Let's dive into the first and most important part of the film: the characters. Specifically, does the Justice League as a team dynamic work? Well, for starters, the three new characters individually have decent personality traits to them (even though we don't know too much about them overall). You have Jason Momoa as Aquaman, the strong and burly type from the sea who takes some persuasion to join the team. Although he's not their comic relief, he does get one really hilarious scene (I'm not going to give it away) which almost made it worth the price of admission. Otherwise, Momoa does fine with the role, and the film does take some time to shed light on his home in Atlantis. Ray Fisher, who plays Cyborg, also takes some persuasion to join, but he also does fine with the role and is given an interesting dichotomy between the human and machine parts of his being. The funniest character by far is Ezra Miller as the Flash, which is not surprising but actually handled better than previously anticipated. There were only maybe two or three quips which didn't especially work in context, but the rest felt perfectly natural and wasn't really distracting at all. Humor? in a DCEU film? THAT WORKS?! It's true.
The two major returning players, of course, are Ben Affleck and Gal Godot as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince respectively. Sadly, each of them have their own problems, which end up doing more harm than good considering they were previously so well-established. Both Affleck and Gadot were one of the best aspects of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because, even know we didn't know too much about them in the DCEU beforehand, the actors injected so much life and personality that it was easy to believe they were born to play their respective roles. Here, it doesn't work as well for a few reasons, although don't get me wrong, the two still do a fine job as the characters.
Many critics have claimed that Affleck appeared to be disinterested throughout the entirety he appears onscreen as Batman. In all honesty, they aren't that wrong. Affleck, like Ezra Miller, does have several well-conceived moments of comedy, but his downright depressing approach to conveying that humor is distracting, leading some of his jokes to either not land at all or just be given the wrong tone. The bigger picture ongoing during the main storyline is that the world is dealing with the death of Superman, which does affect Bruce (as it should!) in Justice League. However, when there are moments in the script it's clear that he's passing off a bit of humor, it doesn't translate well because every other feeling he's experiencing just interferes, creating a major disjoint in tone and pacing. Again, this is only for some of his jokes, not all of them. Otherwise, Affleck approaches the role in the exact same way as BvS, so don't expect too many major changes occurring with his character.
Once again, Gal Godot is great as Wonder Woman. It's really difficult to imagine someone else taking her place because of how well she makes this character her own. Her solo film especially proved that. However, because she's such a strong character compared to the rest of the team, she does stick out when comparing the dynamic as a whole. On top of this, she really doesn't go through that much difference (or for that matter, character development) from start to finish. This formulaic approach isn't handled well and ultimately doesn't do much to amount to anything important.
None of the main cast really change that much, to be honest. They have their own lives, meet up to face a greater threat, and save the earth. Getting to that point just feels like a chore, even though the film is only 2 hours long. Most of the time, they're just brooding over the same basic feelings of grief and uncertainty, and the same two storylines (that being Superman's death and Steppenwolf's quest). Like Batman v Superman, Justice League suffers from Zack Snyder's insistency on trudging the film forward through the worst kind of basic story and character development, and once again is it poorly executed. When the Justice League are united, it is simply to drive the story forward and function within the most bare-minimum plot ever devised for a superhero film. The characters on their own, however, are not fully well-rounded for what was presented onscreen, but does have the promise of more exciting adventures for them in future films (should they be made).
The supporting cast - oh, that's another story. Most of them are all reduced to cameo material, and not in a good way. Queen Hippolyta returns only to advance the Steppenwolf plot forward. The only other prominent Atlantean besides Aquaman is the King, who isn't around for very long either. J.K. Simmons is new to the DCEU as Commissioner James Gordon, but he also isn't really given much to work with and, like Hippolyta, serves to advance the plot forward. Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Bruce's butler, is one of the more prominent supporting characters and partly helps to tie the team together, but that's about it. Finally, two other supporting characters return - Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Diane Lane as Martha Kent (Clark's mother)... we'll get to them shortly.
The major problems with Justice League are that all of its best aspects (characters, humor, etc.) are not given that much to work with or are just so disinteresting that it doesn't work anyway. Any philosophical or symbolic overtones expressed thematically are once again blown out of proportion and sometimes incredibly confusing. The story especially is just so basic that one can't help but wonder what the real point was for the team to come together in the first place. It's necessary because Steppenwolf and his army of parademons is a threat to the planet, but... that's it. The villains are not especially a real threat to begin with until they acquire the MacGuffins, and that's what they spend most of their time doing anyway. The stakes aren't very high since the outcome is so obvious, thus presenting a number of cliches and formulaic quotes/action scenes done countless times in such boring fashion. Even the final battle, as visually impressive as it can get at times, is so boring because there are no surprises or mysteries at all, especially with one specific twist in the film (which we'll also get to shortly). It's a shame because Steppenwolf is such a prominent villain in DC lore that to see him get reduced to a bland, uninteresting, and really bad video-game levels of villain stereotyping is incredibly upsetting.
The visuals are definitely the best representation of everything that's good and bad with Justice League. At times, they work well and do justice (again, no pun intended... okay, not really) to Snyder's visions of how he imagines the comic-book world to be. At other times (and there's a lot of them), they look so unfinished and are also very distracting. The final battle especially, but that's mostly against the armies that the Justice League fights. The slow motion (because it wouldn't be a Zack Snyder film without slow motion, right) also sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Its best moments actually help to tell how the twist in the film is structured. Joss Whedon's work on postproduction for the film equally stands out as well, but not in a good way for 70% of the time, making the film also incredibly disjointed at times.
