Watched: 17 January

At this point in time Warner Bros’ ongoing attempts to fashion a cinematic universe to rival that of Marvel Studios feel increasingly rushed, slapdash and desperate, and it seems that the studio is now starting to abandon its model of dark and lengthy films in favour of lightness and brevity. Or is it? And does anybody actually know what the long-term plan is anymore?

The latest, Justice League, depicts the allegiance of several heroes and is heavily reliant on the assumption that the audience has prior knowledge of each one’s origin and background: Superman and Wonder Woman are familiar and have admittedly had their own recent standalone intro movies, and it’s not like we need another run through the early history of Bruce Wayne and Batman, but sadly Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash – the three less well-known superheroes appearing here – are thrown in with very little fanfare, and as such seem to me like secondary concerns that are only present to make up the numbers; the brief attempts to give each one personal issues to deal with, and motives, are half-hearted at best.

That all said, Ezra Miller’s Flash does have some good lines, and that’s one key factor in terms of the levity in this film, which must surely have resulted from the late introduction of Joss Whedon as both a writer and director (his employment being the clearest sign yet that Warner Bros have realised they’ve been getting these films wrong up to this point). It’s welcome.

The rest of the film is absolutely Zack Snyder’s, and like his other recent work it’s po-faced, gloomy, full of slow-mo and not really much fun to sit through at all. (While Disney has rejuvenated its Marvel cash cow post-Age Of Ultron by focusing for the most part on a different set of heroes, becoming increasingly cosmic in its outlook, it’s as if Warner Bros are stuck in an eternal loop of murky mediocrity, albeit with last year’s Wonder Woman bucking the trend by not being set mostly at night – and indeed by not being shit.)

The story here – which revolves around some boxes that may as well have ‘Mac’, ‘Guff’ and ‘In’ writ large on them – involves yet another all-powerful alien being who is naturally easier to defeat than he initially seems, although anyone with knowledge of DC’s comics will realise that he must have originally been penned as a mere harbinger of something worse to come.

Personally, I think that every time these characters are ushered away from more ‘everyday’ crime-fighting scenarios in the likes of Metropolis and Gotham they instantly become much less interesting. As such, the two fleeting scenes I enjoyed the most in this film involved Wonder Woman rescuing a load of innocent hostages from deranged terrorists in London and Superman saving a building (presumably full of people and not empty, though that would have been pretty funny) during the big final battle. The rest of it, aside from the occasional spot of Whedon’s hero-on-hero banter, is a sloppy, cheap-looking mess that has presumably suffered because of too much studio interference. The problem is, it’s probably too late to start again. (*½)