polish. Wonder Woman’s armor, slightly redesigned for “Justice League,” is damaged from earlier combat. Barry’s speedster duds are almost first generation, cobbled together by a young man with a tiny budget. Miller talks about how Barry lifted samples from NASA, leaving behind a pile of cash he’d made from his three jobs to compensate.
(BTW, Grant Gustin is on record supporting Miller in the role.) Aquaman, when he’s not diving in bare muscle, tatts and jeans, wears sleek, intricately carved, gold armor. He mocks Wayne’s “bat suit,” but also says he “digs it.”
Detail is close to exceptional. We see it in the day-to-day garb of Wayne and Wonder Woman, and in Cyborg’s complex and constantly changing mechanics. Depth is extraordinary. We didn’t receive the 3D edition for review, but dimension prevails throughout in interior and exterior scenes.
Cinematographer Fabian Wagner (“Game of Thrones,” 2014-2016; “Sherlock!” 2012) maintains moderate grain wash for a cinematic look. His use of bright highlights (water, armor, weapons) to matte blacks (Batman’s suit and vehicles) is impressive.
We’ve got a few to pick from: Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 depending on format. Each are exemplary sound experiences.
For those who have the ceiling high speakers, battle sequences will thunder from floor to rooftop (depending on volume). Characters soar; fights have tangible punch; explosions rock the room. Meanwhile, dialogue comes through without a hitch. In real life, you couldn’t hear conversation. Occasionally, ambient environmental sound crops up (rain, waves), but “Justice League” is made for – and delivers – the effects. The “buzz” from Flash’s lightning-fast runs zing everywhere. It’s great!
They are all well done and memorable, with a good mix of comic book creators, filmmakers, and actors – and virtually no repetition. All are found on the Blu-ray disc. Many of the special features are also offered with streaming purchase.
The 50 year Justice League history, “Road to Justice,” and “Heart of Justice” shows the development of the comic book series and various film incarnations. “Road to Justice” explores the DC Multiverse, which still confuses me with its alt-universe storylines and characters. There’s behind-scene movie footage, and a salute to “Super Friends” (1973-86), a kid’s TV cartoon series, with a strict prohibition on violence. (No hitting people!)
“Heart of Justice” delves into the super trinity, Superman, the alien; Wonder Woman, immortal; Batman, human, and how each character represents hope, truth, compassion and justice. We also learn Henry Cavill named his dog “Kal.”
Other extras – “Technology of the Justice League,” the four-part “Scene Studies,” “Suit Up: The Look of the League,” “Steppenwolf the Conqueror” – are a series of making-of highlights. “The Return of Superman” is actually two deleted scenes.
Stay for the end credits for two extra scenes. The joy of watching at home is you can fast-forward.
This film from the DC Extended Universe promotes qualities found in its books: personal strength found in hope, honesty and kindness – good concepts for a chaotic world. Yes, “Justice League” may be predictable; it may be flawed, but it still entertains and inspires. Don’t let the naysayers get in the way of your fun and give it a try.
- Kay Reynolds