And what's the twist? Surprising absolutely no one AT ALL, the Justice League decides to take one of the MacGuffins to resurrect Clark Kent from the dead. If one was irked by all of the Jesus Christ similarities/religious symbolism many people constantly interpreted in this version of Superman, then it isn't going to stop any time soon. Superman's death occurred with his completely unnecessary sacrifice in Batman v Superman, only to be brought back three DCEU films later to fight even more bad guys. That religious parallel is a stretch, but regardless, this is so forced down the rabbit hole that any representations or ideals of hope by and for humanity presented in Justice League are skewed. This has proven to be one of the major themes in the DCEU, especially for Superman, and to see it be led so astray is really annoying. This major point of Superman's character arc (both his death and resurrection) are so unnecessary in the DCEU, and this film proves even further that the idea should have been entertained much later in the planning stages of this expanded universe.
How the twist is handled in Justice League, though, is mostly well done. Clark, being dead for who knows how long, doesn't remember too much from the start and actually fights the rest of the Justice League, even finally getting his payback with Bruce Wayne. It turns out to be one of the strongest scenes in the entire movie, if not the best action scene because (as opposed to the villains) there are real stakes here and Superman can be a real threat when getting on his bad side. The entire team put together is literally no match for Clark. And just when one thinks it's about to get even better than that... it doesn't.
Amy Adams, back as Lois Lane, is once again so wasted and so unnecessary in Justice League. So is Diane Lane as Clark's mother. Both of them serve to help Clark gain his memories back and remind him of his connections to humanity, but it's been done before (multiple times!!!!!), is essentially repeated from previous DCEU films, and does nothing but to distract the film from getting to its climatic battle quickly. It's difficult to even remember 99% of Lois's scenes in the movie because they're so short and so cliched. Obviously, when she tends to Clark, those scenes couldn't have been cut, but in all honesty, Superman's return to form could have been handled a lot better in the grand scheme of the DCEU.
Actually, in a surprising turn of events, Henry Cavill as Superman seems to have really found his mold here. Maybe it's because this is his third film and he's more used to approaching the character now, with audiences now more accustomed to him portraying the superhero, but it really seems to work here in comparison to his previous films. Part of this is definitely because Cavill is not in the film for very long, so he is not as embroiled in the plot holes and other annoyances prevalent throughout, even though there are plenty more present in his character (yeah, the post-production work on removing Cavill's mustache? Frightening CGI. Just frightening.) like the same issues telling his backstory/dealing with Lois.
The final jarring thing about Justice League is actually the musical score. Enthusiasts of the previous Batman and Superman films beyond the DCEU will definitely appreciate the nods provided by composer Danny Elfman to his previous work and John Williams's iconic march for Superman. It's a good heroic score by its own merits and does the best job with what it can work with. Given the musical and sound design that Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL previously established in the DCEU, though, there is definitely going to be a divide split right down the middle over whether or not Elfman's score is really appropriate for this franchise. Personal feelings aside, there has to be some form of respect for those who appreciate Zimmer/Junkie's sound world. Elfman's music does work, but as always, there will be intensive debates about its merit in the DCEU.
So how does Justice League compare to the rest of the series so far? Well, it's not a good film by any means. While the characters really are decent, the story is convoluted again and some of the plot choices are either arbitrary or just plain stupid. The visual effects are either super distracting or just okay; they're not groundbreaking or revolutionary by any means, but some of them are fine. The editing of the film is also a little distracting; Joss Whedon's work on postproduction is obvious and there are definitely moments when it feels like a completely different movie altogether, although credit should be given to the postproduction team for really making this film a mostly Zack Snyder product.
Most of the major issues in Justice League have been prevalent throughout the majority of the DCEU to begin with, so seeing them reappear after how fantastic Wonder Woman was is incredibly disappointing, though expected. I want to see this series succeed - I really do - because there is so much potential for them to be able to accomplish this. I want DC to prove that Wonder Woman wasn't just a fluke, but Justice League unfortunately isn't the film to assert this. Instead of crafting a well-rounded story grounded solely in a group of superheroes teaming together to save the day, it still has the issue of using terrible ideas from the series' past films, promising too much to come in the future, and not focusing hard enough on its strengths. Yes, it is better than Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, but that is really not saying much at all.
The truth is that we can argue to the fans of the DCEU every day that we think they deserve better from these characters, and that's true to an extent, but a group does exist who really loves this series because there is something about the style and tone which they can really grasp on to and appreciate. DC is finally making good strides for their characters, though, and it shows with how well they're handled in Justice League. With the right people on board and given just the right push, DC will hopefully try and do more to push the boundaries of this expanded universe by tapping into really creative, interesting, insightful, and inventive things. For now, they aren't quite there yet, but there is potential. And, hope.
Justice League is definitely not the answer which will get everyone onboard with the DCEU, but it should be appreciated for the steps it's taking in the right direction. There is potential to do better, and it can be seen with this film in particular, but the DCEU still has a long way to go if it wants to keep on improving and changing. Hopefully, with the right people onboard, that's exactly what they will continue to do.