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First Do No Harm (a no-spoilers Justice League Review)

Remember how on my last review (Murder on the Orient Express) I said I was expecting to say “well, that was a movie” about Justice League as well?

Well…. I *GUESS* that was a movie… I mean… there were pictures and stuff… and they moved. Does that qualify? I’ve been going back and forth about the new Justice League film since I walked out of the theater. In fact, even before that while it was going on. Did I like it? Well…  not really. Did I not like it? Not really. Was it awful? Not really. Was it good? Certainly not! I’m not even sure it’s fair to say it’s “fine.” That seems like giving it more credit than it deserved. But I can’t say it was a disappointment either. It just sort of “was.”

Is that good enough? I’m not sure.

For all the failures of the DCEU, the one thing that Warner has done well, I think, is build towards a good managing of expectations. In a lot of the build-up to this, I’ve seen a lot of people saying stuff like “it doesn’t have to be good. I’ll take fine.” And a lot of the reviews said stuff like “the best the DCEU has had other than Wonder Woman” or “finally DC is on the right track.” And those are the good reviews.

But are they? Are they really? Or have they just lowered expectations to the point where you go in and say “well, that’s a DC movie. I guess that’s it.”

I will say that it is 100% better than Batman v. Superman. It is not remotely the train wreck that was. It is probably better than Suicide Squad as well, from a technical narrative point of view, though I thought that was more “fun.” It is certainly not as good as Wonder Woman.

The one thing it really excelled at doing was not offending me. And it’s weird that that’s an accomplishment. But I guess it kind of is. Early in his career, Conan O’Brien once said about his original late night show that he wasn’t trying to be the best. He was really just trying to hold on to as much of the after-Leno audience as he could and since he figured most people had fallen asleep during The Tonight Show his main goal was just to “not wake anyone up and make them turn off the TV.” That’s what I think the goal was here. “Let’s not get anyone to really hate us.” And I didn’t. There were no glaring plot holes. Murderous rampages by good guys were avoided. The movie didn’t stop midway to show trailers for other movies. There was no convoluted subplot involving a world class super-villain trying to trick a US senator into drink his pee (if you haven’t seen BvS… congratulations).

Of course, there wasn’t much else either. I don’t want to say nothing happened. A LOT happened. Probably way too much. There’s a LOT of plot in this. The storyline is convoluted and there are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. Luckily, it’s pretty easy because this is a story you’ve seen before. Several times. In a lot of superhero movies. There’s not really any interesting tweaks to this. It doesn’t say anything new. I can talk spoilers in the comments if anyone cares, but basically… you’ve seen this story before. This EXACT story. You’ve seen it better, but you’ve also seen it worse. But you’ve never seen it with Batman. And well… here’s your chance.

And that’s really what you’re getting here. You’re getting “the plot from that super team movie” only this time with “the DC heroes from that cartoon you watched as a kid.” And I hope you watched those cartoons as a kid, because if you didn’t… there’s not much reason to care about any of the reasons here. There are a lot of characters, and they aren’t really explained at all. Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman (yeah, if you think this is a spoiler, tough shit… his symbol is on the poster and he’s been in the trailers) are what they are. They’ve had other movies and the film just assumes “you get it.” Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg are given VERY minimal introductions. We learn a little bit about each of them. Flash is a little more fleshed out… in that the film sort of assumes some variation of his TV show origin, even though he is an entirely different character.  Aquaman and Cyborg… well, hopefully you read comics or have a friend you can ask questions to.

It’s almost as though this is just a comic or TV show in the middle of a series. There’s more or less an assumption that the universe was in progress… a universe similar to the one from BvS but pretending that a lot of the mistakes from that film simply didn’t happen. And if you aren’t clued into that universe, the film isn’t going to help you. Try to keep up.

But again. It’s not awful. There are some genuinely funny moments, especially from Ezra Miller as the Flash. There are some other “funny moments” that don’t land at all. The acting is mostly fine. Ben Affleck has been burned one time too many, so he just seems to take the script as it is. Gal Gadot doesn’t shine as much as she did in her solo film. Ray Fisher really doesn’t have enough to do. He’s mostly a very bad CGI character (the effects are NOT great in this movie) and since the movie doesn’t tell you much about Cyborg, he’s more plot device than anything. Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller seem to be so happy to be there that is actually kind of charming. Amber Heard is also… there… And I defy anyone who isn’t already a comic fan to see this movie and then explain to me what her purpose is. Or even what her character’s name is without reading the credits. The same goes for Steppenwolf. What’s his deal? What’s his story (and the film even tells you this one… sort of).

