The whole Marvel/DC light/dark fun/misery debate has already been flogged well past the point of ever achieving a resolution: do you want it flip, comedic and colourful or do you want it bleak, gritty and nihilistic? Personally I'm happy with the crowd-pleasing antics of the Avengers gang and, while I'm not about to suggest that gibberish like Joel Schumacher's two Batflicks are better in any way to the Nolan films, I've never understood the appeal of grim, joyless films like Man Of Steel and Batman Vs Superman. Wonder Woman perked things up enormously, possibly because the grimy claws of Zack Snyder were nowhere in evidence, and possibly because, unlike endless reboots of Batman and Spider-Man, this was an origins story we'd not encountered before in cinema (did the Lynda Carter TV series include it?) so there was an element of freshness to it.
But the debate has been shunted back into life with Justice League, the fifth instalment of the DC glumpocalypse, because whatever the original intentions, it's actually ended up with its boots in both camps thanks to reshoots from Joss Whedon, director of two Marvel entries and a spin-off TV show. Despite the claim that he'd write/direct in the same style as Snyder so there wouldn't be any obvious shifts in tone, there are scenes (particularly those featuring The Flash) which seem to be typed in a completely different font to the rest of the film. And it works. A bit. Some of the time, anyway. Not brilliantly: Superman is as thoroughly uninteresting as ever (at least since the first two Christopher Reeve movies) and the plot is the usual old CGI Armageddon nonsense, but it's almost entertaining enough in places to get by and most likely far more than Snyder's film would have been, had he not withdrawn for personal/family reasons.
An ancient world-destroying demon thing called Steppenwolf (no, really) is after three ancient boxes which, when brought together, will bring about the end of humanity and turn the planet into the Hellscape of his (its?) homeworld. One of these Mother Boxes (no, really) is guarded by the Amazons, another by the Atlanteans in Atlantis (no, really). Fortunately, Batman is putting a team together, with Wonder Woman, The Flash (who can move at incredibly high speed), Aquaman (water skills) and Cyborg (computers, electronics, data). But will they be enough? Or do they need to exhume Superman and jolt him back to life with the power of the third Mother Box?
It all ends, as these things must, with a welter of green-screen whizzbang in which various members of the gang take it in turns to punch Steppenwolf and his flying demon minion things while the surrounding landscape is terraformed around them. Which is all perfectly well done, if you like your retinas scorched and if you like not having half a clue what the hell's going on. But mass destruction and/or the imminent end of the world aren't a new thing any more: we saw all this in Man Of Steel and half the Avengers movies and the Transformers films and most Roland Emmerich films and Geostorm and it's all frankly getting a bit been there, done that, got the ticket stubs to prove it. I'm not enough of a comic-book aficionado to spot any significant narrative difference between the Mother Boxes and Marvel's Infinity Stones anyway, like the satellite weapons from assorted Bonds and XXX 3 and so on, it's the same tune played on a slightly different guitar. And raising the stakes to a global level means nothing if we don't care about anything except the gosh-wow visuals, and even with Whedon's friendlier, less doomladen input there's little in the way of Real Human Beings with whom we can find some shred of empathy and even less for the superheroes who are all invincible and can fly.
If this all sounds like I'm trying to work out exactly how I feel about the movie...well, I suppose I am. It's not Dawn Of Justice-level terrible, and it's not Suicide Squad-level pointless. It's not Man Of Steel-level glum and it's not Thor: Ragnarok-level bonkers. I've never been a fan of Superman anyway and here, saddled additionally with having Henry Cavill's moustache CGId out in the reshoots, he seems peculiarly comfortable with having brought back from death. This Batman is at least more engaging than the Christian Bale incarnation, but Wonder Woman and The Flash are still the most enjoyable and watchable of the squad.
At some point next year we're getting a solo Aquaman movie (though probably not one for Cyborg), as well as at least one more Justice League (set up in the inevitable post-credits teaser) because there's no point in the next five or ten years when these ongoing superhero smash-em-ups are going to stop. That's not necessarily a bad thing (though I still blanch at the idea of spending as obscene an amount of money as three hundred million dollars on one movie), but I just wish they were better. Instead they're okay. And okay at that price tag just isn't enough for some incidental pleasures and only two of the six lead characters. I wanted to like it (obviously: the idea of wanting to hate a movie is clearly insanity) but in the end it's a two- or three-star movie at very, very best, depending on how charitable you feel.