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JUSTICE LEAGUE
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons
Director: Zack Snyder
Audio: DTS HD MA 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes
Release Date: March 13, 2018

I believe in truth…but I’m also a big fan of justice.”

Film **1/2

Justice League is the best of the recent Superman/Batman films, but I still don’t think the DC universe is quite there yet.

First off, is this really a spoiler? Superman returns. Sorry if that gave anything away, but considering Superman appears on the cover art and Henry Cavill’s name is second in the credits, did you really expect the Man of Steel to stay in his slumber? Fans of the comic series know Superman has “died” about six times already, but it’s hard to keep a good Kryptonian down.

Let’s start with the good…with Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gadot) established, there is time to meet the three new members of the team. Barry Allen (Miller), aka The Flash is a socially awkward bit of comic relief that doesn’t always work, but is more amusing than not. He’s an aspiring crime technician with amazing speed (origin story touched on, but well-known), who joins up almost for no reason other than needing to get out more.

The Aquaman (Momoa) gets a welcome re-imagining from the tight-clad color-clashing hero of the comics into a giant, brooding fellow from Atlantis. Bruce correctly guesses his compassion, since he makes an appearance once a year at a remote Icelandic village to provide enough seafood to sustain the people, but who is still a little more reluctant to join in for bigger heroics. A great running joke is whether or not Aquaman CAN actually talk to fish; often considered one of the lamest superpowers in the comic universe.

Then there’s Cyborg (Fisher), the most sympathetic of the lot. Nearly killed in an accident, his father begins using machinery to replace his defunct body parts. He can communicate with almost any computer, but seems to dread his humanity slipping away in the process.

Many were not originally pleased with the prospect of Ben Affleck donning the bat suit, but I believe the discontented murmurs are fading away. He’s really made the character his own. I personally like the fact that Mr. Affleck is close to my own age, and the fact that the movie doesn’t shy away from that, mentioning he’s been doing his bit for Gotham for 20 years now. After a skirmish where he shows visible injury, Diana admonishes that he can’t keep doing this forever. His joking reply: “I can barely do it NOW.” (Is it also an inside joke that Batman suffers from perpetually failing equipment in this movie?)

The eventual return of Superman is also quite powerful, and it takes his mother (Lane) and love Lois Lane (Adams) to remind him of his humanity and what he means to the world.

Laurence Fishburne doesn’t return as Perry White, and I’m kind of glad…I love Mr. Fishburne, but that character was badly done in the previous films, and utterly thankless. The addition of J.K. Simmons as Jim Gordon is welcome.

So what doesn’t work? Well, the film is economical…perhaps hearing critical response to the first two movies being too long, director Zack Snyder gives us an expanded canvas but keeps it to an efficient two hours. Yet this is a film that might have benefited from more time, considering how intriguing the new characters are.

The plot is barely an excuse to get things moving…an other-worldly villain called Steppenwolf has returned to find three mystic boxes (one guarded by the Amazons, one by the Atlantians, and one by man). Bring them together, and you get ultimate power…or something. Steppenwolf is from the Ultron playbook of big, bad, boring villains that love to pontificate.

And the movie seems to skip over some important points…the battle between Steppenwolf and the Amazons seems to leave much destruction and loss of life; why do we never go back? How bad was the carnage? We never know. A similar battle under the sea takes place behind water effects and fish, creating something so chaotic that I have no clue what actually happened there.

The dialogue is often bad as Snyder attempts for a more fun film (again, possibly owing to criticisms that the prior two were too dismal). We’re not talking Attack of the Clones bad, but pretty bad. Some of the CGI is a bit laughable as well.

I also wish DC had the same respect for its existing universe as Marvel does. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needed an appearance from Nick Fury, by God, it’s Samuel L. Jackson who showed up. Though DC has a hit series on television with The Flash, I was a bit saddened to see that they didn’t bring in Grant Gustin from the show, much like when Supergirl needed help from her cousin, they didn’t feel the need to use Henry Cavill. It’s like their own stories take place in alternate worlds…if Marvel is guilty of trying to tie too many story lines into each other to where more casual fans are doomed to be lost, DC is guilty of not even trying.

Still, if Snyder wanted fun, he did bring it out. The final battle is terrific and well-balanced. He seems to trust his audience’s faith in the characters, and the characters win out over all. Diana actually seems to be the mother/leader of the troupe before Superman arrives. Batman shows more vulnerability in his need for others. And Superman recognizes he brings more to the world than a cape and aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and don’t forget to stay through the end credits. That’s not all, folks!

BONUS TRIVIA: Henry Cavill had grown a mustache after shooting had wrapped, but they needed to bring him back. The filmmakers had to use CGI to edit it out!

Video ****

This 4K presentation is as good as you would think…lively, colorful, and filled with great detail in all levels of lighting. Images are sharp and rendered without any softness or artifacting.

Audio ****

The uncompressed audio is dynamic and balanced; quieter dialogue passages don’t get lost amidst the mayhem. All stages are used for maximum effect. For those paying attention, you even get musical cues that go along with each hero’s previous films!

Features **

There are four production featurettes, all on the Blu-ray disc.

Summary:

Justice League is not quite up to the efforts of Wonder Woman, but remains a big step forward in the DC franchise to show that these characters do have plenty of life left in them. We may be getting closer to something really amazing from this team.

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