Monday, April 17, 2017

Two-Fisted TV: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (1997)

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (1997): The '90s were a rough time. Rock music neutered itself by going unplugged, infomercials replaced old movies on late night TV and entertainment producers didn't know what the hell to do with these men-in-tights properties in the same way that they haven't for generations. Ok, that last part is not totally true. There are a few bright spots, but this is not one of them.

Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá and an uncredited Lewis Teague for CBS as a pilot for a series, this re-interpretation of the comic books doesn't even hit the level of camp.
The pilot introduces a stable of classic DC comicbook characters including, The Flash (Kenny Johnston), Green Lantern (Matthew Settle), The Atom (John Kassir), and Fire (Michelle Hurd) through situational comedy (Lantern has girlfriend troubles, Flash can't hold down a job, Atom dismayed that he is not sexy, etc) and even worse, '90s-style interview segments. Comic highlights include a running joke (yeah, yeah, "booooo") about The Flash losing jobs because he is too fast. At one point he moves into Lantern and Atom's apartment and whips up a massive meal to show his gratitude. He then eats everything at lightning speed and lets out a loud belch. Where's the laugh track, I ask you?

The plot of this pilot is to introduce Ice (of "Fire and Ice") to the team. While working at an extremely well-funded weather research company run by Dr. Eno (Miguel Ferrer), mousy meteor-maid Tori Olafsdotter (Kim Oja) discovers some odd goings on down in the research lab. While investigating, she knocks a bottled water onto something glowy in a suitcase. This gives her power to turn water to ice which suddenly puts her on the radar of Martian Manhunter (David Ogden Stiers... yes, David Ogden Stiers). Meanwhile an urban terrorist, The Weather Man, who wraps silver sheets around his face to make himself like like a middle-Eastern terrorist with bad fashion sense, is threatening to engulf Metro City in an apocalypse of bad weather. No, really. Who could this crazy Weather Man be? Well, if you read the opening credits you already know, but suffice to say it is the last person these boneheaded heroes expect.

In addition to the fact that the producers desperately try to avoid using any special effects, the costumes are... unfortunate. Fire's way of hiding her identity is to streak some green make-up under her eyes. This completely and utterly fools everyone, including a 20-year old nerd who is desperately in love with her, but of course learns a life lesson and finds a girl suitable for his age. The Flash, ironically can barely move in his costume, and everyone with a mask seems to have developed massive brow-ridges and cheek bones making them look like some bizarre extras from DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). It's an interesting historical piece if you are really into comic book adaptations, but other than that it's an embarrassment for all concerned.

Moments of Clarity:

3 Reactions:

  1. Interestingly enough, the news segments were inserted to stretch the running time. Versions being offered for the international markets didn't have them. I suspect that's why two directors were involved.

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  2. That is interesting. As terrible as they were, the news segments seemed necessary (or as necessary as anything in this outing) to bring the Weather Master into the story. It makes me sad to think that Lewis Teague was just on hand to make some bad filler for a bad TV movie.

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