If you’re running a marathon you can’t expect to show up on the day and ace it without months of hard work first. That’s the big problem with Justice League: it wants all the glory of a satisfying superhero team up without first putting in the leg work.

Only half the team have featured in movies prior to Justice League, so the film is tasked with introducing a bunch of new characters. Aquaman and The Flash are haphazardly thrown into the mix without any attempt to develop their characters, while Cyborg spends his introductory scenes moping around like a teenager who’s had their phone confiscated. Of all the fresh faces he fares the worst, making the planned Cyborg solo movie a very unappealing prospect.

Attempting to distance itself from the bloated Batman v Superman, this sequel never stops for breath in its lean two-hour runtime. Unfortunately, it ends up having the opposite problem. Characters are left undefined and plot points are often thrown by the wayside in order to quickly move onto the next action sequence.

The plot itself follows the typical comic-book movie formula to a fault. The Avengers wisely used an already-established villain to unite their heroes, but Justice League opts for an entirely new foe in the form of CGI monstrosity Steppenwolf. He’s about as bland as antagonists come, lacking any real character or depth, with his sole motivation being global destruction because he’s evil and that’s what big evil aliens do.

The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa) absolutely steal the show. They consistently deliver hilarious quips and are the most visually interesting heroes on the team by far. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) does well with her action sequences, but struggles outside of them with some questionable line delivery. Meanwhile, after just two outings Ben Affleck seems thoroughly bored in the role of Batman.

The most surprising thing about Justice League is how downright ugly it is. There is an abundance of poor CGI which is particularly noticeable on Henry Cavill’s face, edited to remove the moustache he was legally required to grow for the upcoming Mission: Impossible 6. With effects this bad, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the $300 million budget went towards.

Justice League serves only to remind the viewer of just how impressive The Avengers really was. Perhaps five years ago the mere sight of these iconic heroes sharing the screen together would have been enough to awe audiences, but the novelty of these crossovers has long-since subsided. This is what the film fundamentally misunderstands. But hey, at least it’s better than Suicide Squad.

★★☆☆☆

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