Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review #20

Paragon Pundit Hero Movie Review
#20: The Justice League of America TV Movie

A hero in Paragon City recently wondered what my review would be of the live-action Justice League movie.

Well, you asked for it…

I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads when the words “live-action” and “Justice League” come about. Most people know of the Justice League - the all-star superhero team of DC Comics - only through the animated groups, either in the “Justice League” animated series, the direct-to-video movies (which I will get to later), “Super Friends”, or the 1967 episodes of “The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure”. But, yes, there WERE live-action incarnations as well, much to the regret and overall embarrassment of the hero community.

The first live-action incarnation of the “Justice League” was the “Legends of the Superheroes” specials that were known best for reuniting the campy “Batman” characters headed by Adam West, Burt Ward, and Frank Gorshin. It was super-campy and super-lame, and it made you want to burn your Spandex outfit just for even knowing it exists.

The second incarnation was a 1997 TV movie that was supposed to be a back-door pilot to a future TV series, but thankfully that series never materialized, and the TV movie never EVER aired on American television.

So how did anyone know it even existed? Well, it never aired on any AMERICAN television station. But it aired in a few countries, and a few of those folks taped it and sold the footage in bootleg markets along with the X-rated “Supergirl” parody, the pre-released Roger Corman “Fantastic Four” movie, and a few others.

This movie starred Kimberly Oja, John Kassir, Matthew Settle, Michelle Hurd, Kenny Johnston, David Ogden Stiers, and Miguel Ferrer. It takes place in the fictional city of New Metro. Why they chose to make up a name like “New Metro” instead of taking from already-established cities in the DC Comics universe like Star City, Keystone City, Coast City, Empire City, Gateway City, Happy Harbor, Park City, or even Dairyland (that’s an old “Super Friends” reference), is probably one of a million things that shouldn’t matter.

We start with a bunch of heroes in their civilian attire struggling to live day-by-day. Shy and awkward Tori Olafsdotter (Oja) works at the local weather institute, who, along with her boss, Dr. Eno (Ferrer) observes a huge storm spawning in the middle of the city. Barry Allen (Johnston) is a slacker who got kicked out of his apartment but was called away while his now-ex-landlord was trashing his stuff. Guy Gardner (Settle) is trying to impress his girlfriend, but obviously his plans are ruined by the developing storm. B.B. Da Costa (Hurd) is auditioning for a fruit-themed commercial when the storm forces her to leave. Ray Palmer’s (Kassir) class is interrupted by a mysterious call as well as the sudden storm. Tori and Eno watch as a tornado appears in the city after watching video footage of “The Weatherman” laying claim to the damage and destruction that was to come.

As the city is trashed, we see the heroes save the day in their own unique ways. Guy, as Green Lantern, saves a boy from a downed power line. B.B., as Fire, cuts through a metal wall with her flames to save trapped construction workers. Barry, as The Flash, uses his super-speed to counter the winds and bring the storm to a quick end. And Ray, as The Atom, shrinks down… to rescue a trapped cat. Yes, that is his great contribution to this crisis.

Crisis averted, and later on Tori discovers a mysterious machine in a locked room at the institute, which she spills some water on and it hits her with some strange electricity. She seems okay, but afterward random things around her just freeze. She tries to rescue a drowning man, but the water freezes around him when she comes in contact with it. Later she is abducted and interrogated by the heroes about what she knows of The Weatherman. She’s released and is convinced that the whole abduction and interrogation thing was just a bad dream.

The Weatherman soon strikes again, this time with a hailstorm in the heart of New Metro, and a threat to the city to pay him $20 million “or else”. The hail ruins Guy’s date (again) and this time around he has to save his girlfriend as Green Lantern long enough for Fire to melt the hailstones above them.

Later at the institute’s fundraiser, the League members infiltrate themsevles in the crowd, allowing Ray to befriend Tori in his civilian guise. Ray then sneaks himself into the computer system (with a really BAD version of laser limbo) to discover the devices that The Weatherman used to manipulate the weather. Tori finds out that her boss is really The Weatherman and goes to Ray looking for help. The League takes her (blindfolded) to their underwater headquarters, which is a crashed alien ship. There Tori meets J’onn J’onzz (Stiers). J’onn asks Tori to join the League, promising to help train her in using her powers, which mostly consists of the Leaguers walking around shivering as Tori tries to freeze a simple drop of water in front of her.

Eno tricks Tori into bringing a tracking device to the League’s headquarters, and then Eno threatens to destroy New Metro with a tidal wave and sends a heat ray to the underwater ship. The League (except for J’onn, who thinks that 300 degrees is a “summer day”) escape to “deal” with the impending disaster, which consists of Flash running around scurrying abandoned children to safety, Atom riding on Fire’s shoulders looking around like idiots, and Lantern finding Eno and not being able to stop the tidal wave even though HE HAS A POWER RING! That leaves dazed-and-confused Tori, who somehow manages to stop the tidal wave by freezing it solid, even though she couldn’t freeze a drop of water earlier.

