Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Super-Powered TV: Justice League the television movie

The thing I love about the internet is it’s ability to keep even the most obscure program, desperately unwanted by its original creators, to be available for viewing. A prime example of that is the mid-nineties television pilot movie based on Justice League of America. It may in fact be the worst example of television superheroes gone wrong.

In the terribly named city of New Metro, we meet Ice, a local meteorologist, unsure about everything.

Barry Allen, the Flash, a ne’er-do-well without work and unable to keep any money.

Guy Gardner, the Green Lantern, Barry’s friend. We meet him as he is serenading his love interest with a bit of opera. But he gets another call on his watch beeper, a call from the JLA I would assume.

We have B.B. DaCosta (a much darker in skin tone version of Fire). She is an actress, but unable to get any work past wearing a banana costume. SO, yeah, we are all complete losers.

Ray Palmer, a uber-nerd, is the Atom. He is a high school science teacher that no one really listens to.

The villain is apparently an idiot in an incredibly bad costume called the Weatherman.

As the storm picks up, a young boy is in trouble, but he is rescued by the glowing green lasso of ultra-heroic Guy Gardner. Seriously, Guy Gardner is the friendly pretty boy?

Fire apparently can barely project her powers out of her hand, while Atom’s costume makes him look even worse. In some bad super-imposing effects, he rescues a cat from beneath a house.

The Flash, as a cartoon character, stops the winds of the hurricane by running the opposite direction (in another terrible costume).

We meet the whole team through painful interview segments. Very painful interview segments. Segments that have no purpose but to annoy.

Barry is feeling a crisis of conscious as he doesn’t know what to do with his civilian life. He is staying at the house shared by the rest of the team, a house very similar to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in design. Oh, and B.B. used to date Guy.

Meanwhile, Tori, the future Ice stumbles upon something strange at the meteorological lab, spills water upon it, and is covered by a strange mist. as she leaves, she accidentally freezes everything in her past with an incredibly bad frost effect. She discovers the power at a lake when she accidentally freezes it all.

In the middle of the night, Tori is kidnapped from her home by a mysterious figure. The voice tests her powers, knocks her out, and the team discusses her future with the mystery voice.

She wakes up back in her own bed, covered in ice, only to wake up for real. A nervous researcher at the facility keeps popping in and out, a man named Arliss. No one suspects him except for Tori. Her superior acts strange upon her suspicions however. He leaves, only to run in to the same man. And a kid sees the strange ones hand turn green.

Guy again tries to court his girlfriend, but one of the cheesiest hailstorms on the planet invites trouble. A flying Fire (under really bad special effects) melts the hail down to a thunderstorm.

Ray has a heart to heart with Tori at the party, and tries to help her through her “problems”. They instantly take a liking to each other. But Ray has to leave with Guy to go investigate the possible identity of the Weatherman. He shrinks down to avoid a laser (with some real cheap computer effects) and limbos under. He finds schematics for something or another. Tori skips out of the party and finds Ray in the lab. He invites her to check the schematics, and then makes his way out of the room thanks to his powers.

Our suspect Arliss leaves with a box from the facility, and the Flash follows him to the front of the institute head Wellesley Eno’s house. Flash accuses him of being the Weatherman, but instead finds the device is only a weather predictor.

Tori goes to investigate the device she found earlier, the one that gave her powers, but finds it gone. She heads to the roof and finds another message from the Weatherman... who is her boss Wellesley Eno. Oh, Miguel Ferrer, why? Why? Why? Bad enough you are in this movie, but you are the painful villain? You were Shan Yu for goodness sake!

Tori comes to the front door of the Justice house. She reveals that the Weatherman is actually Dr. Eno.

B.B. is still dealing with the courtship of a younger man in a seemingly pointless subplot. But she has to back out of the date when duty calls. This time we don’t even see powers in effect, only the aftermath. Tori arrives at the scene, and the rest of the team brings her in to meet their mysterious leader at a secret elevator beneath a major bridge. It takes them to the bad CGI headquarters of the Justice League. Why do they need a headquarters when they all seem to live together? I guess mystery leader needs some place to stay.

And we find the true identity of the mystery leader, J’Onn J”Onzz, the Martian Manhunter (otherwise known as M*A*S*H’s David Ogden Stiers under a very obvious mask). The other heroes invite Tori in to the Justice League.

The love interest sees his earrings on Fire, and realizes who she is. (Perhaps the fact that she is just B.B. behind some green face paint should have made it more obvious.) He eventually tries to convince her he knows her identity, but Martian Manhunter uses his powers to convince him otherwise.

We flashback to Atom’s painful origin as he tells the story to Ice. He helps her past her final fears by revealing his secret identity. We then go in to some more painful documentary bits. Why would we be doing documentary segments out of costume? Kind of defeats the secret identity doesn’t it?

Anyway Ice concentrates on mastering her powers, focusing them in the direction she wants it to go. Instead, she just starts freezing everything around her. Oh, with painful, painful acting. Does that go without saying at this point?

At her home, Tori investigates her files to get a clue about Eno’s whereabouts, only to be paid a visit by Eno himself. We get Eno’s terrible motivation as he tries to convince Ice to join him. Ice refrigerates him, steals his case, and runs for it. Why not just freeze him completely? Wouldn’t that have solved the entire problem?

But the device Tori retrieved was a tracking device. A heat beam hits the base, trapping the team. The team leaves Tori behind as they rush off to fight the effects of Eno’s weather manipulator. Eno uses the device to set off a tidal wave. Eno throws the weather manipulator away to stop Green Lantern from stopping the wave (although a green catcher’s mitt would have easily done the trick). Ice uses her powers to save the day, finally showing that she can be a hero. Eno runs off, but Green Lantern easily lassos him.

The team visits Tori at home and invites her on to the team as Ice. She agrees.

The show ends with the Weatherman making his escape, Ray and Tori enjoying a night on the town, and Ice being sworn in to the Justice League. Heartwarmingly stupid. It ends with a terrible voice over by Tori, and the march of the heroes (including Tori in the worst costume ever). Really, ever.

While not the worst of the shoddy productions of television past, Justice League is low on the totem pole. Not Corman Fantastic Four or Generation X bad, but still bad. But still somehow mind-numbingly entertaining. So bad it’s good. Or maybe still bad. Anyway, Justice League gets a mild recommendation (if you can find it).

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