Imagine you’re sitting in the theatre, watching The Avengers—the supposed culmination of a new superhero franchise that you’ve been waiting for, ever since the first solo film in the series came out a few years ago. Except this time, you don’t know any of the main characters, save maybe Captain America and Black Widow, and you kind of have an idea who this Iron Man guy is. Oh, and Cap is dead for the majority of the film. Imagine also that this Avengers film makes almost no attempt at helping you get to know any of these new faces. You watch a dry and disinterested Robert Downey, Jr. half-ass his way through the movie as Iron Man, knocking on doors around the world and casually asking complete strangers if they’d hang out with him and try to stop the world from ending. For whatever reason, the superpowered strangers agree. The anticipated enemy finally arrives, and our Cap-less Avengers attack their foe with about as much success as a gaggle of domesticated turkeys would have attacking a tiger—that is, until Captain America arrives and casually walks all over the enemy, claiming an easy victory and dissolving any shred of tension in the climax of the film.
None of it makes any sense, it isn’t any fun, and there’s no reason to care about it because none of the characters are developed enough for you to attach yourself to them. You’re shocked and furious at how haphazard this movie turned out to be. How could a movie with a budget like this, and with such a huge franchise riding on it, ever get the “O.K.” for release? You’re certain the franchise can’t survive any longer after what’s destined to be a box office bomb.
Suddenly, you awake from your nightmare, sweating all over your theatre seat. Oh, thank goodness—you weren’t really watching The Avengers, you just fell asleep while watching Justice League. All is fine in the world. Well, except for the DCEU.
The above was not my actual experience seeing Justice League in theatres; I didn’t have the good fortune of falling asleep. However, I created the scenario as a hypothetical simulation of what I imagined an avid Marvel fan (like myself) might feel if their franchise-cornerstone crossover movie had gone as well as Justice League did. The idea actually came to me on my second Justice League viewing, this time in a home theatre, with the added comfort of a friend and some beers to endure it with. Not surprisingly, a repeat viewing did no favors for Justice League. If it did anything, it reaffirmed my buffet of problems with the film, some of which I had previously wondered if I’d been too harsh with.
Justice League is just a bad movie. It’s no better now on the small screen than it was last fall on the big screen, except maybe that the sensory assault brought on by the film’s dated VFX, unpleasant aesthetic style, and uninspired music and sound design is lessened by the lack of cineplex-grade viewing system. The aforementioned lack of character development among any of the ensemble—a result of DC/WB’s hasty attempt to replicate the success that Marvel Studios has enjoyed, without properly laying the groundwork—could potentially be labeled the chief issue with the film, if it weren’t for the fact that almost every other aspect of Justice League’s multimedia storytelling was executed with a similar degree of inteptness and lack of understanding of how to connect with an audience. Maybe another notable flaw would be that it’s just downright hideous to look at, though it’s perhaps less dull than its predecessor, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The costumes, which could have possibly been passable if their colors were allowed to show, are reduced to muddled shades of grey, blue, and brown thanks to half-director Zack Snyder’s infamous brand of color-grading. Every potentially cool moment of action (there aren’t many) is botched by the film’s impulsive need to play it in slow-motion, which takes the excitement and energy out of it. The VFX would have barely been considered good ten years ago, though JL appears to be another one of those cases in which it’s not the criminally-overworked digital artists who are to blame so much as the studio, directors, and producers who constantly call for alterations, reshoots, and adjusted deadlines because they have no idea what movie they’re trying to make.
Everything worth saying about this movie was already said in longer and more detailed criticisms when the film released last fall, so I’ll waste no more time (or finger strength) writing about the worth of the film here. No, instead I’ll talk about the features included with the film’s home video release, out now, digitally, and on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD on March 26. Mark those calendars!
The various combo packs feature quite a plethora of bonus content, though most of them aren’t exactly worthwhile. “Technology of the Justice League” promises to reveal the team’s “most advanced secrets” but barely glosses over some of Batman’s and Cyborg’s standard gear. “Steppenwolf the Conqueror” aims at being an exposition for who the film’s villain is, and why he is the way he is, but it’s mostly just a series of vague bad-guy statements from actor Ciarán Hinds. Additionally, “Heart of Justice” is essentially a tribute to DC’s superhero “trinity:” Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It doesn’t tell you anything you don’t probably already know about them, but rather just features the cast talking about why they like them. Oh! And there are a whopping two deleted scenes that add nothing to the film.
On the other hand, a few features manage to be a little more interesting. “Justice League: The New Heroes” is hosted by a surprisingly enthusiastic Ray Fisher (who plays Cyborg in the film), who explains the histories and personalities of Cyborg, Aquaman, and Flash in the comics. Unlike “Heart of Justice,” this segment actually delves a little deeper into explanation of the characters’ histories.
There are also a series of “Scene Studies” in which various crew members provide commentary on a moment in the movie. These might be somewhat more interesting to those with a fascination with filmmaking or storytelling.
In all, the features are kind of a mixed bag. It seems as though Warner Bros. intentionally just piled on content so they could jack up the price of the package, while not bothering to make most of it interesting. But there are some pieces that may be found valuable to those perverse enough to be so interested in this film.
The home release formats, out March 26, are as follows:
- 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack ($44.95)
- Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack ($44.95)
- Blu-ray Combo Pack (*35.99)
- DVD ($28.98)