The last movie from the so-called DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman, came out this year to positive reviews, some of which verged on the rhapsodic.
Audiences flocked to see it. But Justice League, the fifth film in the DC series, makes it worth flocking in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, the universe might not be extended enough to avoid it.
It aims to be a kind of superhero version of The Magnificent Seven, with Batman (Ben Affleck) assembling a team of all the talents to foil the dastardly Steppenwolf, an enormous fiend (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) with a battalion of flying demons at his disposal.
Steppenwolf wants to harness the power of three mysterious glowing boxes to unleash Armageddon and long before the end I rather hoped he might, especially when he came up against The Flash (Ezra Miller), whose role as the film’s comic relief is horribly misjudged.
Every time he makes another wisecrack, you want to throw him at a wall. When Steppenwolf does just that, I had to suppress a cheer.
The original director was Zack Snyder, who had to withdraw in the most tragic of circumstances, after his daughter killed herself.
In stepped Joss Whedon, who is no slouch in the comic-book genre, having written and directed 2015’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron for DC’s deadly enemies over at Marvel. But whatever tinkering Whedon did, it was either too much or too little.
Justice League is not just incoherent, it makes no attempt even to explain certain narrative threads. Why does Steppenwolf make his base in a benighted town somewhere in the former Soviet Union, plainly based on Chernobyl?
Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe Vladimir Putin interfered in the script-writing process.
The team of superheroes, meanwhile, is one player short of a tilt at glory. It has Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who begins the movie by thwarting terrorists in London. And it has Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who zooms along under the seven seas saving ships in distress, like an all-powerful lifeboat in the guise of one man with loads of tattoos.
With Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash also up for the fight, that makes a formidable unit. Yet they are nothing without Superman (Henry Cavill). But Superman is dead, having gone for a burton (a bit like the film itself) in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice...
It hardly counts as a spoiler — since Cavill’s name looms large on the credits — to let on that Superman is duly exhumed and quickly looks about as hale and hearty as any self-respecting superhero.
This makes something of a nonsense of everything that’s gone before, like Bobby Ewing soaping himself back to life in the shower, in the TV drama Dallas of blessed memory. Then, Bobby’s death turned out to have been a horrible dream.
Here, Superman just needs some mates to dig him up. Soon he is reunited with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), for a clinch in a field of corn, one of the corniest fields you’ll ever see.
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