Fresh on 4K: ‘JUSTICE LEAGUE’ – though visually stunning and fun, extras barely give it justice

Connor Bynum // Film Critic

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben AffleckHenry CavillAmy AdamsGal GadotEzra MillerJason MomoaRay FisherJeremy IronsDiane LaneConnie NielsenJ.K. Simmons and Ciarán Hinds
Available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

Movie Grade: B-

When I reviewed JUSTICE LEAGUE when it released in theaters, I gave it a favorable review, as it was undoubtedly a more enjoyable film than previous films in the franchise (excluding WONDER WOMAN). But it doesn’t come without its flaws.

From my review: “The film is at its absolute most fun when we see the League working together. Moments of confusion as to what exactly is going on are few and far between, in spite of some often under-polished computer generated images. Zack Snyder has always been a visual director, and he is clearly in his element when the fists start flying… JUSTICE LEAGUE is not perfect, but it is a darn good step in the right direction. Its story is weak and forgettable, but the film is saved by its thrilling action beats and genuine sense of camaraderie between its characters.”

Video/Audio Grade: A-

Captured in a combination of 2.8K and 5.1K resolutions and finished with a 2K Digital Intermediate, JUSTICE LEAGUE receives an upscale treatment for its arrival on 4K UHD Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. For a 4K upscale, JUSTICE LEAGUE delivers the goods. Facial pores are vivid and textures on each of the heroes meticulously detailed costumes are fantastic. By no means is he a flawless rendering of the character, but even the computer generation abomination of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has moments of visual brilliance for this release. There are a handful of instances with Snyder’s trademark grain being overly present, but this is likely an artistic choice that no resolution increase would remove.

Where the resolution falls short, the increased color depth of HDR and Dolby Vision more than picks up the slack. Snyder’s dark and dreary tones and somewhat desaturated color pallet certainly benefit from its inclusion. Night scenes involving Batman (Ben Affleck) never feel as though their blacks are crushed and the lightning effects featured in The Flash’s (Ezra Miller) running scenes beautifully contrast with the darker background. The sequence with Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) briefly visiting Atlantis is still a little on the murky side, but this can be also be argued as intentional.

The Dolby Atmos track is exceptionally brilliant with the action sequences in particular greatly benefiting from its inclusion. Dialogue during the quieter scenes also comes out clear, and Danny Elfman’s enjoyable score blends wonderfully into the mix.

Ezra Miller as the Flash.

Extras Grade: C+

With the litany of controversies taking place behind the camera all the way up to the film’s release, one would think that the special features included in the home video release would at the very least address what happened. (The last minute shift in directors, rewrites, deleted scenes, etc.). This was a golden opportunity for the filmmakers to give fans at the very least, a glimpse at what we’ve all heard about. And better still, they could have done it on their own terms. Yet, the folks over at Warner Bros. have instead opted to ignore their most vocal of fans in their selection of extras and it is simply insulting.

None of the bonus features are included on the 4K disc once again, and instead have been left on the standard Blu-ray disc. The advertised “footage not seen in theaters” is laughably brief. One short scene involving Superman (Henry Cavill) walking around in a Kryptonian ship and another with him having a succinct interaction with Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). That’s it. Nothing involving Cyborg’s (Ray Fisher) heavily referenced accident and nothing with Willem Dafoe’s Atlantean character interacting with Aquaman.

One reason that Warner Bros. has given for not including these scenes in a potential Extended Edition was that the visual effects for these scenes were never completed and to dump more money into them would have been financially unwise. Fine. But it’s not like countless films haven’t included deleted scenes with unfinished visuals in their home releases in the past.

For what it’s worth, the special features that did make their way onto the disc are interesting and do offer some insight on the history of these iconic characters and how they have evolved over time for each generation of fans. They also spend a fair amount of time focusing on the one aspect of this film that is single handedly keeping the DC film franchise afloat: Wonder Woman. If you wanted an in-depth look at how the Amazon action sequence was crafted, you’re in luck.

Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D/4K UHD extras will include:

  • 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 theaters
  • 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 – Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences
  • 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
  • Scene Studies: Heroes Park – Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences
  • Scene Studies: 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.

Final Grade: B+

The film is still as polarizing as ever, but fans of the film will be happy to hear that JUSTICE LEAGUE is a visual spectacle on 4K UHD Blu-ray, in spite of its lackluster extras.

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