If this is to truly be his end with the DCEU - Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the best possible large-scale epic to make his final bow. Twice the length of the 2017 cut, this version has more heart, character development, and fan-service moments with these iconic heroes. Not perfect - but a massive improvement. As we await any word of a domestic release, Warner Bros. assembled Zack Snyder’s Justice League to Europe for a 4K UHD Blu-ray release. Spread over two discs - the film earns an impressive HDR10 transfer with a robust immersive Atmos Audio mix to match. If you can’t hold out for a domestic release, import it - Highly Recommended
Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead. Sacrificing himself to stop the monster Doomsday, the world is without a savior. Grief-stricken after his attempt to murder the man of steel, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) seeks to assemble the metahumans into an alliance to defend Earth from the intergalactic threat Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of parademons. Recruiting The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), together with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) Batman creates a new league of heroes.
The trials and tribulations of Justice League reaching the big screen have been well documented - so there’s little point in my retelling that long story here. Suffice to say, it was a shit show. Bad decisions were made from the very top of Warner Brothers on down through every facet of the creative team right through to the hiring of Joss Whedon to rewrite/reshoot large chunks of the film to create the Frankenstein's monster that hit theaters. This version wasn’t the result of one creative vision but the patchwork schemes and motives of a number of people.
Ill-content with that version, fans of Zack Snyder clamored to see what the director originally intended. With what we got - anything had to be better, right? It took a few years, dozens of teasing social media posts, lots of petitions, and the creation of a new streaming network, but we finally have Zack Snyder’s Justice League in all its glory. While I wouldn’t call it perfect, it is a massive improvement and far better than I expected. It’s epic grand-scale superhero entertainment at its finest. Previously, the emotional core with its characters was as dead as Superman's corpse but now breathes new life and resonance.
From the opening credits, this isn’t anything like what we saw in 2017. The film finally feels like the grand epic assembly of DC’s greatest heroes we were promised so long ago. Content with taking its time - and boy does it take its time - we actually get genuine fully fleshed-out characters. This is The Justice League. This isn’t “The Batman Superman Wonder Woman Show...costarring Flash, Aquaman, and this other guy called Cyborg.”
We’re properly introduced to Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen - The Flash - applying for a job as a dog walker. Just the concept of The Flash slowly walking dogs made me laugh. But he also manages to save the day when Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) gets into a car accident in a hilariously romantic slow-motion action sequence. Most importantly, this introduction and the climax of the film sold me on Miller as The Flash. As the force for most of the comic relief, it's nice to see a natural sense of humor instead of constant quipping.
We now get time to meet and understand the origin of Ray Fisher’s tragic Vic Stone - Cyborg - and his coming to terms with what he’s become and the man he once was. If there's a character that feels like they have a complete story arc, it's Cyborg and I loved it. Sadly with how things split, we probably won’t get a Cyborg movie now and I’d like to see Fisher again in that role.
Ciaran Hinds’ Steppenwolf is actually a villain to be feared. His monstrous form with shifting lethal armor is imposing and genuinely creepy. He also no longer looks like a PS2-era CGI final boss but instead a PS4-era CGI final boss! He can be a bit weightless at times but he actually feels like a real threat to our heroes. Even Jason Momoa gets more time as Aquaman early on in scenes that better link this film with his own solo adventure from 2018. If that wasn’t enough - no CGI rubber-mouthed Superman! No awkward out-of-focus background pickup shots. There's so much more to this movie now beyond an extended runtime; it's actually a fulfilling viewing experience instead of a means to burn time on a slow day.
While I will sing the praises of Zack Snyder’s Justice League it does have some knocks. I appreciate Synder’s love of slow-motion to add drama to an action sequence and give fans the hero shot - but damn there’s a lot of slow-mo! Its over-use pulls some impact from genuinely grand sequences - like hotdogs! Pacing is also a bit of a struggle early on. I thought the Icelandic sequence was beautifully shot but I don’t think we needed to see some ladies serenade Aquaman, least of all watch one sniff his sweater. And on the plot front, there are some notable oddities like how does a galaxy-conquering megalomaniac forget where he left his greatest weapon? There are also some notable changes to the lore of Steppenwolf and his relationship to Darkseid but really these amount to small quibbles and nitpicks. A four-hour movie is going to have a few of those and comic movies are rarely ever 100% cut from canon to the satisfaction of fans.
I’m under no delusion that this is the same movie we would have gotten in 2017 if Snyder was left to finish his two-film epic. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the result of a long process of hindsight and studio creative reckoning. Certain heads had to roll before the idea of letting Snyder finish his film could even be considered. Now that we have it, we have what I’d call a genuine epic Superhero movie. We can bury that hack job Frankenstein Cut in the graveyard of bad comic films alongside Steel, The Spirit, and pretty much every Fantastic Four movie made to date.
One can Monday-Morning quarterback the DCEU, its formation, and execution all day long. There were as many bad as good decisions made to get to this point. If this is to be the end of Snyder’s time in this realm of heroes this is a hell of a note to go out on. We’ll see more Flash and Batman. We’ll see more Aquaman and have another Wonder Woman adventure. But will we actually see them together (or even this version of these heroes) on screen again as a team? Only time will tell on that score. I hope so. With all of the nods and teasers that packed the film’s final moments, I want to see more.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
With HBO Max still holding tight in the U.S., Europe gets to enjoy Zack Snyder’s Justice League on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a two-disc set. Housed in a black keepcase with an identical slipcover, the film is spread between two region-free discs. No 1080p Blu-rays are included in this set and the Black and White “Justice Is Gray” version is not included either. Disc One opens to an animated main menu with your traditional navigation options - but in addition to Scene-Selection, there’s a “Part Selection” menu in keeping with the film’s episodic structure. Disc Two loads right away to the final half of the film bypassing the main menu - you can go there by hitting the main menu or the pop-up menu button on your remote.
