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Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But, despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes – Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash – it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions. (From WB’s official synopsis)

 Justice League
Following the massive, somewhat unforseen, and ultimately important success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, WB/DC’s grand plans to usurp – or at least match – Disney’s Marvel films seemed plausible. But the systemic problems in their interlocking universe’s design were magnified by their next film, Justice League. Beginning with the fact that the studio reportedly dropped their first crossover, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), on director Zack Snyder, who had planned on developing a standalone sequel to his Superman reboot, Man of Steel (2013). Then they proceeded second-guess and micromanage their universe-hinging movie into an overstuffed, tonally inept mess. This speedy thrust towards an Avengers-style team-up set the stage for another overstuffed, tonally inept mess called Suicide Squad (2016). Somehow, no lesson was learned and Justice League was muddled in even more production woes, from huge story changes (the original concept was a two-parter, but that was abandoned) to massive reshoots. The issue was tragically complicated by the death of Snyder’s daughter and his subsequent departure from the film. He was replaced by Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon, who – post trailer release – oversaw even more story changes and reshoots, culminating in the farcical side effect of a rival studio refusing to allow Superman actor Henry Cavill to shave his mustache, requiring extensive and expensive CG enhancement.

I’m sure everyone has already heard about all of this, though, and I’m sure that the tsunami of reviews, thinkpieces, and op/eds on the subject have exhausted every critical aspect of this particularly troubled film (the only more argued about movie of 2017 was The Last Jedi). Honestly, I don’t have much to add to the discussion, so, this is just a quick reaction loaded with incredibly low expectations. I’ll start by saying that the CG’d-out mustache is actually worse than I anticipated and it becomes a harbinger of the awkward tonal/stylistic shifts that plague the entire movie. The divide between Snyder and Whedon’s work is expansive and problematic at best. What’s worse, however, is the amount of stuff crammed into such a comparatively brief runtime ( Justice League is almost an hour shorter than the director’s cut of Batman v Superman). It’s not so much that the brutal chopping makes the plot incomprehensible – the narrative is borrowed from so many sources that it’s quite easy to follow – it’s that there’s no time to enjoy anything about the movie. Because the studio wanted to avoid a Batman v Superman-sized behemoth and because they weren’t willing to take the time to establish new characters with their own movies, most of runtime is devoted to flaccidly introducing new characters and rehashing events. Admittedly, Avengers had similar problems with its structure, but at least the audience had reason to care about these people teaming-up, beyond charming performances and a couple of cute moments.

 Justice League
But it’s not all bad! There are glimmers of clever ideas, whiffs of thematic strengths, and a handful of cool action scenes. The best elements appear to belong to Snyder, for whatever that’s worth. Yes, his penchant for confusing soap operatics with real operatics is silly, but the silliness works better here than it did in either Man of Steel or Batman v Superman (despite both being more consistent movies). I didn’t even hate his patented super-slo-mo work, despite the entirely inconsistent quality of the special effects (composite shots are particularly shoddy throughout), dreadfully dry battle environments (everything is cold, bland, concrete, and steel), and repetitive nature of the action (if you’ve seen one parademon demolished by a superhero, you’ve seen ‘em all).

Video


While there was a lot of formats and camera types utilized throughout the troubled production of Justice League, including digital and 35mm, it seems that a lot of the film was formated for large format release using Arri Alexa 65 cameras. This 1080p Blu-ray is framed consistently at a sorta IMAX-friendly 1.78:1. Apparently, Fabian Wagner was the only credited cinematographer, but the perfectly capable director of photography wasn’t able to maintain continuity between the various reshoots. The extensive special effects and changes to colour timing make for a rather diverse image in terms of detail, the roughness of textures, contrast levels, and hue quality. Despite my personal misgivings about its aesthetic qualities, the lack of visual cohesion does make for an impressively eclectic transfer that will probably serve the fans that want to make this their next demo disc. Every deep, dark, and grainy shot is offset by a completely different bright, sharp, and clean shot, each with their own strengths. The grittiest 35mm shots (and digital shots that have been post-converted to match them) sometimes reveal minor blocking/posterisation issues, but, otherwise, there isn’t much in the way of compression artefacts.

 Justice League

Audio


Justice League comes fitted with Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks. I don’t have an Atmos setup, so I only sampled the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core alongside the DTS-HD MA mix for this review. The sound quality is expectedly brash and burley with neatly separated dialogue (though I still couldn’t understand most of what Steppenwolf said…) and lively surround sound effects. There are fun little sci-fi/fantasy noises layered into the ‘real world’ crashes and explosions, such as the buzz of parademons, the whoosh of boom tubes, and the electronic chittering of Mother Boxes. One of the film’s highlights is Danny Elfman’s score. Hiring Elfman rather than Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL, or their ilk signals an attempt to call back to an older era of superhero movies, specifically the Tim Burton Batman films. It fails to have much in the way of memorable original themes, but Elfman does toss in elements from his original Batman score, John Williams’ original Superman score, and Wonder Woman’s Batman v Superman theme (by Zimmer and Junkie XL).

Extras


  • The Return of Superman (2.04, HD) – A pair of deleted scenes in which Superman dons his uniform and chats with Alfred (you probably saw that last bit in the early trailers).
  • Road to Justice (14:10, HD) – Various DC comic and animated series staff discuss the history of the Justice League leading up to the film.
  • Heart of Justice (11:52, HD) – The cast & crew share their admiration for DC’s ‘Trinity’ of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, and their characters’ motivations in the film.
  • Technology of the Justice League (8:14, HD) – A look at the design and fabrication of vehicles, weaponry, and other tech seen throughout the movie.
  • Justice League: The New Heroes (12:24, HD) – Actor Ray Fisher hosts an exploration of Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg (who he portrays) throughout the comics and how they were adapted.
  • Steppenwolf the Conqueror (3:03, HD) – Actor Ciarán Hinds, DC staff, and the filmmakers discusses his character and the movie’s sole big baddy.
  • Scene Studies (15:16, HD) – Brief behind-the-scenes overviews of four of the biggest action set-pieces:
    • Revisiting the Amazons
    • Wonder Woman’s Rescue
    • Heroes Park
    • The Tunnel Battle
  • Suit Up: The Look of the League (10:12, HD) – Costume designer Michael Wilkinson explores the updated superhero uniforms (complete with a few on-set bloopers).


 Justice League

Overall


Justice League is a bad movie, but it is flecked with hints of a decent movie that could’ve been. Had WB/DC established Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg in their own movies, stuck with a single creative lead, and given even the dopier moments room to breathe, I might’ve been excited for the next episode. As is, I think I’m in agreement with the studio’s apparent choice to abandon most of what they’ve done and try something different. This Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, but the extras are disappointingly fluffy. The studio seems to have been embarrassed by the film’s reception, but even those of us that didn’t enjoy the movie would welcome a more complete view of the behind-the-scenes process in the future, as well as more of those deleted scenes that we know ended up on the cutting room floor.

 Justice League

 Justice League

 Justice League

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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