(This film portion was written by Dan Moran)
There are several things about Justice League that are good. I think the cast is terrific. Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, and Ezra Miller are great in their roles. They each have a character moment (earned or not) that makes me interested in seeing their next solo adventure. DC/WB has put some talented filmmakers in charge of the next slate of movies. Justin Lin doing Aquaman sounds great, Patty Jenkins taking Wonder Woman on her next adventure, and Matt Reeves writing and directing The Batman. These are world-class filmmakers who have a great actor in the title role and hopefully that leads to some great story telling. I have no idea who is directing The Flash but I did enjoy him as the comic relief character in Justice League and would like to see if he is more than that in the future. Even Henry Cavill’s “new” Superman was delightful as he is reborn in this film and is no longer a whiney douchebag with terrible parents. Man of Steel 2 is actually on my radar now! But those are the nicest things I can say about Justice League. I loved the cast and I look forward to their solo adventures because having them all together in whatever Justice League was/is/supposed to be was a horrific insult to the fans of DC and moviegoers in general.
I had the opportunity to see an unfinished cut of a movie back in 2007-2008 when I was working at the movie theater. It was a test screening where some studio person showed a rough cut of the film and asked for feedback. They warned us ahead of time with statements like, “The visual effects aren’t done.” “You’ll see green/blue screen.” “The sound mixing isn’t complete.” “The editing may feel strange.” All of these warnings to let you know that this is a product they are still actively working on and it isn’t finished. Justice League felt like a more complete test cut of a movie. I understand that behind the scenes Zack Snyder had a horrific tragedy and stepped away so Joss Whedon was brought in to write some new things and shoot new scenes to complete the movie. But it is a mess. After seeing the final product, I have no clue why the film wasn’t delayed to March, or April, or Summer so that the studio could make sure that it was finished fairly and properly. Perhaps even allow Snyder to return and finish the film. I’m not a huge Snyder fan but I won’t deny that he has a vision for his movies. Even if it doesn’t work for me on any level, I’d rather watch someone’s finished product than whatever this was.
Enough has been said about the various flaws of Justice League and at this point any in depth discussion would just feel like piling on but they need to be acknowledged in the macro sense. The CGI for Cyborg was embarrassing to see in a $250 million tent pole film. He looked like a playstation 3 character. There were scenes with Henry Cavill’s face that looked weird and then I remembered the moustache situation, not a huge deal but maybe avoid a huge close up of his face if you had to digitally add his upper lip 6 weeks ago. The villain is on par with the worst of any Marvel villains as far as motivations, characterization, and look. The editing is very choppy. I read that there was a mandate from WB that this film had to be 2 hours or less, which I personally think is brilliant. Make the story tighter and allow more show times at theaters to boost box office but with the 2 directors and behind the scenes scramble it feels like it needed more time to be fleshed out. The music didn’t do much for me in this one whereas Man of Steel and Batman v Superman at least had good scores. It just didn’t feel complete. Finally, the money shot of the league standing together should be awesome. Remember the pan around of the Avengers? This movie has everyone standing in a row ready to face the bad guy but it looks like they were never all there on the same day or something. It feels off. DC fans have waited for this movie for decades and for the studio to show such little care for the product is just insulting, especially given the cost. Why not delay the movie 6 months and get it right?
I did enjoy the humor. I thought that some of the lines and reactions were funny and felt true to the character. I know the internet gets deep into the humor of DC/Marvel debate but from a character standpoint it didn’t feel as though the lines were forced. What felt forced was that some of the humor felt like it was taken from a different movie. Again, I understand there were reshoots with a different director. I am not getting into the Joss/Zack % debate. My contention is the humor worked but at times the editing made you feel there was a different version of this movie. I am probably more in tune with noticing this than the average moviegoer so it probably means nothing to most of you. I liked the humor, it worked for the characters but at times it felt spliced in.
Every team up DC movie has been a mess and afterwards you read about behind the scenes studio involvement and tinkering. On the other hand, Man of Steel and Wonder Woman who let one director do their thing were much better movies than Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League. In Justice League you can see the fingerprints of studio executives on every frame of the movie. They need to back off. The studio is putting out mediocre to bad final products because of meddling that starts at the top. Get a vision. Get a plan. Take your time. I would’ve much rather waited for a good Justice League movie than spend two hours trying to figure out why they hell they let a movie with this structure and that looks like this be released two weeks after Thor and three weeks before Star Wars.