While we may not get the Dolby Vision transfer of HBO Max on disc, this native 4K 1.33:1 2160p HDR10 transfer holds its own. Some may lament the aspect ratio choice - it’s at least consistent versus the recent remaster of Batman v. Superman so if you’re rocking a projector you won’t have to worry about your screen or masking. Details are impressive from the getgo. My lamentation of streaming as the dominant delivery of mass media is the low bitrate can lead to problematic black levels and details - but that’s not an issue on this disc. I felt like I was seeing cleaner facial features and costume details than the streaming release. Film grain maintains a natural presence for a welcome film-like presentation.
In many areas, HDR10 is equal to the Dolby Vision presentation on streaming. Black levels are deep and inky with bold natural whites to match. Colors are robust with some excellent primaries. The Flash’s deep red crimson costume looks fantastic against those luminous lightning streaks. Some of the more hurried CGI effects are pretty obvious - any cape that flows in the wind hovers in an obvious way. Where Dolby Vision worked a bit better is with light and shadows - Cyborg’s glowing red eye against his skin offered more subtle variance or the white light of Flash's lightning streaks. There’s not a notable enough difference there to say I have a specific preference one over the other they're both very good and much better than any SDR viewing. The value of having this on disc without being subject to streaming bitrate limitations outweigh any little nitpicks.
Now, I know people are going to ask or comment about it - so I did try the Zoom function on my Oppo to “fill the screen” instead of keeping the 1.33:1 OAR framing. The results aren’t terrible, but I wouldn’t recommend it either. Scene by scene Snyder specifically framed each shot hoping this opus would get a theatrical release on the biggest screens possible. Zoomed, the center framing is decent and holds well, but objects on the edges of the frame don’t always look right. Zooming makes the grain structure appear much more noisy and inorganic and in some sequences outright unpleasant. In big action sequences where the full 1.33:1 ratio is employed, you lose image data on the top, bottom, and sides by zooming - that hero shot specifically when they're charging Steppenwolf's fortress loses a lot of information including Cyborg and Wonder Woman's heads. At the same time, you also have the scene where Flash catches the Batarang compared to the 2017 version - tops and bottoms are the same and sides have been cut to make the 1.33:1 aspect ratio work - so if you zoomed in you lose even more image information. Love it or hate it, Snyder made a choice with how this film should look.
Here are some comparisons between versions. I wanted to do a video but there were enough subtle edits even right down to a few frames that made doing a video extremely difficult. Zack Snyder's Justice League on top, 2017 Justice League on the bottom.
When Zack Snyder’s Justice League premiered on HBO Max it was gifted a robust and immersive Atmos audio mix. For some bizarre reason in the last few days of this writing, HBO Max has traded off that Atmos mix for a neutered and relatively lifeless 5.1 mix. SO - on that mark, this disc now greatly surpasses the streaming presentation. With the terrific sound design and Tom Holkenborg’s aggressive score - this mix is terrific. Even in the quietest of moments, there’s an immersive surround presence with sides, rears, and verticals employed.
Big action sequences are the real draw but even Superman’s death scream during the opening credits beautifully travels the channels and sets expectations for the mix. The first time Steppenwolf and his parademons teleport to the mother box on Themyscira it’s a hell of a moment. The Amazons warriors’ cry “We have no fear!” rolling through the front, sides, rear, and overhead channels was a true "hell yeah!" moment. Coupled with some robust LFE rocking the bass unit you have a demo-worthy audio mix.
Throughout dialog is never an issue. Even during the biggest and heaviest action sequences, everyone can be heard clearly. How sound elements are layered - again even during quiet moments - there's constant atmosphere and activity. The surround channels rarely take any kind of break. Levels are spot on so even on your normal comfortable setting you'll get an aggressive sonic experience. That said, I do recommend you turn it up loud! It's a lot of fun when the walls start to rattle a little bit. And as I mentioned at the outset, with HBO Max dropping Atmos recently - this mix really is a better experience.
On the lighter side of this set is the rather anemic assortment of bonus features. The only thing we get is this short retrospective for Zack Snyder Road to Justice League. Considering the effort it took to get this thing done, I would have loved some behind-the-scenes materials of the reshoots, some comment from the effects team about the work that went into finishing the film. At almost 25 minutes this does cover some ground, but an extra disc of bonus materials with a Synder Audio Commentary would have been awesome.
Now the big question for Zack Snyder’s Justice League - do you import the 4K UHD Blu-ray, or do you wait it out and hope for the domestic release to someday finally get announced? The rumor is the US release is supposed to have both the full-color release and the black and white “Justice Is Gray” edition. But then there have been a lot of rumors for this release and a lot of them didn’t happen. If the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice remaster release is any indication, we could have a domestic 4K disc sitting on store shelves tomorrow and we wouldn't know it.
If you absolutely must have this film in your collection right now this UK import does not disappoint. The native 4K HDR10 transfer is terrific and the Atmos audio mix is reference-quality material. Bonus features are slim but that’s the sad new normal for a lot of studio releases these days. For now - I’m calling this release Highly Recommended. It's what's available now, but I do hope that a more elaborate and complete release is in the works.