Later, Tori ponders over joining the League, and is finally convinced to join when Atom removes his mask and reveals himself to her as Ray Palmer. At that point she takes the unspoken pledge and J’onn welcomes her to the Justice League. We end the movie with a quick recap cast list of the “public” heroes, followed by them doing the “Buckaroo Banzai Strut” down the city. If you don’t know what that is, you need to see the end credits to “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension”, or the opening credits to Joss Wheaton’s “Angel” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, or the opening to the “Justice League” animated series. I just think of it as the “Buckaroo Banzai Strut” and start whistling the theme song.

There… I just saved you guys some bootleg video money.

Of course, all through this movie are little “human” troubles… such as Barry not being able to keep a job, Guy losing his girlfriend, Ray not being able to fix anything, and B.B. with a stalker-like suitor who accidentally discovers her secret identity. Oh, and did I mention they all (except for Tori) live in the same house? Well they have to now because Barry lost his apartment.

Let’s see… where do I begin with this abomination?

Right off the bat… a Justice League WITHOUT “The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” sucks. No Batman, no Superman, and no Wonder Woman means that it SUCKS. There is no way around it. It SUCKS. Period.

Of course I can understand why they wouldn’t want to include Superman after the whole Nuclear Man shtick. And the Batman franchise had JUST tanked with “Batman and Robin”. Bringing in Wonder Woman at that point would… well it would result in plenty of Freudian jokes and references about her chest. Plus it would be hard to see anyone play the most famous star-spangled Amazon after Lynda Carter did it so well.

About the only things missing from this “Super-Buddies” group are Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Oberon, and either Doctor Light or Power Girl, although with the latter you would again deal with Freudian jokes about chests. But even that would be a step above the banter they do give.

With the exception of Guy Gardner, the costumes SUCK. Atom and Flash both have masks that look like the ridges of J’onn’s brow. Atom looks like a linebacker in his costume. And Flash… I’m sorry, but for a man with supposedly a hyper-accelerated metabolism, he looks like he wolfed down fifty pizzas before squeezing into his Spandex. Fire and Tori (who is only referred to as “Ice” in the credits and is only seen in-costume then) use colored mascara and a shock of color in their hair as their disguise. And people aren’t supposed to know who they are? And for a shape-shifter, J’onn seems to emulate less like a hero and more like Orson Wells, but I suppose that is understandable given the casting.

That brings us to the characters… which also SUCK. Guy Gardner as a sensitive and understanding software salesman? Guy Gardner is a special needs coach and a major league d-bag who wanted EVERYONE from day one to know that he was a Green Lantern. Barry Allen is a police scientist… not to mention - at that time - very, very DEAD. Wally West would have been a better fit for the comedic slacker role. Ray Palmer is a physicist and noted expert in nanotechnology, not a goofy high school teacher who can’t even fix a TV set. Fire and Ice are international fashion models who used their hero status to further their careers. The people seen in this movie are NOTHING AT ALL like the comic book characters they are supposed to be. It’s almost as though the producers told a bunch of clueless writers who have never read a comic book in their lives “Here are a bunch of names and costumes - go make something up that doesn’t look too much like a rip-off of a certain popular NBC sitcom.”

The story… or what little there is of it… also SUCKS. We’re talking “Justice League Antarctica” sucks. We’re talking Bat-Credit-Card SUCKS. We’re talking Superman God-Gaze with amnesia kiss SUCKS.

Guy Gardner has the most powerful ring in the universe, capable of moving whole planets, and he can’t save the Weather Device from being thrown off a tower, block a heat ray, open an elevator door, or stop a tidal wave? Fire couldn’t evaporate the rushing water? Flash couldn’t set up a counter-wave with his vibrations? No it’s all up to Tori, who couldn’t even freeze a drop of water in a Petri dish, who somehow manages to freeze the WHOLE wave right before it falls on her head.

I haven’t been this disappointed with a hero-themed movie since Cathy Lee Crosby did a blonde non-powered flat-chested covered-up Wonder Woman in 1974. CBS actually did their viewers a huge favor by not airing it on US networks. It’s just a pity that SOMEONE still saw it and started spreading it around for the rest of us to watch, much to our later regret.

I’d say that this was all a Nemesis plot, but I doubt even Nemesis would want to put his name on something as miserable as this.

Capes: One out of five, and I’m being generous.
Cheese: Full-bore smelly rotted limburger (5) cheese all around.
Books: One out of five, and, again, I’m being generous.

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