Tuesday, March 13, 2018

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) (4K UHD Review)

JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) 

Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 120 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, DTS-HD MA 5.1 MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 2160p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Zach Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Jeremy Irons, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jason Momoa, Ciaran Hinds, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons

Ever since I was a kid watching the Super Friends animated series on TV I had dreams of a live-action Justice League movie, and it holy cow it finally happened, so that's pretty awesome right?  It was DC properties Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) that arrived on the silver screen first, beating Marvel to the cinema by decades, but Marvel have been killing it in the modern age beginning with Iron Man, going on to create a Marvel movie universe that's largely been cohesive and varied. The Marvel movies have what feels like a grand design, the tone while not consistent always feels connected, which is not something I can really say of the DC films so far. The overall tone of the DC movies have been dire and overly serious, a tone set by Christopher Nolan with Batman Begins (2005), which I don't think is a bad thing on it's face, but you sort of want a superhero movie to be fun, right? Man of Steel (2013) and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) also were overly serious, as was Suicide Squad (2016), but that at least had some fun moments. Wonder Woman (2017) was firing on all cylinders, it had a sort of epic grandeur missing from the DC films up to that point, so it looked like maybe DC was on the right track, doing a bit of course correcting. Sure enough DC have really tried to bring some humor to Justice League, though the final film is a mixed bag. Director Zack Snyder left the film after his daughter passed away during production, it was then that Joss Whedon (who directed Marvel's Avengers) who was already on the project to provide a script polish was brought in to finish the film and you can feel it, the tonal differences between Snyder and Whedon is quite evident, and it doesn't make for the most cohesive film. Sure, a lot of us wanted more humor and superhero-banter, so maybe we have ourselves to blame, but sometimes you just want Batman to be an unflappable guy, not the guy who gets flustered in an embarrassing word fumble with Superman!

In the events following Batman V Superman we have Batman assembling a team of superheros in the absence of Superman, Batman sees the need to a team of superheros to combat a coming threat, and the new team consists of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash. The new baddie is one of the New Gods, Steppenwolf and his horde of para-demons, a war-mongering minion of Darkseid, the tyrannical ruler of the planet Apokolips, who sadly is absent from this film. 
Steppenwolf makes for a decent villain, though largely underdeveloped and he's only a placeholder for the big baddie that coming, Darkseid.  Not helping is that I didn't love the motion-capture presentation of the character, in general I didn't love a lot of the special effects of the film, as an example the final confrontation taking place in a Russian, I though the whole red-sky tinted thing looked rather awful honestly, the digital rendering looking cheesy through and through and the live-action and digital elements not mixing well, and don;t get me started on the scenes of Cavil as Superman with a hideous digital removal of a mustache, ugh. That's not to say there aren't decent action set-pieces, a few of my favorites are an early scene of Wonder Woman rescuing a bank full of innocents from terrorists and Steppenwolf visiting  Themyscira to retrieve one of three Mother Boxes he needs to destroy Earth, with him battling the warrior women, it's one of my favorite sequences.  

Looking at the heroes I'm a big fan of Ben Affleck's Batman, I think he's a great version of the caped crusader, and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is still near perfection to me. While I think Henry Cavil is still too cold of a character as Superman I think this is his best performance to date as the Man of Steel so far. Looking at the new recruits I enjoyed Jason Momoa's very bro-ish surfer dude take on Aquaman, it worked for this version of the character, I didn't even mind the goofy bit where he accidentally sits on the lasso of truth and has a tender confessional to the group. Ezra Miller as the Flash was a bit too Spider-Man-ish for me, I love Spider-Man but I never really thought of the Flash as that sort of  quip-y character, and I/m a huge fan o The Flash TV series, so anyone not Grant Gustin is going to be struggle foe me, and Miller has a very Justin Long-ish quality about him that sort of annoyed me. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is too down-played, I wasn't feeling him, not helping was that I didn't care for his character design either, though there's a later post-credits scene where it morphs into something a bit difference that I liked more. 

