The Justice League movie feels like it’s been coming forever, and while we’ve been waiting, Suicide Squad tanked and Wonder Woman brought some much needed wonder (and levity) to the DCEU. Now that its finally here, it reveals that the rival to Marvel still hasn’t learned from its past mistakes.

 Justice League does benefit from having Marvel defector Joss Whedon involved, as co-screenwriter and director on reshoots after a family tragedy saw Zack Snyder depart. But these two filmmakers’ styles are like chalk and cheese, with the combined result a bit of a mess.

As the world mourns the loss of Superman, a new threat awakens in the form of Steppenwolf – a god-like alien who’s a bit like Sauron in that it once took the combined forces of Amazons, Atlanteans and humankind to defeat him. And the Tolkien pilfering doesn’t stop there. Steppenwolf is searching for three powerful ‘motherboxes’, stashed away by the tribes who vanquished him, and which when united will bring about the apocalypse. One box to rule them all!

Having confirmed the arrival of evil in Gotham by capturing one of Steppenwolf’s harpy-like minions, Batman (Ben Affleck) assembles the League, comprising Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). As for Superman, well, he’s dead isn’t he?  

         

It’s easy to get a handle on two of the newcomers in this ensemble – Aquaman and The Flash are the muscle and comic relief, respectively, but Cyborg remains a bit of a mystery (unless you read the comics). Who is this guy? Sometimes it’s best to get the origin stories out of the way in a solo film first rather than tell them on the fly.

Giving the heroes sufficient screen time to get acquainted results in the villain being marginalised (just like in Suicide Squad). Steppenwolf never comes across as the world-ending evil he’s supposed to be, and his motivation remains vague.

Moreover, the story is patchwork, the VFX shoddy, and the big action moments possess that murky and chaotic quality that has become the DC norm, and Snyder’s forte.

On the plus side, there is a greater sense of fun than in past DC films (even Affleck is cracking jokes), thanks mostly to Ezra Miller’s nerdy Barry Allen/Flash, who manages to upstage Momoa’s Aquaman as the new kid on the block. It’s obvious Whedon enjoyed writing for him.    

Justice League isn’t as bad as Batman v Superman, but it is wildly uneven and ultimately underwhelming. At least it doesn’t outstay its welcome, running a lean two hours including two end credit scenes (if you can be bothered to stick around).

Wonder Woman aside, DC is still desperately struggling to find the movie magic that Marvel has successfully bottled.

In cinemas: November 16, 2017
Starring: Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa
Directed by: Zack Snyder