And that’s the shame of it. It’s barely a “movie.” It’s a collection of scenes that check off all of the boxes that are needed to “bring a comic to the screen” and tries to avoid a bunch of the “and for the love of God, please don’t do this!” checkboxes. And for the most part it does. Unlike the last time all of these characters were onscreen together, this doesn’t shit on the legacy of the fans. This is the “first do no harm” approach to filmmaking, and the reason this succeeds is that for the most part, they don’t.

Is that good enough? Maybe. This is why I complained about the “this is for the fans” argument before. Fans will accept a good movie or a bad one. So you might as well make a good one, because then perhaps you can generate more fans. That’s not going to happen here. There is absolutely no reason to pay to see this movie unless you are already a fan of the characters and you want to see them engage in superhero plot number three… just to see it (and yeah, in my head I have an idea of what at least the first five stock superhero plots are). If you’re stuck with the franchise this long… well, you should know what you’re getting by now. But this not going to turn anyone who isn’t already a fan onto the franchise. But hopefully, it probably won’t lose any either. And that’s at least a step up.

★★¼☆☆+? (2.25 out of 5 stars plus a bonus for having a score that features the kickass Wonder Woman theme song AND the Batman theme from the 1989 movie)



43 comments for “First Do No Harm (a no-spoilers Justice League Review)

  1. November 17, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    @ [ Vicky Rahmawati ➤➤ Watch or Visit JUSTICE LEAGUE ✅ Full Movie HD

  2. November 17, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    @ [ Gerald Alonso➡ watchnew➡Thor Ragnarok(2017)

  3. November 18, 2017 at 4:10 am

    Ah well. I actually just rewatched Wonder Woman recently, and it did not hold up well. This compared to MCU films that I rewatch on a regular basis. Damn you DC!

    1. November 18, 2017 at 4:15 am

      Yeah. I only gave Wonder Woman 3.25 out of 5.

      And I felt like I was being generous even then. People wanted to call it 5⭐️ and a few argued with me that I was stupid for not seeing that. It was fine. It was even above average. This one is a little below average but not much.

    2. November 18, 2017 at 4:18 am

      I’ll admit, I was thrilled and awed by the first 20 minutes. There was something incredible about watching an all female cast. And throughout the film, there were jokes that you heard all female voices laughing at. Since I don’t enjoy traditionally “female” films, I’ve never been to the movies before with a mostly female crowd. It was more impactful than I’d expected. In retrospect, that heavily impacted my feelings on the movie. Watching it alone didn’t have nearly the same affect.

    3. November 18, 2017 at 4:31 am

      Right…. It was an IMPORTANT film. But it was not a perfect one.

      I got into an argument with people who were saying that it was a shoe in for a couple Oscars, Definitely Best Picture! I said maybe it gets nominated for BP just because of popularity, but it won’t win. It’s not even the best superhero movie of the year (Logan was and still is). Then they started talking about “well, it won’t win BP just because the academy hate comics and are unfair, but she should definitely win best actress because Heath Ledger won for the Joker” And I said she won’t even get the best actress nomination. And people got mad at me. Called me sexist. Which I still don’t get. All the actresses getting nominated there are women… cuz that’s the award.

      Wonder Woman was fine. It was enjoyable. It is the best superhero movie starring a woman ever…. out of the 4 that exist. But it’s may not even be in my top ten films of the year anymore. It’s just that most people don’t watch many movies.

    4. November 18, 2017 at 4:48 am

      I hate it when people insist that ____ *should* win best ____ at the oscars and if it/she/he doesn’t, it’s all because of bias!!

      Um, about 800+ movies come out each year. Unless that person has seen them all, how the hell can that claim be made?

    5. November 18, 2017 at 4:59 am

      Yeah. It’s really hard if all you watch is super hero movies. Even if all you watch is just blockbusters.

      I mean i like superheroes more than almost anyone, obviously. But There’s just lots out there.

    6. November 18, 2017 at 11:30 am

      For me, it is rewatchable because every time I get to watch my 5 yr old daughter stare in awe at ferocious ladies

    7. November 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

      I think it’s rewatchable. I’ve seen it twice. It also gets a bonus if you’re looking for “5yo staring at ferocious ladies” because your options are limited.

  4. November 18, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Your review made me wonder if you’d prefer the Christopher Reeves Superman movie series and the Michael Keaton Batmans to what we’re currently getting. I thought those movies were mostly coherent and had some good performances.

    1. November 18, 2017 at 5:06 am

      That’s a complicated question. There’s two ways to look at it. Evaluating the films in their own context and evaluating them overall.

