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Justice League of America: The Movie

By Michael Hutchison

This movie is now online at YouTube.com. I have embedded it here for all to see:

I finally got a chance to see the never-released Justice League of America pilot for the never-purchased Justice League of America TV series. (Before you ask, there are numerous sources for copies and the Internet makes it even easier to find them if you want one, so I'm not telling you my source!)

Since it is far too expensive to license DC's more famous characters, this JLA consists of the Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, Fire and Ice (all mentored by J'onn J'onzz).

Guy Gardner/Green Lantern (Matthew Settle) is, believe it or not, the handsome leading man of the team! Guy is a charming fellow who learns an opera piece to sing to his girlfriend, so I think it's safe to say that he's totally unlike his character in the comics. He has Hal Jordan's origin, Guy Gardner's GL costume and Kyle Rayner's mask (albeit not as bad as it looks on paper).

Barry Allen/The Flash (Ken Johnston) is a slow-witted loser. He can't hold a job and the rest of the team hates having him around. He's actually more like Fastback of the Zoo Crew! Ken Johnston bears a lot of resemblance to Woody Harrelson and is handsome enough, but he looks like he was crammed into the Flash's tight suit and it ain't pretty. Well, the costume ain't pretty to begin with!

Ray Palmer/The Atom (Jon Kassir) is the brains of the team. His costume is hideous.

B.B. DeCosta/Fire (Michelle Hurd) is sexy but is as serious as Wonder Woman. Since she is, initially, the only woman on the team, you don't want to get too stereotypical with your only female character.

J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter (David Ogden Stiers) is very well-acted by Stiers. His makeup needs improvement, though.

The JLA operate out of J'onn's Martian ship, which is buried at the bottom of a river. J'onn forms the League to defend the freedoms which were missing on his own world. The JLA are busily defending the city of New Metro from the Weatherman, an extortionist who brings down storms upon the city, while trying to keep their personal lives in order.

Actress B.B. is coping with a young man who has a crush on her and then realizes that she's Fire. This plot is terrible at every turn. First of all, B.B. keeps referring to him as though she's two decades older than he is, but they look the same age! Secondly, she tries to dissuade him that she and Fire are two people by having shapeshifter J'onn pose as Fire. I realize that physical evidence is hard to disprove, but come on! They have the same hair, the same body, the same face and the exact same voice. They both wear tight clothes and make-up, except that Fire's clothes are green and she wears a lot of green mascara. It's not much of a secret identity.

Justice League
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Just to show how unimaginative the writers are, Green Lantern's problems are also secret identity-based. His girlfriend is angry at him for always leaving. In one scene, a storm strikes and Guy runs off on her. Five seconds later, as a hailstorm drives her to the ground, Green Lantern arrives, stands inches from her face and makes no attempt to disguise his voice. And, without missing a beat, she looks at Green Lantern and makes absolutely no connection! She even muses about how wonderful he is in comparison to her boyfriend. I know people think Clark Kent's identity is laughable, but at least he behaves differently as Superman.

With all this going on, meteorologist Tori Olafsdotter (Kimberly Oja) ("Tori!" Ugh! Beverly Hills 90210 must die!) discovers that her boss is The Weatherman, which is hardly a surprise, as her boss, Dr. Eno, is played by Miguel "I must always play creeps" Ferrer and is the only other sizeable character introduced in the story! There is a guy named Arliss also working at the lab, but the attempts to cast suspicion on him are too forced. Tori gets zapped by a device in his lab and begins developing ice powers. She is eventually persuaded to join the JLA.

Overall, I think this movie is not very good, but that also makes it better than a lot of the stuff that actually gets put on the tube! The special effects are not bad for a television show pilot. The costumes most certainly ARE bad. But I think it's important to remember how mediocre the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was. I think that, had the pilot sold, the proper funding could have improved this show.

Here's what I'm wondering: why is this languishing in the land of unrelease? As I said, it's more than adequate to make it as a TV movie. Hell, it's better than the entire prime-time line-up on the WB! Now, as it sits completely finished in the studio library, it's not making back a cent of the money that went into making it. If it were on a $12 videotape, there are few fans wouldn't want to see it at least once, simply for the novelty! Why not get back at least SOME of the money? If nothing else, put it on TV as a special instead of these lousy, "If you haven't seen this year's audience-teasing episode where Niles and Daphne almost kiss, it's New to You!" reruns! The decision to let it die doesn't make much sense.
(Same goes for the unreleased Fantastic Four movie.) All characters are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 1998 by Michael Hutchison.

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