Justice League Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Theatrical Release - November 17th, 2017; Digital HD Release - February 13, 2018; Home Video - March 13, 2018
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes -- Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash -- it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Justice League was directed by Zack Snyder from a screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, story by Terrio & Snyder. Based on characters from DC Entertainment; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg and Geoff Johns produced the film, with Jim Rowe, Wesley Coller, Curtis Kanemoto, Chris Terrio and Ben Affleck serving as executive producers.
Opening on November 17 in 3D and 2D in select theatres and IMAX, Justice League is be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Disjointed and light on plot, Justice League manages to bring some of DC Comics' biggest characters to life in a way that's mostly true to the comics and cartoons fans have grown up with, but the film's many flaws fatally hamper what should be an unforgettable event. Instead, the movie sputters along from scene to scene, mixing occasionally good character moments and action sequences with mediocre special effects, odd choices and a paper-thin story. While not an out-and-out failure, Justice League falls far, far short of its lofty goals.
After two movies of build-up, following Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BVS), Justice League wraps up the ongoing plot threads of those two previous installments while clearly setting in motion a direction for the DC Comics cinematic universe going forward. However, to get to the promised land of future movies that are more respectful to the DC Comics source material, fans have to sit through Justice League and, for some, that might be asking too much. With Wonder Woman the only true cinematic success for Warner Bros.' line of connected DC Comics movies, fans might even wonder if it's worth it to sit through another DC dud.
Discussing this film without taking into account the behind-the-scenes issues it dealt with is nearly impossible. Justice League, the final theatrical release version, is clearly a response to the immense backlash from BVS excessively dark and misguided tone. A huge chunk of this film was clearly left on the cutting room floor. The obvious retooling and reshoots, the more light-hearted look and feel of the film, the jokes, all of it. Not only that, Justice League is really the product of two creators - original director Zack Snyder and replacement (for lack of a better term) Joss Whedon. Whedon stepped in after Snyder had to walk away from the project due to a family tragedy. These two directors have very different styles, resulting in a movie that, at times, feels disconnected from itself. Justice League's production history is messy and complicated (which is very apparent in the finished product) and it plays a major part in the film's overall quality.
Aside from the two separate directors behind the camera, the runaway success of Wonder Woman clearly played a part in how this film ultimately came together. The character herself, and even her island homeworld, get a fair amount of screentime here, with her essentially being the defacto leader (which actually works and is one of the few positive aspects of this wobbly movie). Executives clearly paid attention to the response Wonder Woman received during its Summer 2017 release and made sure to capitalize.
However, there are quite a few things that Justice League gets right. There are some good character beats here and there, same with dialogue, and some solid action, but most of that gets lost in a film that feels like its cobbled together from two very different movies. Not only that, but it even feels disconnected from its own continuity, as the guilt and remorse Batman feels, and the sudden realization of what a hopeful figure Superman was, seems so disconnected to how the characters were portrayed in BVS and even Man of Steel. Never once did Superman really come across as a beacon of hope for the world in Man of Steel or BVS, and while Batman's motivation to do right by Superman after the alien's sacrifice in BVS is great character building, they push him way too far in that direction in Justice League. It just doesn't seem to really add up, and given how this movie takes place very shortly after the death of Superman, it only adds to the confusion of an already befuddling product. It just doesn't connect.
The film's core story, our heroes coming together attempting to stop the otherworldly Steppenwolf from collecting three Mother Boxes and decimating the world, is solid reason enough to unite some of DC Comics' top names, and would likely be a worthy foe in a better composed movie. However, the film pushes him off to the side for the majority of the runtime, with the main conflict coming from the quippy heroes themselves, which is a perfectly fine way to structure a story. Honestly, seeing the Justice League come together on the big screen is the top reason why anyone is seeing this movie, but there needs to be some palpable tension outside the team's problems to justify their conflicts and worry, and the movie fails to deliver. Moments where Steppenwolf makes his presence known feels so small scale and at times incomplete (both in terms of the film's story and production), and since those Steppenwolf scenes are nearly all duds (save for his attack on Themyscira and arguably the climactic battle), they don't have the impact they should to properly balance the film.