      The reeves Superman movies get a sort of “pass” in that they really were a massive achievement. Nothing like them had ever been done before. Obviously they don’t totally hold up. I enjoy them and i like them better than BvS. But they’re not GREAT. In fact they’re probably on par with this in a vacuum. The first two are maybe a little better. Wonder Woman is better than either. They don’t even come close to Logan or Dark Knight.

      The Keaton Batman movies are better than Superman. Or at least hold up better. But probably are still middle of the road against the whole genre. Wonder Woman is still a little better.

      But innovation matters. If I have to choose just ONE superhero movie to watch ever again in my life I wouldn’t pick Keaton or Reeves.

  5. November 18, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Ya it wasn’t good but i liked the fact the characters where in it ha

    1. November 18, 2017 at 5:11 am

      And I think that’s completely a fair thing to want. It’s just that it’s hard to say anything critical about it. Unlike BvS where i was actively annoyed the whole time and could complain, here it was more like “well, yep… that’s Batman and Superman alright”. And if that’s what you’re looking for… well there they are.

  6. November 18, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Beyond Here Be Dragons!
    You have been warned…

    Ok…. So at the end of the day, this is what I think I am calling SuperHero Movie Plot #3 (I should write up a post of “The Standard Superhero Movie Plots” next week):

    It goes like this… “there is a horde that is an infinite army of faceless humanoid, but not human so we can kill them, creatures are invading from another realm(planet, dimension, the underworld) are spilling out onto earth through a giant hole in the sky. The horde is led by a SFX/CGI heavy villain who has ALL THE POWER and is set on remaking reality in his image and ruling the world… for reasons. No one hero can beat the horde by himself, so he must assemble a team! Team gets together and punches the horde to death while they work to find the McGuffin and “do the thing” to it. Doing the thing will close the hole in the sky, and suck the horde out of our reality. Lots of punch and killing until the team can get their hands on the McGuffin and work together to do the thing and close the hole. The world lives happily ever after.”

    In this movie, the McGuffin is called “the Motherboxes” and “doing the thing” is separating them. The part of CGI Villain will be played by Steppenwolf. Other films with this plot include Avengers and Suicide Squad. It is notable for being the plot to literally EVERY Ghostbusters movie.

    1. November 18, 2017 at 6:52 am

      This plot is so common that it seems almost weird to call it a “spoiler”. Like, it seems like if a movie maker has chosen this plot, they must not really think “plot” is the thing to hang their hat on for audience enjoyment.

    2. November 18, 2017 at 6:58 am

      agreed. And that’s exactly how this film treats it. I just wrote the spoiler tags because I know someone would complain if I didn’t.

      And I’m pretty sure that was the mindset that Snyder/Whedon had here. “Look, this isn’t about plot. Lets just use #3 and make this about seeing the DCEU characters in it.

      Like it’s impossible to like this movie even if a little bit if you care about the plot at all… unless you REALLY LOVE plot #3 and will see any plot #3 movie that comes out.

    3. November 18, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Chris Maverick I like plot #3 but only when it is done with some dressing around it that I enjoy. (The first ghostbusters, the lady ghostbusters, the avengers.) if the DC movies have managed to make me give 0 fucks about Batman, i feel like plot #3 is not going to rescue that for me.

      (I have a whole Pinterest board just for Batman things, and not a single recent DC movie has anything on it. That’s how badly DC has handled me with this franchise.)

    4. November 18, 2017 at 11:36 am

      That’s definitely a problem here. There’s sort of a feeling that if they don’t close the hole everyone might die… and as a viewer part of you wants to say “oh well”.

    5. November 18, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      100% agree, it’s a great vehicle to get me interested in these characters solo films.

    6. November 18, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Link: the problem is there was zero chance you weren’t going to see any of them anyway.

      The accomplishment is when it gets other people.

  7. November 18, 2017 at 6:31 am

    So I’ll probably wait for it on be on TNT

    1. November 18, 2017 at 6:35 am

      as per my standard movie rating scale:

      I certainly can’t recommend anyone go out and spend money to see this on the big screen. I mean, it is VISUAL so if that means something to you… sure, I guess… but you’re probably better off using those dollars on Thor or Blade Runner if you want to see something pretty on the big screen in theaters now.

      So really, the reason to see this is “I am very invested in the DCEU characters and I want to see THEM on the big screen.” Without that… not really.

    2. November 18, 2017 at 8:08 am


  8. November 18, 2017 at 7:07 am

    So, are the DCU movies still using the Zach Snyder visual style? I’ve never cared for his aesthetic sensibility.

