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Justice League (2017)

Warner Home Video
4K UHD Released: 3/13/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/13/2018

It may be difficult to imagine today, but there was a time when it was unusual to see comic book superheroes on the big screen. Movies like 1989's Batman, 2002's Spider-Man, and 2008's Iron Man were a big deal and it was a treat to see these super-powered characters in action. But, of course, superhero movies became ubiquitous and the cineplexes were soon crammed with these films. So, the next logical step was to have a movie with multiple heroes, and thus, we got 2012's The Avengers. Now, audiences have come to expect wall-to-wall superheroes and following their initial attempt with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC has returned with their own superhero team movie, Justice League.

As Justice League opens, the world is still reeling from Superman's (Henry Cavill) death. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), sensing that this event has made the world vulnerable, begins to search for superpowered individuals in order to form a team. With the help of Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Wayne tracks down Barry Allen AKA The Flash (Ezra Miller), Victor Stone AKA Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Arthur Curry AKA Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and has varying degrees of success in convincing them to help. He's doing this just in time as Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an ancient entity, comes to Earth to retrieve three power boxes. Batman is able to assemble the team to travel the globe in an attempt to stop Steppenwolf from regaining his power.

There are a lot of cool things about reviewing home video releases (No people talking in the theater! No one in the bathroom spouting their bizarre theories about the movie!). However, for certain films, there are two distinct drawbacks. No matter how much I try to avoid it, sometimes I can't help but hear comments about certain movies, especially BIG movies. And, on a related note, by the time a movie comes home, there may be a feeling that there is nothing left to say about it. Justice League is certainly that kind of movie. When the film was released in theaters last November (with less fanfare than one would have expected), there was a lot of buzz about it, especially when it underperformed at the box office. And many weighed in with their opinion about the movie, with the negative opinions definitely outnumbering the positive ones.

Thus, going into the film, I didn't know what to expect. So, I was somewhat surprised that Justice League is not the trainwreck which some have made it out to be. But, it's not that great either. In fact, the movie is surprisingly middle-of-the-road, and almost shockingly bland. In theory, it hits all of the high-notes, as it features familiar DC characters, has several action sequences, and plays up its connection to the far more successful Wonder Woman, but there is still something missing. Zack Snyder directed Justice League, with The Avengers helmer Joss Whedon being brought in to complete the film when Snyder left due to a family issue, but the whole thing feels as if it were directed by a robot who had been asked to make a superhero movie. The pieces are there, but there is absolutely no heart.

That aside, there are some distinct problems with the movie. For starters, Steppenwolf is a lame villain. He simply has no personality beyond being a "powerful bad guy". Whereas Marvel offered stand-alone movies to several members of The Avengers before putting them together in one movie, Justice League simply dumps The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg into our laps, providing very little backstory for any of them. These characters may be familiar to some viewers, but others aren't going to have a clue as to who they are. (Especially since this isn't your father's Aquaman and The Flash is decidedly younger than the way he's portrayed on the comics.) In fact, a lot of the film simply asks up to go along with it, as it provides very little background story for most anything which is happening.

Save for its relatively short length (compared to other superhero movies), Justice League feels as if someone shot a first draft of the script and forgot to go back and fill in the gaps. When combined with the movie's lack of emotion and a Batman costume which simply is not right, you've got a losing combination. I liked the humor with The Flash brought to the film and the fact that they didn't hold back with Cyborg's dark side, but otherwise, the movie comes across as quite flat. All of this raises the question -- Will we see a Justice League 2?

Justice League made me wonder if I'm supposed to know who that Russian girl is on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. This is a very dark movie, but it never gets too dark or suffers from the shimmering look which has plagued some 4Ks. The "flashes" of color, mostly reds, look fine. The depth works quite well, as the constantly use of green screen could have easily given the film a flat look. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While the bitrate may be a bit on the low side, we do get somewhat powerful surround and subwoofer effects here. The action sequences deliver nearly constant surround sound effects, some of which are nicely detailed. The subwoofer effects also join in here, providing a deep bass. The stereo effects show good separation.

The extra features for Justice League are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "The Return of Superman" (2 minutes) is a reel of two deleted scenes which show Superman regaining his suit. "Road to Justice" (14 minutes) is a history of the Justice League which explores the evolution of the group through the comics up to the feature film. "Heart of Justice" (12 minutes) specifically looks at the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman characters -- their histories and attributes -- through interviews with the actors and DC Comics representatives. "Technology of The Justice League" (8 minutes) takes us behind the scenes too explore the gadgets and gear of the characters, focusing mostly on Batman. "Justice League: The New Heroes" (12 minutes) puts the spotlight on Cyborg, Aquaman, and The Flash, and how they are now part of the DC Cinematic Universe. "Steppenwolf The Conqueror" (3 minutes) is a brief profile of the movie's villain, including comments from voice actor Ciaran Hinds. "Scene Studies" (15 minutes) takes us on-set to see the planning of and shooting of four key moments from the film. Costume design is the name of the game in "Suit Up: The Look of the League" (10 minutes).

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long