From its opening credits to its final seconds, Justice League is a mess. A tonal mess that betrays every effort to replace scenes in reshoots. There are fleeting moments of enjoyment, but not enough to salvage it.

Following in from the critically reviled Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), it was always likely that Warner Bros would try some kind of course correction on their burgeoning cinematic universe. After Wonder Woman (2017) was warmly received and a bigger financial success than the superhero team-up, you may have assumed that some lessons from that film may have been taken on board. 

In some respects, you would be right. There's a general attempt to lighten the tone with a few gags and one-liners, but most of this falls flat on its face. It isn't helped by the palpable boredom of Ben Affleck playing Batman, a veritable black hole of oakwood. The new characters fare little better either: Aquaman (Jason Momoa) does his vague bro' routine to little avail and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) fares worse, whose primary function is as the team's exposition bot. Ezra Miller at least looks like he's having fun as The Flash, though his forced Goldblum-esque attempts at eccentricity begin to grate after a while. Wonder Woman, with all the heart that Gal Gadot shined on the screen during her own solo outing, is reduced here to flirting with Bruce Wayne and being photographed somewhere around her cleavage. A disappointing step backwards.

The dialogue is dreadful, with the influence of Joss Whedon fusing humour into holes left behind by Zack Snyder's departure during post-production and the reshoots. And there are many holes. Scenes often start feeling like they have been running for ten minutes previous and end before they reach any real kind of conclusion or point. Vast segments feel like they have been removed, but you sense that adding them back in wouldn't make this film make any more sense. The main villain, Steppenwolf (motion captured by Ciáran Hinds) emerges from his PlayStation 2 era cut scenes to try and acquire the three motherboxes, a MacGuffin that's barely explained and randomly distributed across the globe. Batman then pulls his team together (though it's never really explained why these guys are the best people for the mission) and tries to beat him to it. Realising that he needs to take down this ancient god with ANOTHER god, he decides to resurrect Superman (Henry Cavill, co-starring with his own CGI moustache removal).

Superman is one of the films elements that feels simultaneously right and wrong. Right in the sense that this is how the character should have always been portrayed – more in line with the ultimate Boy Scout that's at the heart of the character – but wrong for what Snyder has established with the character so far. No matter what your opinion is of Snyder’s DC films, he does have a distinct vision and this film feels like a calculated retreat out of that and a massive compromise that seems like its corporate mandate, rather than anything that he has insisted upon himself.

With the added Whedon influence, the film doesn't flow. The editing leaves plot holes galore and the drab colour scheme doesn't help the deflating feeling of the first two thirds. Things do pick up slightly in the last action section, but not enough for anyone to genuinely care about these characters or what might happen to them. Which is a shame, as this film should have been a major event. Seeing all of those great characters up on screen and quipping should be a great cinematic experience. That it isn't is a massive disappointment and you have to wonder, with the film's relatively poor box-office in comparison to its lofty budget, just where Warner Bros will go next.