Ever since Superman died, the world has been a different place. There does not seem to be any hope left now this symbol of the best humanity can aspire to has gone, and a nihilism has replaced that optimism, with terrorist groups springing up across the globe intent on bringing about their own form of chaos. In Gotham City, its defender the Caped Crusader Batman (Ben Affleck) has realised this parlous state, but also that there is something more to it: as if the great cynicism has attracted something unimaginably powerful that seeks to destroy us and feast on our agonies. He now knows what he must do. Batman must bring together the finest assembly of heroes ever to walk the Earth.
At least until Avengers: Infinity War opened the following year, anyway, as that was the main rival for the Justice League movie, DC and Marvel locked in mortal combat as far as the cinema went, and each with their own legions of cheerleaders battling endlessly online, as if it was impossible to enjoy certain Marvel and DC efforts and not appreciate others, thus acknowledging both companies had their good and bad points (and films). Marvel in particular had the feeling of a factory about their product, allowing directors with some degree of vision to have their way with their characters, yet ensuring they stuck to a rigid template of story beats they had to reach before the end credits.
Justice League, on the other hand, was something far more ramshackle, no matter how many untold millions of dollars had been spent creating it, and as a result came across as something with more makeshift personality than many of Marvel's slicker efforts. This cannot have been by design, and though it was a medium-sized hit it was the lowest-grossing of the DC franchise in this line, suggesting audiences could sense when there was a troubled production being served up to them. That was accurate, as director Zack Snyder had been replaced far into the process by Joss Whedon, thanks to family issues rather than creative differences, and Whedon had reshot and refashioned the results.
In effect, this presented the Snyder bombast with the Whedon cheekiness, and there were quite a few legitimate laughs here as if the film was almost apologetic about what it was asking you to enjoy. Certainly Affleck looked most abashed in his role as Bruce Wayne, and deeply unhappy whenever he had to don his bulky Batsuit, the sheen of perspiration on his chops difficult to ignore. His fellow League were filled out with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, the sole character to have received then-recent acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, who had his own vehicle the next year, Ezra Miller making with the wisecracks as the superfast Flash, and Ray Fisher as the wi-fi enabled Cyborg, the hero it was most tricky to be enthused about. But a certain important somebody was missing.
They talked him up for half the plot, but what they really wanted to battle the big baddie at the end was Superman (Henry Cavill), and it was a poorly kept secret that they would resurrect him as after all, along with Batman he was the most recognisable of DC's stable of adventurers and justice-seekers. There was a strong hint Snyder would have liked his other heroes to battle Supes, as seen in the sequence where he made his comeback, but they were actually combatting Steppenwolf, whose theme from Easy Rider they really hated because it had just been played too often for them to stand. Survivor were next on their hitlist. No, not really, he was another CGI creation voiced and mo-capped by Ciarán Hinds, leaving the impression Warners would have liked to have stuck with computer graphics from minute one, especially when the stunts and action relied so heavily on such artificial means that those with fond memories of the Justice League animated series would be having flashbacks. Though you could spot the spruced up reshoots, that demented air they conjured was not necessarily a bad thing, and if it was stuck with a bad reputation, this wasn't so bad, really. In fact, it was more guiltily enjoyable than you might expect if you forgot about the self-importance and simply settled down to see a big, dumb superhero flick shamelessly aping Marvel's Avengers formula. Music by Danny Elfman.