Justice League 4K Blu-ray Review
Justice League isn't a great film - but it also isn't an irredeemable disaster. With thousands of column inches in print and even more online, there's little doubt that even before release it was one of the most heavily discussed films of recent years. The knives were out even before the film entered production - Batman v Superman had already disappointed Superman fans with a near nonsensical resolution and while Wonder Woman had managed to redeem the DC Cinematic Universe somewhat with a solid film based around Gal Gadot's brilliant take on the character, there were issues with Justice League from the start.
Things finally came to a head with the departure of Zack Snyder as director (following a family tragedy) leaving a void to be filled by Joss Whedon who reshot a few scenes to add a little levity. Yes, this has resulted in a film that feels a little disjointed, but frankly the rough edges are far less noticeable than this reviewer expected. In fact, the end result was far more enjoyable than the critical hammering the film got on theatrical release - tempered expectations have a lot going for them.
The film sees Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) - in the wake of Superman's death - attempting to form a group of superheroes to defend the earth against the impending threat of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). Steppenwolf wants to reclaim the three 'Mother Boxes' which will give him the power to reshape and devastate worlds. Early on he makes light work of the boxes guarded by the Amazons and Atlanteans leaving only the last, guarded by the 'Tribes of Earth', to recover.
Enlisting the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) finds his initial approach to Aquaman (Jason Momoa) turned down leaving newcomers The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) as potential team members. Of the main cast, it's Fisher's Cyborg that feels the most overlooked despite his central role later in the film. Miller, as Barry Allen/The Flash, provides much needed comic relief and his unsuspecting superhero is the film's most relatable character. Even so, this really is Affleck and Gadot's movie.
When Henry Cavill makes his reappearance in the latter half of the film we finally get to see the Superman that we'd wanted ever since Man of Steel. Here, he gets to be the hero we needed and while his screentime is sadly limited due the nature of the story, the impact of his return is well handled.
The final act is decent enough. Steppenwolf is a foreboding villain and his decimation of the Amazons and his quick hit on the Atlanteans sets him up as a force that will be hard to stop. The reliance on CGI for his facial features though seems unnecessary; giving the character a cartoonish appearance when prosthetics could have created a much more visceral and realistic look. The less said about the Cavillstache removal in the film's opening sequence the better. Other than that, the effects were well done adding to the film in a way that should age well.
Justice League surprised this reviewer; it may have had a troubled production, and there are questions over Zack Snyder's understanding of the characters that stem from their treatment in earlier films, but as escapism it was a decent blockbuster. We'll likely never know just how much of the film Joss Whedon reshot and rewrote - clearly not enough to give him a directorial credit - but there is levity of character here that was absent from Snyder's other films so, it is safe to say that Whedon did deliver some significant changes and additions.
The 4K Blu-ray release includes both the UHD version of the film on a dedicated disc and the full feature-packed standard Blu-ray. There's also a digital copy of the film included but we're not evaluating that here. The UHD disc features a pristine 2160p transfer - it's as sharp as any we've seen with good colour saturation throughout. Justice League is a far less 'dark' film than the previous Superman outings - with scenes on Themyscira, in particular, looking beautiful. This is a disc that takes full advantage of the increased colour space and depth that HDR has to offer. Unsurprisingly there are no digital artifacts or any other post-processing to marr the image.
Similar can be said for the standard 1080p transfer - again pristine with the major noticeable difference being the slightly muted colour palette rather than the drop in resolution. Side-by-side comparison of 4K and 1080p does show the increased level of detail, particularly on still shots, but in motion there's little to choose between the two.
Audio is catered for with a stunning Dolby Atmos 7.1 track, which - if you can make use of it - is as close to a theatrical experience as you can expect with stunning use made of all speakers during action sequences. Similarly the lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio track is beautifully realised and will give your system an epic workout. The Atmos and DTS tracks are only available in English, other regions are catered for via standard Dolby Digital 5.1 on both the UHD and standard HD discs.
There is a decent selection of extra features on offer here - these are available on all releases of the film; the one exception being that DVD owners won't get 'The Return of Superman'. One thing the extras don't touch on is the troubled production of the film - there's no discussion on the differences that Whedon and Snyder brought to the film and the film is the same cut as presented in cinemas. Fans hoping for a 'Snyder' cut are unlikely to see their wishes fulfilled, even in the future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Return Of Superman: Bonus scenes not seen in cinemas.
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.
Scene Studies: Revisiting the Amazons, Wonder Woman’s Rescue, Heroes Park, The Tunnel Battle - Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences.
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.
Justice League gets a home cinema release that is near flawless. Stunning picture and audio along with a decent array of extras make for a release that's a must by if you're one of the film's few fans. The standard Blu is just as impressive for those who don't have access to the means to play UHD discs so well worth an investment. If you've discounted the film due to the early critical reception - and any 1* reviews are so way off the mark as to be nonsensical - then it's certainly worth giving it a try on home release.