    1. November 18, 2017 at 7:17 am

      not exactly… Or less so. So this is a weird movie because it’s not totally clear where Snyder ends and Whedon begins.

      So like Wonder Woman had this thing happening where Jenkins was being herself but also very clearly trying to tonally connect with Snyder (probably by producer mandate) and it was certainly noticeable.

      Here we have (what I assume is) Whedon trying to correct some of the less popular Snyderisms and a clear attempt to connect to some of the more popular visual aesthetics of Jenkins.

      It doesn’t come across as schizophrenic as it sounds. It actually meshes together in a way that feels… “very comic booky”. In fact, it feels more comic booky than most Marvel movies. The best way I can describe it is “what if there was a natural evolution of the Batman 66 aesthetic over the last 50 years… you’d have this.” Sort of like Schumaker was trying to do in his films.

      And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It won’t be for everyone. But it’s a cohesive and interesting look.

      LIke, it doesn’t look “real.” Nolan did everything he could to say “this is Batman in “the real world” and it felt like Snyder was trying to do that same sort of thing with his other DC films (though not in a way that worked). This feels more like “what if comics WERE the real world” which is… different.

    2. November 18, 2017 at 7:19 am

      Yeah, the MCU definitely doesn’t succeed on its visual style either, but it’s not off-putting. It’s just sort of neutral. (A little oddly neutral given the subject matter.)

    3. November 18, 2017 at 7:20 am

      right… and I think the MCU style lends itself a little more to “give the director his own aesthetic so long as he blends with ours”

      this DOES NOT feel whedony or snydery. It feels like it’s own thing. Not really a thing that i WANT but I’m not put off by it either. It’s just feels distinct and like “Well that’s a choice”

  9. November 18, 2017 at 9:03 am

    It’s a really fantastic movie. I had a blast. I like it just as much as I did the AVENGERS, which critics praised for the exact same reasons they seem to be tearing this one apart.

    1. November 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

      So i think I was pretty fair to it. Though spoilers vague. And I did in fact hint that it is literally the exact same story as avengers 1 (aka plot #3).

      We can debate the relative differences as to why I think A1 was (a little) better than this (like 3⭐️).

      But I’m more interested in the anti critic part. Do you really honestly think that there’s a conspiracy where people are hating on this just because it’s WB/DC?

    2. November 18, 2017 at 10:24 am

      I don’t think it’s a “conspiracy” as in “methodically planned and purposeful” but I think there is a definite, undeniable bias, yes.

    3. November 18, 2017 at 11:02 am

      So what I’m getting at here is that I really don’t think there is.

      How are you defining bias. There’s nothing to be gained by any critic, popular or academic (myself included), by not liking something. In fact, quite tr opposite. People much prefer articles that agree with them and that tell them to like stuff. My stats are WAY better on good reviews. The only exception is when I have the opposite view of most other articles. Like I got a lot of attention for being anti-falconcap because I was sort of relevant and I was smarter than the people who were just whining because they wanted whitecap.

      So it’s not really a bias so much as a lack of bias. Specifically you’re talking about people who really like a thing. Say movies. Or superheroes. Like I’ve literally devoted my life to this. I can honestly say that I watch more of these than 99% of the people on the planet. And I WANT them to all be good. Like a lot. Both because I want there to be more for personal enjoyment and I want people to like me and what I have to say for selfish reasons.

      But the problem with the DC films is that they’re being built in such a way that they’re not “doing anything”. I honestly do think they are “movies for the fans”. But that’s stupid. If your only goal is to create a collection of Easter eggs to follow so people who already know the eggs can hunt for them… well… fine.

      But a fan is going to like a good movie or a bad one. So you might as well make a good one and pick up new fans.

      This movie doesn’t do that.

      And there are critical reasons why. And it’s my job to analyze those. It does better than BvS. But i would argue not as well as Suicide Squad (despite it being more tightly written than the latter).

      Yes it corrected the darkness of BvS. But that honestly didn’t bother me. The Nolanverse is dark (which is why Snyder did it in the first place). But most of the “fixes” were simple tangible bullet point fixes. Not integral artistic meaningful changes. They were all aesthetic. Brighten to colors. Sprinkle some humorous quips in. Don’t gratuitously kill civilians.

      What it didn’t do is work to create a meaningful artistic or engaging story for the viewer. It counts on the viewer adding a priori knowledge. The Harry Potter films are guilty of this too. Especially at the beginning.