None of this matters and the movie will be a financial success. There will be sequels and there should be. I want sequels. I want to see Aquaman, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman solo films. I also want to see the whole league together again but not like this. DC/WB have great actors in the most iconic superhero roles and they are really fun to watch play these characters. It isn’t critics making the reception to these movies poor, it isn’t a conspiracy, it isn’t Marvel sabotaging things, it is DC/WB executives being too reactionary and having no leadership to usher in a solid final product. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was delayed. Han Solo will probably be delayed. Marvel shifts movies around regularly. Successful franchises and studios focus on putting out the best product they can, not meeting a release date. With the events that occurred during this film behind the scenes, the smartest decision would’ve been to delay this movie a few months and make sure it looks and feels right. It has some bright spots that I enjoyed but putting this anticipated of a movie out in this state is an insult to the fans of the characters, fans of movies, and the actors who did a great job.
The Video: ‘Justice League‘ comes with a 4K UHD Disc with an HVEC H.265 encode and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Partly shot on the old school 35mm film and the other part digitally, the film looks exquisite in 4K and is a nice upgrade from the Blu-ray version. This DC Universe film is a bit brighter than the previous films, which gives way to better detail and boasting colors, especially since this comes with Dolby Vision and HDR10. Those colors in Dolby Vision are something else too with this video presentation. The different shades of red on Flash’s super-suit looks exquisite as it hits the different lightning bolts with varying degrees of brightness. It just looks spectacular.
When Superman finally decides to show up, his blue and red suit is brighter than it has been in the previous films with every shade of blue showing up nicely. The gold in Wonder Woman’s outfit also looks steely and bright as does the bright red eye on Cyborg. The colors of Batman shows the proper grays and blacks as well. All in all, the color spectrum wide and dynamic, as are the background colors, which are much Earthier than expected. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are mostly natural, if not a little brighter than normal. The filmic aspect is quite good as well, with a minor layer of grain throughout that gives the film some great depth and not the digital sheen type of look.
Detail is explicit and vivid in each scene, no matter the lighting condition. Facial pores, stubble and wrinkles show up nicely, even on the heavier CGI characters. The super-suits showcase every bit of texture and stitching nicely. Wider shots never go soft and heavier effects scenes never look soft, although they can still look silly. Lastly, there were no instances of any banding, aliasing, or video noise.
The Audio: This release comes with an excellent Dolby Atmos track that emphasizes the big height atmospherics here, which is definitely a good thing. Of course, sound effects are loud, robust, and full of life. Every hit, kick, and takedown sounds excellent with great dynamics and directionality. The lightning bolts, while Flash runs fast articulate every flash all over the spectrum, while the aliens of the film sound off with heavy bass in the sky above, which is where the height speakers really come into play. Underwater scenes fully engulf the surrounds and height speakers with bubbles and other aquatic sounds.
When buildings explode, aliens fly, and lightning pops overhead, the height speakers really knock it out of the park and adds that extra layer of sound and immersion. Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow along without any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. The score isn’t my favorite, but always adds to the suspense and action part of each scene. In addition to the loud sound effects, the quieter moments are just as dynamic and moving. It’s quite an experience.
Road to Justice (HD, 14 Mins.) – Here we have a bunch of comic book creators talk about the history, story, characters, and origins of the Justice League in comic books over the years. It’s quite a great supplement that is highly informative, funny, and well done.
Heart of Justice (HD, 12 Mins.) – The cast and crew all discuss their characters in depth and talk about why they love them and what they stand for. It’s another great extra to watch.
Technology of the Justice League (HD, 8 Mins.) – An all too short look at all the cool gadgets and vehicles in the film and how they were made and used in the movie. One cool thing was how detailed Flash’s suit was.
Justice League: The New Heroes (HD, 13 Mins.) – Actor Ray Fisher gives us a tour on set to meet the new characters and superheroes of the film, which is quite funny and informative as everyone talks about the origins and creation of each superhero.
The Return of Superman (HD, 2 Mins.) – This is a deleted scene of sorts, which was scene in the trailer where Alfred talks to someone (Superman) about returning.
Steppenwolf the Conqueror (HD, 3 Mins.) – The cast and crew talk about the mythology and characteristics of the main villain here, as well as his origins.
Scene Studies (HD, 15 Mins.) – The big action sequences are all given an individual segment of how they made each scene, by showing on-set footage, and behind the scenes type of stuff. It’s a lot of fun.
Suit Up: The Look of the League (HD, 11 Mins.) – Here we have the costume designer going through each costume, showing the details and every cool aspect of the suit.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
‘Justice League‘ isn’ that good of a movie. DC and Warner Bros. are still far behind on quality and coherence when compared to Marvel. The characters and action sequences, along with the screenplay are just downright laughable still, which is so sad, because these iconic heroes deserve way better. And the fact that there were added scenes put in for comedic purposes might sound good, but the result was lazy and half-assed. Also, it says something that if the bonus features on the 4K Disc are better than the actual film. The Dolby Vision image and the Dolby Atmos sound are incredible, while all of the extras are definitely worth your time. In fact, when you watch the extras, you’ll be excited to watch the movie, but then be sorely disappointed after that viewing. Still, this is a top notch release and comes Recommended!