As long-time readers will be aware, I’ve not been overly impressed by the efforts of the DCEU thus far. What better way, then, to cleanse my cinematic palate before “Justice League” than by taking in the 1997 failed pilot “Justice League Of America”, a film that sets the bar so low, it buries it?
When the city of New Metro falls prey to The Weatherman, it’s up to the Justice League to save the city but they’ll need the help of a new recruit to defeat the malevolent meteorologist.
Right out of the gate, this is a cheesy, cheap and horrifically misjudged production. There’s no sign of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman or Aquaman but we do get The Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter plus makeweights Fire and Ice. Nominally, the story is the origin of Ice/ Tori Olafsdotter (Kimberly Oja) who received her powers in a laboratory accident but instead, the film delivers a tedious bunch of sitcom cliché characters who happen to cosplay in their spare time.
It’s hard to watch the film and not think the writers had no idea who the characters they were being given to play with were. How else to explain the Flash being an average Joe lunkhead jock who can’t hold down a job? Or the Green Lantern being a womanising jerk. Or Fire contemplating a relationship with a 15-year-old (an early career low for David Krumholtz)? They also all live in an apartment together. What fun! What larks! What the hell were they thinking when our introduction to The Atom is showing him rescuing a cat from under a porch???
For reasons which never become clear, the producers intersperse the story with pieces to camera from the characters talking about the adventure we’re watching unfold. It’s weird and awkward and embarrassing and they’re often not directly connected to the scene we’ve just watched or are about to see. They feel more like the kind of character introductions you’d get as part of the marketing campaign for a forthcoming movie or TV show but instead, here they’re just arbitrarily spliced into the movie. Still, at least they pad out the thin plot and are cheaper than special effects sequences, of which this film has few.
The performances are bland but not terrible, although poor Miguel Ferrer who plays the villain looks uncomfortable and embarrassed in every scene he has to appear in. With the writing and characterisation so off, it’s down to the special effects and direction to save the day but even by the standards of late 90s TV, the effects are poor and the action sequences laughably cheap looking, well at least the ones we get to see. By the time the film is staggering towards its final act, it stops showing us the heroics and simply tells us about them in expositionary news reports. It even manages to find a less graceful way to cram in the origin stories of its characters than “Batman Vs Superman” did when it had Wonder Woman surfing Youtube.
It’s almost impossible to exaggerate just how wrong this movie is and how bad a job the makers did. It smacks of contractual obligation (à la Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four”) and a complete lack of interest in the subject matter or the production itself. You may think the current crop of CW shows – “Arrow”, “The Flash”, “Supergirl” etc. – are a bit cheesy but “Justice League Of America” barely manages to be a synthetic cheese-style product. It’s bad TV and even worse superhero storytelling.
No matter what your feelings towards the new DCEU “Justice League” may be, every comic book fan should be thankful this abominable middle-finger to the DC fanbase never saw the light of day but if you really want to throw away eighty minutes of your life, you can watch it in the embed below.