At the end of the day it's an entertaining but seriously flawed  superhero movie, it's definitely not one of the greats, it's not even the best modern DC superhero movie, that honor goes to Wonder Woman. This might have something to do with the way DC tends to make movies by committee, there always seems to be re-shoots based on what they feel the audience wants, and it seems like it always a knee-jerk reaction to what worked for Marvel. JL feels like "we need to make it more like the Avengers", to the point that Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought into polish the script and eventually helm the re-shoots.  The tonal shifts draw attention to themselves and don't make for the most satisfying watch, the stitched togetherness of it in fails to allow and moments of epic superhero grandeur that these characters deserve.     

Audio/Video: Justice League (2017) arrives on Blu-ray/4K UHD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment framed in 2.40:01. Having caught this in the cinema I can tell you that this things looks rather brilliant on the 4K screen at home, colors are dynamic and thoroughly saturated, there's a nice crispness to the image, the colors played wonderfully, it dips into that DC-ish monochromatic palette from time to time, but this thing is impressive looking. Likewise the Dolby Atmos audio is bombastic and deep, the Danny Elfman score comes through wonderfully, plenty of use of the surrounds to create an atmospheric sound design, my bass was rumbling throughout, nothing to complain about in the A/V department - this sucker is bad ass.  

Onto the extras, we get over an hour's worth of HD extras from the history of the JLA in comics and TV, to the technology of the heroes, the design of the costumes and featurettes about a few of th notable action sequences. While we sadly don't get a Zack Snyder workprint or loads of deleted scenes we do get two very brief bonus scenes featuring Superman after his resurrection, but they don't add up to a lot, I wish they had packed this sucker with loads of deleted scenes which we know are out there somewhere! My favorite of the extras is the history of the JLA with the artists and creators spanning fifty years, they even reference the Super Friends TV show which was my introduction the the DC heroes. This 2-disc set includes a Blu-ray, a 4K UHD and a Movies Anywhere digital code, plus a slipcover (o-card). 

Special Features: 
- Road to Justice: Journey alongside DC comic creators as they explore over fifty years of the Justice League, from comic books to animated adventures to their cinematic debut. (14 min) HD
- Heart of Justice: Discover the heart, soul and mind of the Justice League, as the cast and filmmakers share their admiration for DC’s iconic Trinity: Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman (12 min) HD 
- Technology of the Justice League: From Batman’s arsenal to Cyborg’s alien tech, interface with the Justice League database to learn their most advanced secrets. (8 min) HD 
- Justice League: The New Heroes: Join Ray Fisher on a personal tour to meet the newest members of the Justice League: Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg. (12 min) 
- The Return of Superman: Bonus scenes not seen in theaters(2 min) HD 
- Steppenwolf the Conqueror: Join actor Ciarán Hinds and the filmmakers as they reveal the story behind mankind’s ancient enemy and the Justice League’s greatest challenge. (3 min) HD 
- Scene Studies: Revisiting the Amazons: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences (3 min) HD 
- Scene Studies: Wonder Woman’s Rescue: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences (3 min) HD 
- Scene Studies: Heroes Park: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences (5 min) HD
- Scene Studies: The Tunnel Battle: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences (4 min) HD
- Suit Up: The Look of the League - Costume Designer Michael 
Wilkinson explores the innovation and artistry that goes into creating the costumes of DC’s iconic heroes. (10 min) HD 

Obviously I didn't love Justice League, and I really wanted to LOVE it with all my super-hero loving heart, but like most of the DC movies it is a mixed bag. On one hand it's a big, fun superhero movie, it's loud and loaded with big action, but on the other hand it's tonally all over the place and doesn't live up to the promise of what a Justice League movie should be. While I am not a huge Zack Snyder fan I would be keen to see his cut of the film if it exists, just to see his singular vision, because what we have here is a movie with multiple conflicting visions thrown together in a soup pot, and the results are over-spiced to the point of blandness. My feelings for the movie itself aside I can pretty much guarantee that the phenomenal 4K UHD presentation will knock your underoos right off!  

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