For all the movie's shortcomings, it really excels when it comes to the heroes of the Justice League themselves. Whether it's Batman as an aging savior, Wonder Woman as a burgeoning leader, Aquaman as a rockin' dudebro, The Flash as a novice hero, or Cyborg as the tortured, reluctant hero ... they all work and, more importantly, they all work together. Each character is nicely defined, has a unique role to play and they all have great chemistry. Even (spoilers) Superman's truncated return to the living works in theory and approach, but again seems to be the victim of heavy cuts and tweaking. There are moments where the movie is just electric because of how well this group of characters, and the actors portraying them, function together. The sole possible weak link is the character of Steppenwolf, but that seems to be more of the fault of heavy edits and weak CGI than actual actor performance.
That said, there are more than a few moments with some baffling decisions made, including amping up the comedic aspect of The Flash's character to the point where it becomes distracting. And while these charatcers are defined enough that we understand their place in this game and story, the movie rarely - if at all - pushes them beyond those descriptors. The characters fill their role, adequately so for the most part, but that's it. Whatever journey each member of the Justice League is on, we only really get snippets and excerpts.
Clearly, the film's troubled production history really ends up being the true foe of Justice League. Once again, another DC Comics film from Warner Bros. finds itself the victim of mismanagement and a misguided attempt to copy the successful Marvel Studios formula. More time was definitely needed to really address the film's issues and come up with proper solutions, instead of just rushing to hit a release date. For one, if the film had a more consistent tone - compared to the jarring back and forth between the light-hearted clearly Joss Whedon-directed moments and the darker Zack Snyder-directed moments - it would've flowed better. The movie plays out as a series of scenes instead of a naturally unfolding, progressive story, absolutely killing its momentum.And that is just one of the issues that could've been properly solved if more time and proper diligence was given,
Now, is Justice League the trainwreck that so many others have claimed it to be? No, not at all. It's not terrible, but it's not even good, really. It's disjointed and slight, yes, but it's still a mostly entertaining and somewhat interest movie, though perhaps more for its troubles than the final product. The characters are mostly handled adequately, the cast is good and there's are some enjoyable action beats. But the film's lack of a cohesive tone, mediocre effects, a compelling villain and plot, and its jarring nature does brutally hinder it. That all said, honestly, its few minor strengths do make the film watchable, but barely so. If you're not a fan of the recent DC Comics-flavored output from Warner Bros. Pictures, this won't change that. Still, there is something satisfying about seeing the Justice League in live-action on the big screen, and this movie will just have to do, unfortunately, until we get something better in a decade or so. Check it out, but at your own risk.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released Justice League on a host of different formats for home media consumption. The movie can be purchased on Digital HD, standard definition DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra Blu-ray. Warner Bros. provided The World's Finest with a Blu-ray edition of the movie to review.
Starting off video and audio, it should be no surprise that Justice League looks rock solid in High-Definition. On Blu-ray, everything looks crisp, detailed and full, and nearly reference quality. The details on the costumes is especially impressive, and really draws the eye toward the stellar work done on each of the Leaguer's costumes. The color palette looks great and really adds life to some of the more ambitious scenes in the movie. Whether it's the flashback detailing Steppenwolf's history, the villain's attack on Themyscira, or the climactic battle in Russia, the colors always look fantastic. Unfortunately, this also makes the film's weak special effects all the more apparent (especially the uneven work to digitally remove Cavill's mustache).
The audio sounds absolutely fantastic, with a great mix that gives each speaker in one's home entertainment system fair play. The action scenes sound hefty and full, with each of the film's major set pieces sounding big and boisterous. Just listen to that rumble during the aforementioned Themyscira and flashback sequences - it's sounds large and impressive. Even the Boom Tubes used by Steppenwolf are accompanied by a nice heavy bass sound, adding weight and a nice sense of dread when our film's villain uses them to make his entrance. The film's quieter moments also sound nice and crisp, and dialogue is never buried by the heavy special effects or loud noises during the action beats. Warner Bros. did an excellent job creating a balanced audio experience for the film. It's an admirable piece of work that'll give any home theatre system a nice workout.