      Key points. The film literally never tells you who Mera is. Her name isn’t even mentioned. She’s just there and she does stuff. I had to explain her to the non comic fan I was there with. Steppenwolf is almost as vague. Diana glances over some backstory but it isn’t fleshed out. The film just basically says “keep up”. Flash is super funny. But mostly his origin is “here’s some quick beats. Just assume it’s the same as that cartoon you’re watching”. Batman teases Aquaman about talking to fish in a vague way that was really funny to me… because I know the history of “aquaman is lame” jokes. But it’s not earned in “this film”. If you don’t know what he CAN do and what the jokes pretend he can do, it makes no sense.

      Marvel has similar problems with Avengers. I HATE Thor’s teleporting onto the plane for instance. But they had more leeway because they chose the slow burn introductions of making 4 films before bringing the team together. The audience has a reason to care about everyone. It’s meaningful when Coulson dies because people know who he is by then.

      What didn’t work in Avengers was Hawkeye. He’s got “a blink and you miss it” cameo scene in Thor. But then Avengers asks you to care that the least powerful guy, who you know the least about is kidnapped and brainwashed in like the opening scene. And the character never really recovers for most people. So much so that people gave him less of a chance in A:AoU where he has a much stronger arc.

      In this movie, flash, cyborg and aquaman are all basically Hawkeye. It’s like “trust us… they’re important”. But it’s not shown. It’s not earned. It played like a two part episode in the middle of a season.

    4. November 18, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      I feel as if, culturally, we all know who Flash and Aquaman are. Like, you could ask someone on the street “Do you know who Aquaman is?” and they would probably mention him talking to fish or being lame or wearing that ugly orange and green outfit. Cyborg certainly is the “Who?” character unless you’re a big comic nerd.

    5. November 20, 2017 at 6:15 am

      That doesn’t make it a good movie. You need to know who THIS aquaman and flash are. And I don’t think they’re as universal as you do. You’re counting on childhood knowledge that is both very subcultural and of a very particular age.

    6. November 20, 2017 at 6:19 am

      I was never saying it was a good movie, I’m just saying it’s the same reason we can see a Spider-Man film and know that Uncle Ben is dead and Great Power Great Responsibility, etc. without them doing flashbacks or even mentioning the character.

      People with vague interest in comics know these touchstones. It’s more or less what you were talking about in your presentation regarding mythos of characters and peoples “true copies” and such.

    7. November 20, 2017 at 6:22 am

      Yeah. I get that. I’m saying I don’t think it’s fair to put flash or aquaman on that level.

      Batman, Superman and Spider-Man are in that level. Maybe hulk. I don’t even think Wonder Woman is there. Certainly not flash and aquaman.

    8. November 20, 2017 at 7:01 am

      I only put Flash in that category because of the Arrowverse. At the very least, people know these shows exist, whether they watch them or not.

      They may not know everything there is to know about Barry’s father in prison because of a time traveling speedster, etc. etc. but at the very least they probably know that the Flash has a lightning bolt logo, wears red, and is fast.

      They know that Aquaman is some aquatic superhero (that much can just be inferred from the name), possibly that he’s from Atlantis, and possibly that he talks to fish and is a lame superhero if they’ve listened to any stand-up comedians throughout the ’90s.

      I basically use the ‘parent test’ on judging this stuff, personally. If my parents know who or what something is (especially my father), then I consider it more common knowledge than exclusive geek nerd knowledge. Most of my exposure to comic characters when I was growing up and living under their roof were through non-comic media, whether that was cartoons, videogames, or trading cards. I had never read Aquaman comics or anything, and I think I learned everything about him through commercials for the Super Friends cartoon reruns.

      But, I’m also of the opinion that there are specific types of people who are going to watch a superhero movie, and these people have some vague notion/interest in superheroes. I don’t think DC (or anyone) is trying to lure in people who aren’t interested in superheroes at this point. I know plenty of people who actively dislike the genre and avoid them (similar to the people who brag that they’ve never seen a Star Wars film in their entire life.)

    9. November 20, 2017 at 7:12 am

      I realize there might be bias in that since it’s based off my own experiences with people only aware of comics through pop culture, but I’d be curious to see actual “man on the street” type interviews/polls on that subject based off age demographics and such.

  10. November 18, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Was Jason Momoa any good?

    1. November 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      He was very attractive.

    2. November 18, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Not enough shirtless scenes. But i appreciated the eye candy. And his character was also enjoyable!

    3. November 18, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      That might be worth the price of admission. I guess fish guys don’t have to do the salmon ladder.

    4. November 18, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      He’s actually amusing. For what’s there. Which isn’t much. At least he is during his interactions with the team. I mostly hated the scene where he was alone. Not really his fault. It was a horribly written scene.

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