In terms of special features, Warner Bros. pulls together an adequate amount of content, but it lacks the serious depth that this film deserved. Given the scope of the film and the amount of talent involved, there should be a wealth of content available, though its possible the film's troubled production severely crippled the available behind-the-scenes materials. That said, it's worth noting some of the bonus features include very, very brief peeks to scenes that didn't end up in the final Justice League theatrical cut.
Without question, the bonus content fans will flock to first are the two deleted scenes featuring Superman. They're brief scenes, running just over two minutes combined, that spotlight the Man of Steel following his resurrection. These are two scenes that, without a doubt, should've been included in the final cut of Justice League.
Looking at the featurettes, "Road to Justice" (14:10) looks at the history of the superteam, including their epic comic book origins and animated appearances. Animation fans will enjoy the brief appearance of Bruce Timm in the featurette, as well as clips from Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and the Justice League-focused DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles. It's a nice overview of what all came before their big screen debut. "Heart of the Justice" (11:52) highlights the film's cast and film executives as they talk about what makes these characters so special. It's nice, and even reassuring that everyone appears to know what they're talking about when it comes to these characters, even if that might not be entirely reflected in the film. "Technology of the Justice League" (8:14) takes a look at the assorted tech and vehicles featured in the movie, while "Suit Up: The Look of the League" (10:21) offers a closer look at the film's costuming (and it's also pretty darn interesting). "Justice League: The New Heroes" (12:24) appears to be recycled EPK content from the film's theatrical run, as it focuses on Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman, three heroes who made their full debut here in Justice League. Mostly fluff, but Ray Fisher's (Cyborg) passion for the material is clear. "Steppenwolf the Conqueror" (3:03) fills the viewer in on the character's motivations and roots.
"Scene Study" breaks down four specific scenes and is arguably the most detailed of the bonus content included. It's made up of four segments - "Revisiting the Amazons," (3:32) "Wonder Woman's Rescue," (3:14) "Heroes Park"(4:57) and "The Tunnel Battle" (3:32) - and provides a nice breakdown of each, covering nearly all the work that went into putting these scenes together. There are a host of snippets that hint at how some of these scenes were originally supposed to work, which will be worth the watch alone for many viewers. As with the rest of the bonus content, none of the behind-the-scenes strife is hinted at.
The Blu-ray also includes additional trailers, a DVD copy of the film and a digital copy.
Now, is Justice League worth picking up to own? Personally, while the film fails to live up to expectations and feels like a stitched together shadow of its former self, it does manage to entertain on a base level. Wonder Woman fans might enjoy seeing the continued adventures of the Amazon, but it won't win over those who liked (or hated) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Justice League ends up feeling reactionary to both the poor critical response of Dawn and the pop culture impact of Wonder Woman, and is unable to properly encapsulate either. Is the film as bad as many have made it out to be? Not at all, no. Not even close (blame the over-reaction on clickbait articles, overzealous fans and the film's gossip-heavy troubled production). But it's nowhere near the quality we've come to expect from this current era of superhero film.
That said, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has put together a nice home media release for Justice League The extras offer a fine look at the film's production and the history of the iconic team, but doesn't go as deep as it should. It's ... OK. Both the audio and video quality are top-notch and will definitely rock anyone's home theatre set-up. In fact, given the film's brisk pace and two-hour running time, it's a fine movie to pop in when you want to give your home set-up a run. Fans of the movie, without a doubt, pick up the HD home video release. For those who have yet to see it, or are on the fence, it could make for an enjoyable evening of brainless blockbuster fun, but mileage will definitely vary here. Enter at your own risk!
Review copies provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Please note that did not have any bearing on the final review of the products.